Australia’s costly $2.6 billion investment in Solomon Islands

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In a new Lowy Institute Analysis, Myer Foundation Melanesia Program Director Jenny Hayward-Jones reviews Australia’s costly and lengthy assistance to Solomon Islands. 

Launched in 2003, Australia’s Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was instigated to restore law & order and reconstitute a shattered economy. However, a decade later, at a cost of $2.6 billion, it is one of the most significant – and most expensive – operations by Australia in the Pacific Islands region.  

“Despite some impressive achievements, RAMSI was a costly and disproportionate investment by Australia in Solomon Islands”, said author Jenny Hayward-Jones.

“$2.6 billion dollars is too high a price to pay for restoring stability in a small country”, she said.  

Hayward-Jones identifies clear lessons of RAMSI that should be absorbed by the Abbott government in its new mission to align foreign, trade and aid policies.

“The most important lesson of RAMSI is the importance of knowing how much to spend and when to leave”, said Hayward-Jones.

“Without a clear exit strategy, it was difficult for Australia to make decisions about the right time to wind down its expensive commitment in Solomon Islands”.

Other lessons learned include the value of a joined-up government approach and working with regional partners, the need to avoid building parallel bureaucracies, and the importance of promoting real political change.

Australia’s costly investment in Solomon Islands: the lessons of RAMSI can be downloaded from the Lowy Institute website. 

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