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Solomon Islands PM accuses Australia of financial delays

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has accused Australia and New Zealand of withholding millions of dollars in financial support before this year’s Pacific Games but insisted China has “really stepped up” to aid the country’s budget.

Mr Sogavare has claimed that Australian and New Zealand governments delayed the delivery of AU$12 million (£6.4 million/$8.2 million/€7.3 million) and AU$15 million (£7.9 million/$10.2 million/€9.1 million) in respective funding that they had previously promised.

“Some of our donor partners who have committed to providing budget support to us this year have since changed their position and delayed their assistance for us and we are struggling to finance the 2023 budget,” said Mr Sogavare in a report by The Guardian.
“This has left this country and people in a predicament.

“But I am glad to announce, and delighted to announce, the People’s Republic of China has really stepped up to provide this budget support needed for 2023.”

Mr Sogavare claimed that China might “very well be the answer to – not all – but most of our challenges” but stressed the need for the Solomon Islands to “break the yoke and shackles of dependency”.

“I will not allow our people to live in a perpetual state of dependency,” said Mr Sogavare.
“It’s time to empower ourselves.”

China is providing significant backing for the Pacific Games with approximately SB$1.85 billion (£171 million/$218 million/€200 million) in funding, including for construction of the main stadium.

It is also helping to train Solomon Islands athletes as an 80-strong group travelled there last week for the start of a 90-day camp.

Mr Sogavare switched the Solomon Islands’ diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019 and also signed a security agreement with China, much to the dislike of the United States.

China and the US are competing against each other to gain influence over the Pacific region.

Mr Sogavare questioned what he described as a “unneighbourly” and “coercive diplomatic approach” in targeting relations between his country and China.

“This is nothing but interference of foreign states in the internal affairs of Solomon Islands,” he said.

“China has not invaded or colonised any other nation-state.

“Australia and the United States should not fear China’s police support.”

Australia has pledged to give Solomon Islands AUD$17 million (£10 million/$11 million/€11.1 million) in funding to support the staging of the Pacific Games, with the main portion of that investment going towards with the refurbishment of school dormitories which will serve as athletes’ accommodation during the Games in Honiara.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has dismissed Mr Sogavare’s claims, insisting it had delivered on its budget support commitments this year.

“This support has been provided across numerous sectors in Solomon Islands including health, education and elections,” a DFAT spokesperson told ABC.

“We continue to discuss development and budget support needs with the Solomon Islands government.”

New Zealand has provided NZD$3 million (£1.5 million/$1.9 million/€1.7 million) to the Solomon Islands to assist with its preparations for the Games.

A spokesperson for New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told RNZ Pacific that it had “not withheld or delayed any budget support to Solomon Islands”.

“Aotearoa New Zealand remains committed to our development partnership, and over the past year has provided around NZD10.1 million (£4.9 million/$6.3 million/€5.6 million) budget support to Solomon Islands including for education, economic reform and Pacific Games support,” the spokesperson said.

“Our development partnership with Solomon Islands is one of our most significant by breadth, depth and value – now at approximately NZD150 (£72.8 million/$93.7 million/€83.8 million) for 2021-2024.

“This includes budget support as well as funding for specific activities.

“The New Zealand High Commissioner in Honiara has been tasked to set the record straight with the Solomon Islands government, confirming New Zealand has honoured its budget support commitments.”

– Inside the Games