Solomon Islands is a fragile, post-conflict country. The small nation went through a period of conflict from 1998-2003, known as "the tensions', which led to a regional peacekeeping and assistance mission in 2003. Long-standing unresolved disputes remained however, and violent riots occurred again in 2006. The government was already grappling with a confluence of continued fragility, high population growth in Honiara (with an estimated 33% living below the poverty line), and high unemployment when the most recent global economic crisis hit its shores. Accordingly, the government sought support from the international community to help address the effects of the crisis, including social unrest associated with the economic downturn. Urban under-employment, especially among youths, remains a large problem in the capital of Honiara.
The project aims to assist the most vulnerable of Honiara's population, particularly youth and women, by increasing their income through short-term, labor-intensive employment activities.
The project was processed as a Rapid Response to Crises and Emergencies operation, and financed by the International Development Association (IDA), the State and Peace-Building Fund, and the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility. This mix of funding allowed the Bank team to rapidly mobilize funds and to focus on executing a small portion of the overall initiative. This approach ensured that the project reached beneficiaries quickly, as many start-up activities were undertaken in parallel to IDA grant processing.
As of March, 2011, the project had reached a number of important goals and had begun implementation in all areas. The project has:
- Created over 42,000 person-days of work and paid out approximately US$171,600 to urban poor within Honiara.
- Provided 2,863 people with employment, working an average 14 of days each.
- Included the participation of nearly 50% of youths and 50% women.
- Involved more than 100 community groups throughout the city.
In the early days of the project, most of the job-creation has been in rubbish collection and the clearing of stream-lines and beaches. Still to come are road rehabilitation and maintenance, and other urban renewal work. A program of basic pre-employment training will provide skills, attitudes and practices valued by employers in the formal economy and job market.
The overall cost of the five-year project is estimated at US$7.2 million, which is being met through a US$3.2 million IDA grant, a US$2.0 million grant from the Bank-managed State and Peace-Building Fund, and US$2.0 million from the Bank-administered Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (supported by AusAID and the New Zealand Government). An estimated US$5.8 million will go toward the Rapid Employment Scheme, US$800,000 for pre-employment training, and US$600,000 for project management.
In addition to the national counterpart agencies (the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development and the Honiara City Council) that are responsible for implementation, the project works closely with and relies on the parallel support of AusAID, and the Asian Development Bank (primarily in the transport sector) the New Zealand Government.
Toward the Future
The project was designed as a short-term response to the economic crisis and to help prevent social unrest. As such, the long-term sustainability of the project was not a primary concern. Nonetheless, aspects of the project's approach and systems for allocating and tracking wage transfers are relevant to any future social protection scheme that might consider similar short-term measures (in either the capital or in provincial centers).