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Solomon Islands: what's going on? « Previous | |Next »
April 24, 2006

I interpret Petty's cartoon to be referring to the Solomon Islands and not to West Papua and Indonesia. I have to admit that I do not understand what is happening in the Solomon Islands.

The media, repeating the government line, says that it is poor governance--corruption, lack of accountibility etc--and inefficient management of the economy that is the root cause of conflict in the islands. Australia has promoted good governance as part its aid package and it argues that this is the key to sustainable economic development and long-term peace building. The riots and the looting were all about dirty politics (corruption of politicians) and they undermined the legitimacy of formal political institutions The obvious answer is clean politics.

Is this interpretation plausible? Or is something else going on?

Bruce Petty

This suggests a cycle of poverty, political collapse and violence connected to Australia as the region's major power and aid donor. So what is going on?

Shahar Hamieri, writing in The Age, questions the "bad", dirty politics over "good", clean politics scenario in the media.

His argument is twofold economic and political. He argues that:

What we see in the Solomon Islands are not anti-corruption protests but something quite different. The rioters expressed discontent not with corruption as such, but with their increasing marginalisation from economic and political processes, a development to which RAMSI [Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands] has contributed.

He argues that it is the unravelling of the personalised networks of patronage and loyalty that functioned to maintain a modicum of cohesion in a geographically and ethnically fragmented country that has exacerbated violent conflict.

His economic argument about the effects of the market is this:

The development model RAMSI and other donors promote relies on the supposed "trickle-down" effect of private sector-led economic growth through export-oriented, market-driven reform. However, the measures pursued to attract investors actually increase poverty, at least in the short to medium term, because they stipulate severe cuts in government spending and public sector redundancies, as well as apply pressure on the customary land ownership system. .... political and economic power is gradually shifting from the public sector to the Chinese-dominated private sector, partly as a result of RAMSI's governance reforms.

Consequently, a dangerous disparity has thus appeared between the expectations and interests of ordinary islanders that their representatives in Honiara look after, and the needs of a market-driven economy, which tend to concentrate wealth in the hands of few.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:40 AM | | Comments (0)