Government increases attempts to reform the forestry sector

Logs ready for export at the Kolobangara Forestry Products Limited, Western province.

The Government is currently boosting efforts to reform the forestry sector to ensure the country gains maximum benefit from its forest resources, against the backdrop of a slowing industry.

Solomon Islands relies on its forestry sector as a key contributor to government revenue, exports and growth, with logging accounting for around 20 per cent of government revenue and around 65 per cent of the total value of exports.

A Government statement said with such a gloomy picture ahead, the Minister of Finance and Treasury and the Minister of Forestry and Research have presented a paper to Cabinet on 4 October, seeking its approval for immediate actions on recommendations made by the Logging Sustainability Committee.

Government sanctioned the committee early this year to review the current situation in the Forestry Sector and has submitted recommendations for the Cabinet to consider and endorse.

Recommendations from the Committee focused on a more sustainable industry to provide greater and more sustainable benefits to the country.

It says, Government is aware of more loggers trying to infiltrate the country to continue the round log export trade following recent bans imposed by Papua New Guinea ,and other Asian neighbours on the export of round logs.

A water table near the Lake Tengano has been cleared by logging activity. Photo credit: SIBC.

Meanwhile, the Committee report to Cabinet highlighted that a sudden disruption to logging activities could result in a serious decline in real Gross Domestic Product.

The report says it would be long lasting as it represents real lost growth for the country and a worsening of living standards.

The report further warned that reduced Government revenue of at least 650-million dollars per annum, from the loss of export duty revenue plus any second round impacts, are also impacting on revenue as there is reduced spending from decreased forestry-related activity and income in the economy.

It highlighted that any reduction to logging activities will result in wide-spread loss of jobs, both skilled and unskilled workers as the Forestry sector currently accounts for around 10-thousand jobs, representing around 20 percent of total employment in the country.

Similarly, the report also highlighted that there will be a severe reduction in exports and a depletion of Foreign Reserves.

That is likely to instigate a Balance of Payments crisis as there would be insufficient foreign reserves from export activity to pay for imports.

With these Committee findings, the Cabinet on 11 October has endorsed the report’s recommendations submitted by the Logging Sustainability Committee and the objective of ensuring a more sustainable management of the country’s forestry resources.

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