The leader of the Solomon Islands opposition, Matthew Wale, has called on the Solomon Islands National Hosting Authority (NHA) to support local construction firms that are owned by Solomon Islanders.
Mr Wale made the call after confirming that foreign construction companies, notably China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) has been awarded most of the construction projects for the upcoming 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara (PG2023).
It is alleged that the foreign owned companies deliver incomplete projects and poor workmanship. Yet the Solomon Islands’ Government has continued to engage CCECC to develop infrastructures for the games, even though most of its work failed scheduled timelines and quality.
The CCECC has been awarded some major construction projects such as the Telekom Field High Performance Centre, Solomon Islands National University Complex, and the Munda International Airport terminal.
Mr Wales said the awarding of most of these projects to foreign companies is giving away the opportunity to build the capacity of our local companies and workers and will not help progress the construction industry.
“It is sad to see our local companies being pushed out for engagement of foreign owned companies. Our country need this money to remain in our economy, not giving it away to foreign companies.”
He said the roles the NHA play in the construction and management of all sporting facilities and utilities for use during the PG2023 games is important, and participation of locals in all preparatory work is vital.
“There is a need to engage local businesses to financially benefit as builders as well as provide employment to our people.’
The opposition leader said preparation for the games will require input from construction firms and other service providers which is an opportunity to engage our local companies.
“The PG2023 is a major project which will have huge impacts on the country’s economy, especially in areas of finance, employment, infrastructure, sports and re-creation and tourism, and we need to engage our local businesses to be part of the preparations for this important event.”
An industry insider who chose to remain anonymous for fear of retribution recently told the Pacific Advocate that 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.
The insider said that 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.
The hosting of the PG2023 is significant to Solomon Islands and portrays the government’s commitment and engagement with people of the country and other pacific island friends.
“Therefore, participation of Solomon Islanders is paramount in moving the country forward, especially engaging them in initiatives that promote and support hosting of the games,” said Mr Wale.
“I am calling on the NHA to support our local construction companies and other service providers. The SIG need to seriously consider engaging them in the planning and preparations for this historic event.”
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.