Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Hon James Marape arrived in Solomon Islands on Thursday 27th February 2020 for has been described as a historical three-day state visit.
Apart from the entourage of high-level government officials, Ministers and the media accompanying such state visit, there was also a delegation comprising of 42 business representatives from PNG.
This included Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), General Managers and important business executives from some of the biggest companies and organisations in PNG. This is the first or the biggest business delegation to have visited Solomon Islands highlighting renewed efforts by leaders to strengthen business links between the two Melanesian countries.
The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) hosted a luncheon on Friday 28th February at the Mendana Kitano Hotel for Prime Minister Marape and his delegation.
As the peak body representing businesses and the private sector in Solomon Islands, SICCI sees it fitting to provide the platform for respective businesswomen and men from Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to meet with each other, explore opportunities for business partnerships in both countries.
The luncheon was also attended by Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Hon Manasseh Sogavare and sitting Government ministers from the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) including Solomon Islands businesses who are members of SICCI.
SICCI Chairman, Mr Jay Bartlett acknowledged Hon Sogavare for yet again demonstrating his Government’s and his personal support to businesses and Private Sector by seeing SICCI’s participation in this historic state visit.
“Today, we all operate under challenging conditions however, SICCI is fortunate under our Prime Minister’s Leadership, to have now established new levels of understanding, new levels of dialog and new levels of engagement between Government and business,” he said.
Solomon Islands is Papua New Guinea’s closest neighbour.
Although at a different scale, Mr Bartlett said the fabric of culture and society that hold us together are the same.
“Our current challenges in all facets of our development post-independence are the same. Our current opportunities are the same and many more comparisons can be made.
“There is one reality that will always remain true now and for generations to come. And that truth is building our nations from within. Seeing some of the highest leaders of business in Papua New Guinea here in Solomon Islands is testament to this very point.
Mr Bartlett also expressed SICCI’s appreciation to the private sector representatives in PNG and the PNG Government for taking the time and in keeping Solomon Islands in their focus.
“Ultimately, there is no substitute for hard work in building the fundamentals. Unfortunately, no aid donor or no quick funding solution will substitute what we as responsible leaders must do to secure a safe and prosperous future,” he said.
PNG Prime Minister Hon Marape highlighted that in this modern era consolidating of relationships going into the future is important.
“We have connected Government to Government, so that pace and in that connection, the business to business relationship between two countries will flourish and people with people connections will flourish as it has in the past,” Hon Marape said when addressing businesses representatives from both Solomon Islands and PNG at the luncheon on Friday.
Currently there are 52 PNG businesses operating in the Solomon Islands.
Hon Marape encourage these businesses to practise greater equity in recognising the different layers participating in the economy including landowners and provincial governments.
“We encourage PNG businesses to come here (Solomon Island) with an equity structure that gives respect to traditional ethnic businesses, ethnic landowners and the government. That’s the way we want to do things into the future.
“Having partners in all levels, not just Government to Government, is important and in business you must find partner.
“I’m happy that every indication that I have got is that our business communities has been in engagement, so I’m looking forward with a lot of positivity into the future. Not only that we will expand from the 52 businesses we already have here in the Solomon Islands, but more importantly, that we have more Solomon Islands businesses also to be based and operate in PNG,” Prime Minister Hon Marape said.
Meanwhile, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare recognises that Solomon Islands’ private sector is much smaller than that of PNG.
“However, our aspiration for growth in our business sector is high and we hunger for good businesses to add to those already here or to growth those that are already here through effective partnerships with your businesswomen and men,” he said.
Hon Sogavare calls on businesswomen and men from Solomon Islands to rise to the challenge of growing and expanding their businesses in partnership with our PNG sisters and brothers both here in Solomon Islands and in PNG.
“I call on our private sector to take up the opportunity offered by Prime Minister Marape to establish Solomon Island businesses in Papua New Guinea – either through partnership with your Papua New Guinea counterparts or establishing new businesses.”
Hon Sogavare encourage PNG businesses to explore opportunities to invest and expand their investment portfolios to Solomon Islands.
At the policy and regulatory level, the Solomon Islands Government is committed to continually improve the policy environment to be more conducive to business investments.
During their bilateral meeting, the two Prime Ministers discussed ways in which both countries might achieve win-win outcomes for businesses and thereby also unlocking the doors to greater investment for businesses in both countries.
“My government is committed to this win-win outcome and we will work with the Papua New Guinea Government to ensure we implement mutually beneficial policy frameworks that will provide conducive environments to grow business investments and partnerships in both our countries,” Hon Sogavare said.
Both leaders have agreed on an annual PNG-Solomon Islands Business Forum which SICCI will look to coordinate in collaboration with the Business Council and Chambers of Commerce in PNG.