Australia’s Minister for the Pacific and International Development, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, says that while RAMSI may be over now, our country’s commitment to the security and development to the Solomons remains as strong as ever.
We are here to stay. We are… 44 unarmed AFP advisors will remain. Australia and the Solomon Islands will shortly finalise the bilateral security treaty and I will take the opportunity whilst I’m here to discuss this with the Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Tozaka, as we look for the way forward to support peace and stability here in the Solomon Islands. I will also sign a bilateral aid partnership [agreement], which is going to facilitate our joint agreed priorities of promoting security and stability, economic growth, and poverty reduction. So we are here; we are committed. Our aid to the Solomon Islands is about $142 million this year, and we’re here to help deliver health, and public financial management, justice, improve economic stability. And so we’re here to stay to help and to develop our mutual interests.
And can you talk us through some of the key programs that are going to be implemented in the Solomon Islands after RAMSI leaves?
Well, as part of the work that we are doing, we’ve got a number of programs that we will be doing particularly in relation to security, economic growth and looking at alleviating poverty. Our bilateral aid partnership agreement will focus, obviously, on security and stability for obvious reasons. But we will also be looking at ways that… We have a Solomon Islands program – development program, which was announced when we were here – Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was here. And of course one of the things that I will be pleased – very pleased – to announce, is that Australia will commit up to $17 million to support the implementation of the Tina River Hydro Project. Now, this is a very transformational initiative, which will drastically lower energy prices, especially for Honiara, and [is] forward thinking. And we are providing the funding for the access road to the dam, but it is a major project, where we’ve got different partners that are involved in this, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and also some potential climate funding. So this is one of the contributions - large contributions - that we are making to help boost foreign investment in the Solomon Islands. There are a range of other things of course: health and education remain an important contribution that we will be making. But, as I said, we do have quite a number of different projects. But, of course, as you can appreciate given what has just happened, we have to consolidate the gains from our fourteen years of RAMSI. Australia contributed by far the largest contribution – $2.8 billion of a $3 billion cost of this. And having said that, whilst our contribution was largest, what made it a real success was the fact that it was a regional contribution. We’ve had people from all over the region contributed as far as RAMSI was concerned, so fifteen contributing countries over the fourteen years have brought peace and have restored law and order, which of course is vitally important, not just for the Solomons, but for the regional stability and security.
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s Minister for the Pacific and International Development, with her reflections as RAMSI comes to an end after its fourteen year mission to Solomon Islands. She was speaking there to Lauren Beldi.
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