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Analysis of social policy dilemmas in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu

Prasad, Biman C. and Kausimae, Paul (2009) Analysis of social policy dilemmas in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.

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Abstract

This paper reviewed the social development policies of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands since independence drawing on various development plans both before and after independence. We conclude that both Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have lagged behind other Pacific Island countries in developing their social policy and achieving progress in developing appropriate welfare programmes for their communities. We identify several factors that have caused poor social policy development in the two countries. First, the relative states of economic development at independence of the two countries were very poor. Much of the effort in the first decade of independence of both the countries was geared towards building basic social infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, roads, water supply, electricity and communication. Despite this effort the level of economic development remained poor in both the countries. Economic growth rates remained low and were not in commensurate with the rapidly increasing population. The constraint to increase level of productivity in the traditional agricultural sector which could have contributed to better economic growth overall is the uncertainty about land tenure in both Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. While customary land tenure may have served well for subsistence farming, it has not contributed to fostering commercial farming. One of the issues relating to social policies in these two countries is providing food security as rice is a major staple food but hardly any rice is grown in these countries. As a policy measure to facilitate the growth of the agricultural sector in both countries appropriate investment in the rural agriculture and marketing infrastructure will have to undertaken. Second, much of the development efforts were squandered by mismanagement and lack of development of appropriate institutions to deliver the basic social services. In the Solomon Islands, for example, lack of appropriate and balance distribution of resources led to largescale ethnic conflicts, which have in recent time’s affected economic growth and development in a significant manner. Merging of various interests in the Solomon Islands has been a difficult process and distribution has always a difficult issue for governments. Social cohesion is vital for better and coordinated delivery of social services and in the case of the Solomon Islands it has been problem. In the case of Vanuatu, the Vanuatu National Provident Fund was badly managed and it almost collapsed. This was one of the key institutions for pension funds for the formal sector employees in Vanuatu. In addition to this, both countries have had a history of poor management of their natural resources, particularly in the management of forestry resources. The third reason is the lack of demand from various interest groups. While both Vanuatu and Solomon Islands today have various NGOs, which are active in calling for government actions to improve social services in the country and to a large extent they are successful. However, at the time of independence in both the countries, trade unions were only developing and were more concerned about public sector employees. The majority of the populations in these two countries were rural communities and about 70 percent still remain rural communities today, and therefore did not have much room to influence public policies. The fourth reason is continued political instability in both countries and this is directly linked with economic development success of the two countries. Vanuatu has had changes in government almost annually in the last 15 years and this has affected good and consistent policy making. Solomon Islands too had its share of unstable governments and this has affected investment and growth. However, despite some of the problems identified above, progress is being made in the area of education and health where some indicators such as life expectancy at birth and infant mortality have improved. The policy implication emanating from this study is that both Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have to move away from the belief that traditional social systems and kinship ties can look after all those in need of social service help. They both need to invest more in education at all levels to ensure that all primary aged children are in school and that adequate levels of human resources are provided through the provision of higher education. For example, between 2009 and 2015 primary school age children will increase by 13 and 15 percent in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands respectively and both will need an increase in the number of teachers and classrooms. Social infrastructure, although it has been the focus in the post independence period, still needs a significant boost. Both countries also need to ensure that they reduce political instability, which has caused poor economic performance in the past. Appropriate economic policies that are centred upon key industries such as tourism, agriculture and efficient exploitation and development of natural resources must receive emphasis in their policy priorities. Both Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have not reached any threshold level of social development and so there is much more room for developing it further. In addition, these two countries have not lost a significant amount of human resources through migration, which is a positive thing. We portend that emigration from these two countries are likely to very small at least in the foreseeable future and that there is a lot capacity to use these resources for not social development but for overall development tools as well.

Item Type: Other
Additional Information: This paper is a country study for the joint UNRISD and Commonwealth Secretariat Project on Social Policies in Small States. It evaluates social policy formulation in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu by examining the social policies themselves as well as the economic and political context.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) > School of Economics
Depositing User: Users 24 not found.
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2009 14:33
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2012 21:18
URI: http://repository.usp.ac.fj/id/eprint/4186
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