Solomon Islands - Domestic policy



In addition to the crucial task of disarming paramilitaries (which by mid-2003 had still not been completed), Kemakeza and the PAP's domestic policy hopes to first revive the economy. The civil conflict of 1999–2000 essentially ended tourism as a source of revenue and so Kemakeza has been eager to portray the Solomons as a safe destination to the international community. This has proved a struggle as the country continues to struggle economically. Early into his term, Kemakeza attempted to devalue the Solomon dollar by 25 percent, a move that was met with great unrest and was aborted. Kemakeza has also worked diligently to attract foreign aid, long the cornerstone of the nation's economy, but because of the unrest and political uncertainty, donor nations are reluctant to give.

Kemakeza and the PAP also hope to make the Solomons over into a republic, with a directly elected president, on the American model, rather than continuing with the parliamentary system now in place. With the ethnic rivalries and long history of political corruption and incompetence, MP's often switch parties immediately after being elected, causing unending shifts in parliamentary powers. Kemakeza has introduced a bill to remove from Parliament any MP who switches parties after an election. Kemakeza survived a vote of no confidence in March 2002, following the attempted currency devaluation.

In 2002–03, the Solomon Islands' social structure was suffering. Schools were inoperative, the country was hampered by strikes, and the nation's hospitals and medical clinics were operating on essential services only, having run out of many essential medical supplies and medicine. Many public servants were not being paid, and workers withdrew their services to the government. The state of civil society was fragile. A number of murders took place in 2003, including that of Sir Frederick Soaki, a member of the country's National Peace Council, who had worked with the United Nations (UN) to demobilize former militants still employed by the government as police officers on Malaita.

The economy continues to be in a state of duress. As of the end of 2002, the government had plans to cut 1,300 government employees, or 30% of the public sector workforce, a move supported by the IMF. Other sources of international aid were made conditional on further austerity measures to be taken by the government, including the stoppage of compensation payments made to people affected by four years of civil unrest, as part of the Townsville Agreement, which expired in October 2002. That month, Kemakeza restructured his administration, cutting the number of ministries from 20 to 10.

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