As the Solomon Islands Government faces allegations from a high-profile provincial premier that its switch of diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China was on the back of bribes to local politicians, local businesses are feeling the effects of the potential payback to China.
The emergence of Chinese companies in the country is devastating local companies in the construction industry.
The rise of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) had allegedly displaced most local companies who are capable of doing quality work and output. It is alleged that the foreign owned companies deliver incomplete projects and poor workmanship.
The Solomon Islands’ Government has continued to engage CCECC to develop infrastructures for the upcoming 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, even though most of its work failed scheduled timelines and quality.
An industry insider who chose to remain anonymous for fear of retribution claimed CCECC’s work on the Telekom Field High Performance Centre is far behind the scheduled timeframe.
He said another project that is far behind the scheduled timeframe is the Solomon Islands National University Complex, now experiencing leakage and other defects.
The insider pointed to even more incomplete projects including Munda International Airport terminal in Western Province, Savo-Market to Doma road in West Honiara, Monga Bridge in Aola, East Guadalcanal and the proposed PG2023 stadium.
“Awarding of any additional projects to CCECC would certainly increase the number of incomplete projects,” he said.
He said in regards to building of the Telekom Field High performance Centre, the National Hosting Authority (NHA) had pushed out local companies like Hatanga who are capable of completing the project because of a lower bidding price for CCECC.
“But the low bid submitted by CCECC resulted in variations that pushed the cost of the project to the bid price quoted by Hatanga,” he claimed.
“Sad to see one of our local and prominent companies pushed out to engage foreign owned companies. Our country needs this money to remain in our economy, not giving it away to foreign companies,” he said.
However, NHA Executive Director Christian Nieng hit back at the claims, saying that materials for the High Performance Centre are expected to arrive by November.
He also said work to clear bombs on stadium sites was completed in May.
Mr Nieng said the NHA had already sorted the issue with settlers on the south side of SINU Panatina campus.
In terms of bidding processes, Mr Nieng said the awarding of a contract by the Central Tender Board to CCECC was based on its criteria and not to favour the international company over a local supplier.
However Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Infrastructure, Stephen Maesiola said the ministry has terminated CCECC from doing the work at Savo-Market to Doma road in West Honiara because of its in-complete work.
He added that work on Monga bridge was delayed because the engineers need to redesign the project.
What the Chinese companies are building in the Solomon Islands
CCECC has signed a contract with Solomon Islands Government to build seven sports facilities ahead of the PG2023.
These are a six-court tennis centre, a full-scale training track and aquatic centre, a full-scale football field and rugby training field, a multifunctional hall and an office building.
The company has also won a bid for the design and building of the Munda International Airport terminal building in the Western Province.
Another Chinese company, China Railway, was contracted by majority-owned Hong Kong-listed Wanguo International Mining to revive the Gold Ridge mining operation in Central Guadalcanal.
China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) is yet another company involved in infrastructure projects.
According to Xinhua, CHEC has worked with the Solomon Islands’ Government and the Asian Development Bank to build vital infrastructures for communities in need.
The CHEC has undertaken a number of projects in the Solomon Islands, one of which was building a 96-meter-long concrete bridge in the agricultural region of East Guadalcanal in 2018, which took the team six months.
The company also won a USD$12 million contract to build the new University of South Pacific Solomon Islands campus in Honiara.
However, recently Malaita Province Government led by Premier Daniel Suidani blocked CHEC from upgrading the Fiu bridge outside of Auki Township.
The Fiu bridge is one of the many projects for Malaita Province under the World Bank funded Solomon Islands Roads and Aviation Projects (SIRAP).
As a result of the stiff opposition from the Malaita Province Government, World Bank is likely to go back to the drawing board to choose a new company to develop the bridge.