By Professor Transform Aqorau
Professor Transform Aqorau is the Vice-Chancellor of the Solomon Islands National University and widely respected for his thoughtful and visionary leadership. Ocean Equity Research is delighted to re-post his occasional blogs on Pacific development. These blogs provide important insights into the Pacific development context and look beyond global geo-political narratives. The originals of these blogs can be found on Prof. Aqorau’s Linkedin profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/transform-aqorau-2b673420/
In light of the feedback received on my earlier piece, “The real needs of the Solomon Islanders: Beyond the Geopolitical Tussle”, it is imperative to address the prevalent viewpoint that the SI’Government’s potential shortcomings are the sole reason they seek donor support. Such a stance is over-simplistic and overlooks the multifaceted challenges confronting the nation
The assumption that there exists a singular, universally successful way of governing Solomon Islands – akin to the standards set by Western liberal democracies – is problematic. Ironically, these democracies, who champion their own governance model, are also the biggest donors to the SI Government. This reductive viewpoint doesn’t account for the intricate cultural, historical, and socio-political fabric of the country.
There is no denying that issues of governance and political patronage have impacted the quality of services Solomon Islanders receive. However, what’s intriguing is that these very donors, who expect the country to uphold certain standards of governance, paradoxically continue to offer support without holding the nation accountable. The motivation behind this contradiction? Geopolitical tensions, more specifically, the looming ‘China factor’.
As argued ealier, the geopolitical wrangling is largely irrelevant to ordinary Solomon Islanders, who is concerned with livelihood issues. However, the international community, primarily driven by the fear of China’s expanding influence, chooses to overlook apparent governance gaps, thereby undermining their own rhetoric on good governance.
The assertion that merely refining its governance would miraculously resolve its myriad challenges grossly underestimates the country’s unique political landscape. It dismisses the intricate ways in which the Solomon Islands’ governance system has evolved in response to its own idiosyncratic politics. Beyond politics, there are inherent physical challenges tied to the country’s status as a least developed nation. High infrastructure costs, communication hurdles, and limited health services, are persistent barriers to progress, regardless of how the government functions. Such challenges mean that donor support isn’t merely a choice, but often a necessity.
What the Solomon Islands genuinely requires is a united front from its donors. Instead of a competitive approach, marked by each trying to outdo the other, a collaborative effort is the need of the hour. As previously argued, for the average Solomon Islander, the identity of the donor pales in importance compared to the tangible improvements they bring to the table.
A holistic, nuanced perspective is essential when discussing Solomon Islands’ governance and its relationship with donors. Reducing the discourse to just the ‘right way of governing’ overlooks the complexities of the country’s challenges and the multifaceted roles donors play in the landscape.