22 June 2010
In most parts of the world, if you are really serious about what you are saying and you want to see things go ahead, then the person backs up the words from the mouth by investing real, hard cash in the enterprise. If something is so important that you constantly talk about it, then, as the words above say: "Put your money where your mouth is!"
More than a dozen political parties, some new and some quite old, are currently in vigorous campaign mode. Some parties have simply confined themselves to words on the radio or newspaper write ups, while others are actually touring the provinces, holding meetings in provincial capitals and are seriously engaging rural populations on the merits of their party's political agenda.
Each and every political party, however, has one thing in common. At lease for this election they are all saying that the rural person, ( I would prefer if they would speak about villagers), is the most important person in these islands. Finally, at last, the political establishment is correctly reading the reality of the Solomons. Villagers, through their liens, tribes and clans, actually own the lion's share of this nation's land, trees, rivers, reefs, fishing grounds, etc. Unlike many other nations--Australia, New Zealand, America, etc.--Solomon Islanders do control more than 90% of this country. The government owns less than 5% of the land! The 29,000 sq. kilometers of land surface, and according to the majority of land owners, the riches beneath the surface of these islands, is owned, controlled and more and more directed by village people.
It's taken more than 30 years of independence and a mini civil war for our political class, educated elite and power brokers to realize the basic fact that Solomon Islanders through their clans are the real and only owners of the nation. Now for the first time it seems that this message has finally made headway with our leaders and they are beginning to craft policies which will help villagers get ahead.
But words floating in the air mean nothing unless they are put into practice. Hence, the expression: Put your money where your mouth is!" The worst thing that could happen from this up coming election in August is to stick with words alone and not immediately put into action the political party's manifesto when it comes to putting rural people first.
May I suggest here that the first thing done on the day after the election is for each newly elected member to appoint an Action Committee for his constituency to flesh out the details of a Growth Centre which would have three separate but closely tied functions?
1st: Create a communications hub where villagers of the constituency would have telephone access with the rest of the nation. The real owners of this country, although rich in resources, are terribly poor in getting rapid, clear and precise information about what is happening in other parts of the nation. With the advent of the newest telecommunication outfit, beMobile, it would be a treasure for this new company to be in on the ground floor in the establishment of newly formed growth centres. The newly elected member of parliament would be in an excellent position to pressure the new telecommunications company to set up a telephone system in the member's newly founded Growth Centre.
2nd: Part and parcel for a well functioning Growth Center would be to cluster basic people's services--postal, banking, repair, information, police post, clinic, government offices, etc.--which villagers would be able to access rather than having to travel over to Honiara or provincial capitals for each and every need. Up to 80% of villagers' service needs could be operational within a well functioning Growth Centre. Many services, rather than being physical buildings, could rely at the beginning on the use of a mobile phone system. In many parts of Africa, for instance, banking takes place over the phone and not in a bank building as such.
3rd: Establish a competent research unit made up of Solomon Islands' graduates and secondary students whose duty would be to gather vital information through a series of on-going surveys and research work to help the newly elected Member and the people of a constituency know quickly and readily what are the area's vital statistics, facts and information needed to make sound decisions. Every member needs a competent research unit to help establish vital, up to date and pertinent information to help the member formulate sound policies for his people.
By setting up all of these functions means creating jobs, employment and casual labor. A Growth Centre need not wait for a government handout to get started. Member's RCDF and other cash grants should be his first investment priority and over a four year period the Growth Centre could grow and become more useful for the very people who own the Solomons. Such investment would be an excellent example of: Putting money where the mouth is.