PM Sogavare says cost of China trip is a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to benefits that are coming

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Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare does not confirm whether more than $1.3 million (US$162,879) was used to fund his recent trip to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Prime Minister Sogavare rather stated that the cost of the government’s trip to PRC is a ‘drop in the ocean’ when compared to the benefits that the country will be receiving from China following the visit.

Over the weekend, the leader of Opposition Mathew Wale described the trip as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The came after the Opposition Office obtained documents that alleged an amount of more than SBD$1,362,370.57 (US$162,879.44) of taxpayer’s money was raised for per diems for the 30 delegates, airfares including special imprests for the Prime Minister’s Office alone.

Wale claimed that this is contrary to the earlier statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister that the trip was funded by China and was at the invitation of Premier Li Qiang before the departure of the Prime Minister and his delegation to China.

Around SBD$311,000 (US$37,222.47) were paid in airfares for the 30-member delegation from Honiara to Brisbane return whilst the Brisbane – Beijing leg was not clear.

Documents also alleged that a total imprest of $238,134.88 (US$28,501.51) was also paid to a non-travelling official as an imprest-holder.

But speaking to the local media upon his arrival Monday, Prime Minister Sogavare said funds used for the trip is just ‘a drop in the ocean’ when compared to the benefits that the country will be receiving from China following the visit.

Meanwhile, Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr Jimmy Rodgers said that the trip was funded by PRC.

He explained the initial payment was made only for the Brisbane flights to Honiara.

“The cost of the whole trip is covered by PRC, we only pay for the flights from Brisbane to Honiara but they are covering that, the reason they couldn’t cover that was because it was a bit difficult to get it at Solomon Airlines website, so we have to pay first and then we invoice them and they’ll refund that, the cost is no where near the 1.3 million dollars mentioned, I don’t know where that amount came from, only the per diems were covered,” Dr Rodgers said.

The trip is part of strengthening the Solomon Islands-China relations.

Among other undertakings are the opening of the Solomon Islands Embassy in Beijing, the Prime Minister’s participation in the first High Level meeting of Forum on Global Action for Shared Development and the signing of a Police Cooperation Implementation Plan with China.

SOURCE: SIBC/PACNEWS