Doing business in a non-economic zone

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Roto says the cost of transporting the goods to Anuta is very high, as he has to travel to Santa Cruz first just to wait for the transport to take him to Honiara to purchase goods.

Life on the outer islands is already difficult as it is, the “non-economic zone” classification says a lot about the business environment.

Jackson Roto is from Anuta Island, one of the outer islands east of the Solomon Islands. He is a hardworking father of three young children and runs his small canteen business to support their education.

“The struggle behind this business keeps me awake every day. The start was a struggle and it’s still a struggle, but it’s all for the future of my children,” Roto said.

“When I started the business in 2017, I had to wait six months before I could access transport from Honiara to bring my cargo here. And even today, we are still waiting six months just to receive our cargoes, even though the orders were placed six months ago.

Roto says the cost of transporting the goods to Anuta is very high, as he has to travel to Santa Cruz first just to wait for the transport to take him to Honiara to purchase goods.

“So I have no choice but to increase the cost of goods sold, so it is not only a challenge for me but for my customers, but for me it is the only means of livelihood for my family, ”Roto explained.

Roto says that with the covid-19 crisis, the situation has worsened and he has not been able to supply his canteen for almost a year now.

“I only have my garden to rely on, just to support my family – hope for my family.

“The saddest thing for me is that I have two children who study at the Nusalemba Community High School in Santa Cruz, and supporting them is quite difficult,” Roto said.

Roto wonders why such challenges persist, even when there are now more boats in the country.

“I’ve heard that there should be paid service to the Outer Islands, so why isn’t there any service?” Why do we still wait months for a single ship to visit us?

“We have the same dream as every other parent, to see our children do well in school and make us proud at the end of the day.”

Roto says there are a lot of people who are considering starting small businesses on the islands, but many can’t even get started when there is no delivery service to the islands.

“When people say it’s unprofitable it’s because we keep it that way, the government can do a lot to help us, make things economical for us.

“When it’s not profitable, it means we have to do more to help and make sure we can all grow our small businesses. We all want our children to have a bright future.

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