By Georgina Kekea
The government will soon re-establish the Public Works Department (PWD) as part of its plan to ensure roads and infrastructure are maintained. Since abolishing PWD, road maintenance has been outsourced to private contractors but managed by the Department of Infrastructure and Development. Permanent Secretary, Stephen Maesiola says the government has realised that the current arrangement does not work well. He says processes of engaging private contractors to carry out work is slow. He says having a division within the government that looks after the road maintenance will ensure roads are fixed accordingly.
‘Our local companies do not have the capacity to work on the roads. The capacity I meant is that we don’t have the manpower. Qualified manpower to maintain the roads’
In Honiara and its outskirts, public road users have complained for some time about the poor road conditions. In the suburbs, the roads are no different. Cab and bus drivers complained that they are losing out on much needed income and that their vehicles frequently need spare parts. They say they pay huge taxes and expect better service for their money.
The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) has also called on the government to fix the deteriorating roads in Honiara. SICCI says the poor roads are detrimental to the economy.
“As a city that relies heavily on commerce and is a centre for all domestic and international trade, Honiara’s road conditions are vital to business operations and success,” said Natalina Hong, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. “But the current state of our roads is unacceptable and is causing major issues for both residents and businesses.”
Opposition Leader, Matthew Wale also raised concerns about the deteriorating road conditions, calling for the re-establishment of the Provincial Works Department.
The Minister for Infrastructure and Development, Manasseh Maelanga in his Sine die speech last December said the government is embarking on a number of projects with Solomon Islands Roads and Aviation Project (SIRAP) that will see Solomon Islanders access better roads than what is being experienced now.
‘To make it clear Mr. Speaker, some of the roads that are very bad at the moment will be funded by the World Bank under SIRAP programs. We will work on them. These things are not easy. There are processes to go about it. Our people must be patient’
Solomon Islands have 1183 km of roads and 185 bridges extending over 30 islands. Approximately 90% of the roads are located in Guadalcanal and Malaita.
In Honiara, the Kukum Highway Phase 2 project is currently underway from the airport at Henderson to Kukum. In the outskirts, work has also started for the Henderson to Mberande road project. The projects, once complete, are anticipated to ease travelling and reduce travel time.
With the re-establishment of PWD, the government will be looking to fill 54 new positions within the Infrastructure Department. This is to go towards its plan for the implementation of PWD.
The Government representative responsible for Infrastructure says the Public Works Department should be re-established in 2024.