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Solomon Islands



CAPITAL: Honiara

FLAG: The flag consists of two triangles, the upper one blue, the lower one green, separated by a diagonal gold stripe; on the blue triangle are five white, five-pointed stars.

ANTHEM: God Save the Queen.

MONETARY UNIT: The Solomon Islands dollar (si$), a paper currency of 100 cents, was introduced in 1977, replacing the Australian dollar, and became the sole legal tender in 1978. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 dollar, and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 dollars. si$1 = us$0.13361 (or us$1 = si$7.4847) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in force.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Queen's Birthday, celebrated as a movable holiday in June; Independence Day, 7 July; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 11 pm = noon GMT.


The Solomon Islands consist of a chain of six large and numerous small islands situated in the South Pacific, some 1,900 km (1,200 mi) ne of Australia and about 485 km (300 mi) e of Papua New Guinea. Extending 1,688 km (1,049 mi) esewnw and 468 km (291 mi) nnessw, the Solomon Islands have an area of 28,450 sq km (10,985 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by the Solomon Islands is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. The largest island is Guadalcanal, covering 5,302 sq km (2,047 sq mi); other major islands are Makira (formerly Malaita), San Cristobal, Vella Lavella, Choiseul, Rennell, New Georgia, and the Santa Cruz group. The total coastline of the Solomon Islands is 5,313 km (3,301 mi).

The capital city of the Solomon Islands, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal.


The topography varies from the volcanic peaks of Guadalcanal to low-lying coral atolls. Densely forested mountain ranges are intersected by precipitous, narrow valleys. The highest peak is Mt. Makarakomburu, at 2,447 m (8,127 ft), on Guadalcanal, an island that also contains the country's most extensive alluvial grass plains. Rivers are narrow and impassable except by canoe. Extensive coral reefs and lagoons surround the island coasts.

The Solomon Islands are located in a seismically active region. However, though recent quakes have been measured in ranges considered to be strong to major, there have been few fatalities and injuries and damage reports have be minimal. On 20 January 2003, a 7.3-magnitude quake occurred at a location about 80 mi (130 km) west of Kira Kira. On 8 October 2004, a 6.8 magnitude quake hit at about 95 mi (155 km) southeast of Kira Kira. Another 6.9-magnitude quake hit around the same region on 9 November 2004, followed by a 6.7 quake on 11 November.


The climate is tropical. From December to March, northwest equatorial winds bring hot weather and heavy rainfall; from April to November, the islands are cooled by drier southeast trade winds. Damaging cyclones occasionally strike during the rainy season. The annual mean temperature is 27°c (81°f); annual rainfall averages 305 cm (120 in), and humidity is about 80%.


Dense rain forest covers about 90% of the islands, with extensive mangrove swamps and coconut palms along the coasts. Other tree species include teak, African and Honduras mahogany balsa, and Queensland maple. The islands abound in small reptiles (about 61 species), birds (163 breeding species), and mammals (53 species), as well as insect life. There are over 230 varieties of orchids and other tropical flowers.


Most of the coral reefs surrounding the islands are dead or dying. As an island nation, the Solomon Islands are concerned with the effects of global warming and rising sea levels. Deforestation is another significant environmental problem. The related problem of soil erosion threatens the country's agricultural productivity. Sources of water pollution include sewage, pesticides, and mining by-products.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species includes 20 types of mammals, 21 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians, 5 species of fish, 2 types of mollusks, 4 species of other invertebrates, and 16 species of plants. Threatened species include the gizo white-eye and the hawksbill, green sea, and leatherback turtles. The Solomon Islands' crowned pigeon, the emperor rat, and the Nendo tubenosed fruit bat have become extinct.


The population of the Solomon Islands in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 472,000, which placed it at number 162 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 40% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 107 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.6%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Despite declines in fertility rate since the mid-1990s, at 4.7 births per woman, it remains one of the highest among Pacific Island nations. The projected population for the year 2025 was 700,000. The overall population density was 16 per sq km (42 per sq mi), but there are significant variations from island to island. The most populous islands are Malaita and Guadalcanal. Moreover, most mountainous and heavily wooded areas are inaccessible (except to tribal groups of the interior), and most of the population is concentrated in the coastal regions.

The UN estimated that 16% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005 and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 4.48%. The capital city, Honiara, had a population of 56,000 in that year. Honiara, on Guadalcanal, is the largest town and chief port.


Since 1955, immigrants from the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) have settled in underpopulated areas. Movements from the countryside to Honiara and northern Guadalcanal have created problems of overcrowding. The resentment engendered by those who moved from the heavily populated island of Malaita to Guadalcanal resulted in violence in 1999. In 2000, the total number of migrants was 4,000. The net migration rate for 1999 and 2005 was zero. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Melanesians account for about 94.5% of the total population. Polynesians make up about 3% and Micronesians account for about 1.2%. Europeans and Chinese each account for less than 1% of the population. Melanesians live mainly on the larger islands; Polynesians tend to inhabit the smaller islands and atolls.


English is the official language but is only spoken by approximately 12% of the population. Melanesian pidgin is the lingua franca. Some 120 indigenous languages and dialects are spoken, each within a very restricted geographical area.


Christianity, introduced by missionaries in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is the principal organized religion. The primary denominations are Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Seventh-Day Adventist. Indigenous churches that are offshoots of other established Christian churches are attended by about 2% of the population. Other groups represented are Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Baha'is. The most recent census reported 12 Muslims in the country.

The Department of Home and Cultural Affairs has a policymaking role in religious affairs; however, this regulation is only meant as a precaution for maintaining public order, and there have been no reports of major restrictions on religious groups. The constitution provides for freedom of religion. Christianity is taught in public schools, but the course is not required.


In 2002, there were an estimated 1,360 km (845 mi) of roads in the Solomons, of which only 34 km (21 mi) were paved. Of the 1,326 km (824 mi) of unpaved roads, about 800 km (497 mi) belong to private plantations. Shipping services link the Solomons with other Pacific islands, Australia, Japan, and Europe. Honiara is the principal port, followed by Ringi Cove. A fleet of government vessels provides interisland connections and handles about one-third of total tonnage carried. There were an estimated 33 airports in 2004, but only two (as of 2005), had paved runways. Henderson's Field, on the northern coast of Guadalcanal, is the site of Honiara's civil airport. Solomon Airlines provides regular flights between islands and to nearby Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), Solomon Airlines carried about 94,000 passengers on domestic and international flights.


The islands now known as the Solomons are thought to have been originally inhabited by Melanesians, whose language has affinities with Malay but whose precise origin has not been determined. The first European contact with the Solomons, in 1567, was the sighting of Santa Isabel Island by the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña; the following year, Mendaña and another Spaniard, Pedro de Queirós, explored some of the islands. Mendaña named the islands Islas de Salomon, thinking that the gold source for King Solomon's riches was located there.

European contact with the Solomons was cut off for nearly two centuries until they were visited by the English navigator Philip Carteret in 1767. Following Carteret's visit, the British navy began to make periodic calls at the islands. During the period 184593, the Solomons were frequently visited by missionaries and traders. Indigenous peoples were also subjected to exploitation by "blackbirders," who impressed their captives into forced labor, often on colonial sugar plantations in Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti, or Queensland. The brutality of the kidnappers provoked reprisals by the islanders, resulting in mass slayings of both Europeans and local peoples.

In 1893, the British government stepped in and established a protectorate over certain islands in the southern Solomons, including Guadalcanal, Malaita (now Makira), San Cristobal, and the New Georgia group. The remainder of the Solomons had by this time fallen under German dominion; some of these, including Choiseul and Santa Isabel, were transferred by treaty to the United Kingdom in 1900. The British Solomon Islands Protectorate, as the entire group came to be known, was initially under the jurisdiction of the Office of the British High Commissioner for the Western Pacific.

During World War II, the Solomons provided the theater for some of the most bitter fighting of the Pacific war after Japanese troops invaded and occupied Guadalcanal in 1942. A Japanese airfield on the island's northern coastlater known as Henderson's Fieldwas captured by US Marines on 7 August 1942, the opening foray in the Battle of Guadalcanal, which cost the lives of about 1,500 US soldiers and 20,000 Japanese. Guadalcanal was evacuated by Japan in February 1943, although Japanese forces remained elsewhere in the Solomons until 1945. Widespread destruction and loss of life were visited on the local peoples during the war, and the legacy of social dislocation gave impetus to the development of a pro-independence nationalist movement in Malaita known as the Marching Rule.

In 1953, local advisory councils were set up in Malaita, eventually spreading to other islands of the protectorate. In 1960, the territorial government appointed executive and legislative councils, which were granted their first elected minority in 1964. A new constitution promulgated in April 1970 provided for replacement of the two councils by a unitary Governing Council, the majority of whose members were to be elected. During May and June, the Solomon Islands' first general election was held, with voters selecting 17 of the council's 26 members. On 21 August 1974, a new constitution introduced a ministerial system of government headed by a Council of Ministers. A Legislative Assembly subsequently chose Solomon Mamaloni as the Solomons' first chief minister. In May 1975, a delegation from the Solomon Islands, led by Mamaloni, met with UK officials in London and set up a timetable for internal self-government and full independence. On 22 June 1975, the territory's name was officially changed from the British Solomon Islands Protectorate to the Solomon Islands.

The islands achieved internal self-government in 1976 and became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations on 7 July 1978. Peter Kenilorea was prime minister until his coalition government collapsed in August 1981, after which Mamaloni returned to power. In October 1984, Sir Peter Kenilorea (as he had become) was reelected prime minister, but he resigned in November 1986, following allegations of mismanagement of funds; Ezekiel Alebua, deputy prime minister, succeeded him. In the general elections of February 1989, the People's Alliance Party (PAP), led by Solomon Mamaloni, defeated the Alebua government. Mamaloni became the new prime minister in March 1989. Mamaloni resigned as PAP leader in October 1990 and formed a coalition government with several members of the opposition. Francis Billy Hilly, an independent supported by members of the National Coalition Partners (a loose six-party coalition), became the Solomon Islands' new prime minister in June 1993. Hilly worked with the Melanesian Spearhead Conference to ease tensions between the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. In 1994, parliament voted to replace Hilly with Mamaloni, leader of the Group for National Unity and Reconciliation (GNUR), the largest political party in parliament.

In the 1997 national parliamentary elections, the GNUR retained its majority, and Bartholomew Ulufa'alu was elected prime minister. He pledged to resolve the Solomons' financial crisis by improving revenue collections and downsizing government ministries. He also grappled with the problem of finding a resolution to the ethnic conflict in Guadalcanal, which had dominated all other domestic political issues since late 1998. Disputed were issues of land ownership, access to education, employment and economic development between the people of Guadalcanal and Malaitan settlers on the island. That year, the Isatubu Freedom Movement (IFM), representing Guadalcanal's native people, began to forcibly evict Malaitans, who responded by forming the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF). In May 2000, the MEF took Ulufa'alu hostage, staging a coup. Ulufa'alu resigned, and in June he was replaced by Manasseh Sogavare. Fighting between the two factions left over 100 people dead and more than 20,000 displaced. A peace agreement was signed in October 2000, but it failed to end the violence. Unarmed peacekeepers from Australia and New Zealand were sent to supervise disarmament and demilitarization. In September 2001, IFM rebel leader Selwyn Sake was killed, threatening the peace agreement. In November, the MEF reported that 90% of its weapons had been surrendered. Allan Kemakeza of the PAP was elected prime minister in December 2001. In February 2003, a member of the country's National Peace Council, Sir Frederick Soaki, was assassinated. He had worked with the UN to demobilize former militants still employed by the government as police officers on Malaita. In 2003, Kemakeza's government was criticized for failing to curb the actions of militia members, three of whom were convicted in 2005 of the April 2003 murder of six Melanesian brothers on the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal.

An Australia-led intervention force, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), came to the Solomon Islands in July 2003 to assist ending the lawlessness and corruption following the years of unrest. In July 2004, the first anniversary of RAMSI's partnership with the people of the Solomon Islands was celebrated with festivities in Honiara; however, not all were happy with the governmental welcome afforded RAMSI.

A group of 66 rebel militants calling themselves the Malaita Separatist Movement demanded the resignation of prime minister Allan Kemakezain May 2005. They cited dissatisfaction with his pro-Australian views and accused RAMSI of being motivated by ethnic hatred, particularly against Malaitans.

In July 2005, the cabinet approved voting reforms aimed at eliminating the election fraud that resulted from voters selling their unmarked ballots. Under the proposed plan, each voter was to have his finger marked with indelible ink, after which the voter would go into a private voting booth to mark the ballot, and then cast the marked ballot into a central ballot box, in view of the election officials.


Under the independence constitution of 1978, the Solomon Islands is a parliamentary democracy with a ministerial system and a unicameral national parliament consisting of 50 members elected to four-year terms; suffrage is universal for citizens over the age of 21. The prime minister, who must command a parliamentary majority, selects the 20-member cabinet. The head of state is the British monarch, represented by the governor-general. Governor-general since 1994, Sir Moses Pitakaka was replaced in May 1999 by Anglican priest Father John Lapli, who was elected by the national parliament over six other candidates, including Pitakaka. There is a constitutionally provided ombudsman to provide protection against improper administrative treatment.


The members of the first parliament formed after independence in 1978 had no party affiliations. However, political parties emerged shortly before the elections of August 1980, in which the Solomon Islands United Party, headed by Peter Kenilorea, won 14 seats; the People's Alliance Party (PAP), led by Solomon Mamaloni, received 8 seats; the National Democratic Party (NDP), 2 seats; and independents, 14 seats.

In the December 2001 elections, the dominant parties were the PAP, led by Kemakeza, which won 16 seats; the Alliance for Change Coalition, led by Ulufa'alu, which took 13 seats; the People's Progressive Party, led by Sogavare, which took 2 seats; and the Labor Party, led by Joses Tuhanuku, which won 1 seat. Independents held 18 seats.

The following elections were held in April 2006; as of June 2006, the results had not yet been made public. Elections were scheduled for 2010.


The islands are divided into nine administrative districts, of which eight are provinces, each with an elected assembly and a premier; the ninth is the town of Honiara, governed by an elected council. In outlying areas, village headmen exercise administrative responsibilities.


The judicial system is based on a blend of British and traditional systems and consists of the High Court, magistrate's courts, and local courts. Appeals from magistrate's courts go to the High Court; customary land appeals courts hear appeals from the local courts.

Defendants in criminal cases are entitled to counsel and to the writ of habeas corpus. Violations of civil liberties are punishable by fines and jail sentences. An ombudsman with the power of subpoena can investigate complaints of violations of civil liberties. The traditional culture, in addition to legal provisions, provides strong protection against arbitrary interference with privacy, home, family, and correspondence.


The Solomon Islands have no military forces. There is a 500-member police force that also engages in border protection. Maritime surveillance is also provided by this police force, which is headed by a commissioner.


The Solomon Islands joined the United Nations (UN) on 19 September 1978 and belongs to ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, ILO, UNCTAD, UNESCO, and the WHO. It participates in the Asian Development Bank, the ACP Group, the Commonwealth of Nations, WTO, G-77, the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (Sparteca), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and the Pacific Island Forum. In environmental cooperation, the Solomon Islands are part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the London Convention, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


At least 75% of the population is tied to subsistence agriculture. The capital sector is dependent on the production of copra, timber, and fish for export, but outputs of other cash commoditiesparticularly cocoa, spices, and palm oilhave grown in recent years. The development of large-scale lumbering operations has increased timber production considerably, and concern about the preservation of forest resources led to government restriction of log exports in 1993. In the late 1990s, the economic downturn in Asia led to the collapse of the export market for logsprimarily Japan and South Korea. In late 1997, the government devalued the currency to encourage the development of other export products and to discourage the growth of imports. The economy declined by 10% in 1998, and the government initiated cutbacks in government agencies. The GDP growth rate was -15% over the 200103 period. The islands are rich in undeveloped mineral resources such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold. However, in 1998, Ross Mining of Australia began producing gold at Gold Ridge on Guadalcanal. In the wake of ethnic violence in 2000, exports of palm oil and gold ceased while exports of timber fell. Negotiations were under way in 2005 to reopen the Gold Ridge Mine and the major palm oil plantation, but each could take years to reopen.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 the Solomon Islands' gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $800.0 million. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.8%. The average inflation rate in 2003 was 10%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 42% of GDP, industry 11%, and services 47%.


The wage labor force in 2002 totaled approximately 27,000. As of that year, 80% worked in agriculture, 5% had jobs in industry, and the remainder were in services. The country suffers from an acute shortage of skilled workers, and an estimated 80% of professional and technical employees are recruited from overseas. There was no data available on the country's unemployment rate.

Most employed persons have a standard workday of between five and six hours, six days a week, with overtime bringing the average workweek to 45 hours. The minimum working age is 12, or 15 years old for work in factories or on ships. In practice, given low wages and high unemployment, there is little reason to hire children. The minimum wage was us$0.31 per hour in 2002. The Solomon Islands' largest trade union is the Solomon Islands National Union of Workers. Unions are free to organize and strike, although unions seldom strike. About 6070% of wage earners were unionized as of 2001. Government regulations require employers to provide housing for workers whose jobs do not permit them to travel to and from home each day. Unions regularly engage in collective bargaining.


About 2.8% of the total land area is utilized for temporary or permanent crops. Agriculture accounts for about 41% of GDP. Copra (coconut meat) is typically the dominant export and the economic lifeline of the Solomons; world copra prices strongly affect the economy, so a decline in copra prices in 1985 inaugurated an economic slump, exacerbated by the effects of Cyclone Namu. In 1992, production of copra increased by over 30% from 1991, for a total of 38,500 tons. The rebound in 1992 came from a near-doubling of world prices and better coordination of domestic shipping. Copra exports in 2004 were estimated at 5,000 tons. About 75% of the copra is produced by small holders, principally on Guadalcanal, Choiseul, the Russell Islands, San Cristobal, Santa Isabel, and Vella Lavella. Development plans called for crop diversification and the construction of a copra mill on the islands. The overseas marketing of copra is a monopoly of the government's Solomon Islands Copra Board. Other agricultural products in 2004 included cocoa, 4,000 tons; palm oil, 34,000 tons; and palm kernels, 8,000 tons. In 2004, agricultural products accounted for 36% of exports and 8% of imports. Exports of palm, copra, and cocoa typically account for over 20% of total exports.

The major food crops are coconuts, yams, taro, sweet potatoes, cassava, and green vegetables. The government has encouraged the cultivation of rice, rotated with soybeans, in the Guadalcanal plains; however, cyclone losses resulted in increased dependence on imported rice.


Cattle were traditionally kept on coconut plantations as a means of controlling the growth of grass, and many large copra plantations raised cattle for slaughter. There were 13,500 head of cattle and 53,000 pigs on the islands in 2005. Over 40% of the cattle are raised by small holders. The government's Livestock Development Authority (LDA) maintains about 3,200 head on Guadalcanal and Western Province. The LDA is now mostly a producer of trader pigs and poultry, raising 25,000 chicks and 120 piglets per month for sale. Production of pork has doubled since the early 1980s, yet still has not kept up with domestic demand. About 3,300 tons of meat were produced in 2005.


Fish are an essential part of the local diet, and fishing has become an important commercial activity. In 1991, the total catch reached a record high of 69,292 tons; the total catch in 2003 was 39,903 tons. In 2003, the annual catch of skipjack tuna was 19,014 tons. Exports of fish products in 2003 were valued at $20.2 million.


Forests cover about 88.8% of the total area, with about 2,536,000 hectares (6,266,000 acres) of timber stands providing an estimated timber yield in 2004 of 692,000 cu m (24.4 million cu ft), of which about 554,000 cu m (19.6 million cu ft) was exported as logs. Exports of forest products were valued at $41.5 million in 2004, 97% of it from logs. Important forest timbers are kuari, balsa, teak, Honduras and African mahoganies, Queensland maple, silky oak, and black bean. Several hundred chainsaw operators and about 40 portable sawmills produce over one-fifth of all sawn timber. Logging at current rates (1516,000 hectares/3739,000 acres per year) exceeds the estimated maximum sustainable annual cut by three times. Forest preservation and management legislation has been proposed, but there is no long-term viable silvicultural plan in place.


Although the archipelago was named in the 16th century for the fabled gold mines of King Solomon and had long-term mining potential, there have been insufficient high-quality mineral deposits to justify extensive mining investment. Mining was nevertheless the second-leading industry in 2002. Because of political and ethnic violence, mineral production in 2001 was limited to small quantities of common clays, crushed stone, and sand and gravel, and no gold or silver mining was reported (a minor amount of gold, and possibly associated silver, was obtained from primitive panning and sluicing by individuals). In 2000, production of gold was 338 kg, with silver output that year estimated at 200 kg. There was no recorded gold or silver output for 2001. The Gold Ridge Mine, at Mavu, which was closed from mid-2000 through the end of 2001, had undertaken a study to upgrade production from 3,100 kg per year to 4,5004,700 kg per year, which could increase the mining sector's contribution to GDP from 1% to 15%. The country's main industrial prospects focused on its undeveloped mineral resources of gold-silver, lead-zinc, nickel, and phosphate. Deposits of bauxite, copper, chromite, and manganese ores have also been found.


The Solomon Islands, with no proven reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal, relies entirely upon imports to meet all its petroleum, natural gas, and coal product needs.

In 2002, imports and demand for refined petroleum products each averaged 1,240 barrels per day. There were no imports or consumption of natural gas or coal in 2002.

Most electric power is supplied by the government-controlled Solomon Islands Electricity Authority, although some private undertakings produce their own electricity. Electric generating capacity in 2002 was 12,000 kW, of which all was fossil fuel based. Electrical output was 0.054 billion kWh, with demand for electricity at 0.050 billion kWh in 2002.


Industrial activity in the Solomons is rudimentary, lacking in both the capital and the skilled labor necessary for significant development. The leading industries are fish processing and timber milling; soaps are made from palm oil and coconut oil. Small firms produce a limited array of goods for the local market: biscuits, tobacco products, rattan furniture, baskets and mats, concrete blocks, boats, and fiberglass products. In 1998, Ross Mining of Australia began producing gold at Gold Ridge on Guadalcanal. Minerals exploitation in other areas has continued. A Japanese joint venture, Solomon Taiyo Ltd., which operated the only fish cannery in the country, closed in mid-2000 due to ethnic disturbances. The plant later reopened under local management, but the export of tuna had not resumed by year-end 2005.


The Solomon Islands College of Higher Education has schools of nursing, natural resources, marine and fisheries studies, and industrial development.


Honiara is the commercial center, with a highly developed port and a wide variety of services to support trade and tourism. However, growth in both domestic trade and tourism has been hindered by inadequate infrastructure and security concerns. Most commercial enterprises have been controlled by the Chinese or Europeans. A large segment of the population still relies on bartering. Normal banking hours are 9 am to 11:30 am and 1:30 pm to 3 pm, Monday through Thursday, and 9 am to 3 pm on Friday. Normal office hours are 8 am to 12 noon and 1 pm to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.


Overseas trade volume expanded rapidly in the mid-1990s, but the economic woes in Asia in the late 1990s and ethnic conflict in the early 2000s caused the export market to contract significantly. The distribution of the Solomon Islands' trade continues to be limited by the huge distances to potential export markets. The Solomon Islands' major exports are timber and fish. Other exports include palm oil, oil seeds, and cocoa.

In 2004, the Solomon Islands' primary export partners were China (27.8%), South Korea (17%), Thailand (15.8%), Japan (9.7%), and the Philippines (4.8%). The primary import partners in 2004 were Australia (24.6%), Singapore (23.1%), New Zealand (7.7%), Fiji (4.8%), and Papua New Guinea (4.7%).


In 1992, export earnings were exceptionally high due to a massive income windfall from the steep rise in the volume of log exports at a time when prices in Asian markets were being driven up by a supply shortage. By the late 1990s, the market for logs had collapsed, causing strain on the Solomon Islands balance of payments. Most manufactured goods and petroleum products must be imported.

In 2004, exports were valued at an estimated $171 million, and imports were valued at an estimated $159 million. In 2002, the Solomon Islands carried an external debt burden of $180.4 million. The country receives approximately $28 million annually in economic aid, primarily from Australia. Other important aid donors include New Zealand, the European Union, Japan, and Taiwan.


The Solomon Islands Monetary Authority became the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands (CBSI) in January 1983. Three commercial banks also operate on the islands: The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Westpac (which took over the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp.'s local operations in mid-1988), and the National Bank of Solomon Island (NBSI). Only the NBSI has branches outside the capital. Most villages rely on credit

Current Account 21.5
     Balance on goods 54.5
         Imports -110.0
         Exports 164.6
     Balance on services -31.2
     Balance on income -16.9
     Current transfers 15.1
Capital Account 9.2
Financial Account -33.8
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Solomon Islands 9.9
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets 0.0
     Other investment liabilities -43.7
Net Errors and Omissions -1.6
Reserves and Related Items 4.7
() data not available or not significant.

unions. The government's 49% shareholding interest in the NBSI was sold to the National Provident Fund as a part of a privatization program in 1992. The remaining 51% is held by the Commonwealth Banking Corp. of Australia (CBC).

The government participates in private investment projects through a holding company, the Investment Corp. of Solomon Islands (ICSI), the successor to the Government Shareholding Agency. It holds the government's equity in other financial institutions, notably the Development Bank of Solomon Islands (DBSI), as well as in many other companies, some of which are foreign controlled. The government, via the ICSI, uses locally borrowed funds and foreign aid to assist industry. The government also guarantees commercial bank loans to companies in which the ICSI has an equity holding. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 1999, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $55.1 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $95.2 million.


Insurance is sold through representatives of foreign firms. In 1997, GRE Insurance, the National Insurance Co. of New Zealand, QBE Insurance, and Zürich Australian Insurance were operating in the Solomon Islands.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2003, the Solomon Islands' central government took in revenues of approximately $49.7 million and had expenditures of $75.1 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$25.4 million. Total external debt was $180.4 million.


Individual incomes are taxed on a graduated scale ranging from 14% on the first si$2,100 of taxable income to 42% on taxable income exceeding si$14,700for single taxpayers. Companies incorporated in the Solomon Islands are taxed at a fixed rate of 35%; a rate of 50% applies to those incorporated elsewhere. A value-added tax on telephone services, restaurant food, and overseas travel tickets went into effect in August 1990. Employers contribute 7.5% of employee wages for social security; employees contribute 5% minimum. On 1 July 1990, a resident withholding tax went into effect for royalties, fishing operations, sales of copra and cocoa, and certain other sources of income.


All products imported into the Solomon Islands are subject to customs duties and a 20% surcharge is levied on all ad valorem goods. Specific duties apply to alcoholic beverages, tobacco, rice, and sugar. Concessionary rates have been granted to imports of industrial machinery and equipment, raw materials, chemicals, and building materials. Licenses are required for the importation of firearms, ammunition, animals, seeds, soil, and plant material.


The government encourages direct foreign investment through tax concessions, remission of customs duties, and other forms of assistance. Foreigners may repatriate profits (after taxes) and, under most conditions, capital investments. A primary role in the development of resources is reserved for the government. In 1990, Lever Brothers opened a coconut oil plant at Yandina. In 2004, net inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) amounted to -$5 million.


The government has attempted to diversify agricultural production in order to make the economy less vulnerable to world price fluctuations of such key cash crops as copra. Important development projects during the 1980s included new sawmills, a fish cannery, a spice industry, and the Lungga hydroelectric plant. Fisheries receive significant portions of development funds. A rubber industry is being developed, and plans are under way to export the indigenous ngali nut as an upscale confectionery product under the name "Solomons nut."

Foreign assistance plays an essential role in the nation's development strategy; Australia and Japan are the largest donors. In 1996, the Solomon Islands received us$46.4 million in aid. As of the mid-2000s, the country was receiving approximately us$28 million annually in economic aid, primarily from Australia. Other important aid donors include New Zealand, the European Union, Japan, and Taiwan. Aid is also received from the IBRD and ADB. ODA net inflows for 2004 were us$122.2 million.


A National Provident Fund covering certain categories of wage workers age 14 and older provides old-age, disability, and survivor benefits in lump-sum payments. This program is financed from worker and employer contributions. Employers cover the cost of workers' compensation. The Employment Act mandates that employers pay dismissal indemnity of two weeks' wages for each year of employment. The bulk of organized welfare services are provided by church missions. In small villages and outlying areas, assistance is traditionally provided through the extended family.

Although women are accorded equal rights by law, their role is limited by customary family roles in most Solomon Islands societies. Due to cultural barriers, a majority of women are illiterate, which contributes to a general shortage of employment opportunities for women. Domestic abuse and violence are common.

The government generally respects the human rights of its citizens. However, the armed conflict between rival militias has resulted in the deterioration of human rights.


Poor standards of general hygiene and inadequate sanitation continue to make malaria and tuberculosis endemic. Adequate sanitation is available to 60% of the entire Solomon Islands population.

Infant mortality was estimated at 21.29 deaths per 1,000 live births as of 2005; average life expectancy was an estimated 72.66 years. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at 33.3 and 4.2 per 1,000 people, respectively. As of 2004, there were an estimated 13 physicians and 80 nurses per 100,000 people.

The most prevalent disease reported is malaria. Many of the five island nations in the South Pacific have insufficient vitamin A levels. The incidence of xerophthalmia was present in 1.55% of all children in the Solomon Islands.

In 1999, 15 new cases of leprosy were reported by the World Health Organization, which is advocating multidrug therapy and screening of people in high-risk areas to counter the spread of this disease that was once believed to have been eradicated.


The government has built low-cost housing projects in Honiara to help ease congestion. Outside Honiara, housing is primitive, with overcrowding a problem even in the smaller villages. As of 1996, 80% of the population lived in villages of less than 300 people. According to a 1999 census, there were 65,014 households, 98% of which were single-family households. The average household had 6.3 members. Only 52% of all households had access to piped drinking water, 23% had modern toilet facilities, and 16% had access to electricity.

Since 1998, the government, through the Ministry of Lands and Housing, has been focusing on programs for improved housing and utilities for all.


Education is not compulsory, and many schools charge fees. In 1976, the government began substantial aid to primary as well as secondary schools. Christian missions (mainly Anglican), supported by government grants, continue to provide some primary schooling. Primary school lasts for six years. This is followed by three years of lower secondary schooling, which is offered through provincial and community schools. An additional two years of upper secondary education is offered through a national secondary school. Students planning to enter university studies take a final year (sixth form). The academic year runs from February to November.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 72% of age-eligible students. In 2001, secondary school enrollment was at less than 60% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 70% of all students complete their primary education.

Higher education is provided by the Solomon Islands Teachers College (Honiara), the Honiara Technical Institute, and the University of the South Pacific Solomon Islands Center, also in Honiara. As of 2003, public expenditures on education were estimated at 3.2% of GDP, or 15.4% of total government expenditures.


The National Library (founded in 1974) in Honiara has two branches and a collection of over 100,000 volumes. The library at the Solomon Islands Center of the University of the South Pacific holds 9,000 volumes. The Solomon Islands National Museum and Cultural Center began collecting in the 1950s and opened a permanent site in 1969. The center promotes and provides research into all aspects of Solomon Island culture.


The main post office is at Honiara. In 2002, there were 6,600 mainline phones and 1,000 mobile phones in use nationwide. As of 2004, there were two privately owned radio stations and one public station operated by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation. Two television channels were sponsored by Australia's Asia-Pacific Service and British Broadcasting Corporation International. There were 80 radios and four televisions per 1,000 population in 1997. In 2003, there were 398 Internet hosts serving about 2,200 Internet users. Periodicals include the Solomon Voice (weekly, 2002 circulation 10,000), Solomon Star (weekly, circulation 4,000), and the Solomon Nius (monthly, 2,000). The government is said to generally respect constitutional provisions for freedom of speech and of the press.


Cooperative societies are important in rural areas for the distribution of locally produced goods. Honiara has a chamber of commerce. YMCA and YWCA chapters are active. There are active sports associations in the country, including those representing such pastimes as tae kwon do, tennis, yachting, and weightlifting; most sports groups are affiliated with the national Olympic Committee. The Solomon Island Graduate Women's Association helps support the advancement of women in business and education. There are also chapters of Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross.


Tourism, although encouraged by the government's Tourist Authority, is not seen as a major growth area due to lack of investment. Visitors are drawn to the ecotourism resorts of the Marovo Lagoon. Fishing and diving are the main attractions. Popular pastimes include rugby, football (soccer), basketball, football, and water sports. All visitors are required to carry a passport and an onward/return ticket.


Sir Peter Kenilorea (b.1943), Solomon Mamaloni (19432000), Ezekiel Alebua (b.1947), and Sir Allan Kemakeza (b.1951) were among the Solomons' political and government leaders from independence into the mid-2000s.


The Solomon Islands have no territories or colonies.


Burt, Ben. Tradition and Christianity: The Colonial Transformation of a Solomon Islands Society. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994.

House, William J. Population Growth and Sustainable Development: The Case of the Solomon Islands. Suva, Fiji: UNFPA/CST, 1995.

Keesing, Roger M. Custom and Confrontation: The Kwaio Struggle for Cultural Autonomy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.

Lilley, Ian (ed.). Archaeology of Oceania: Australia and the Pacific Islands. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2006.

White, Geoffrey M. Identity through History: Living Stories in a Solomon Islands Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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Solomon Islands




The Solomon Islands is an archipelago (a group of islands) in the South Pacific Ocean, about 485 kilometers (300 miles) east of Papua New Guinea, and about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Australia. Solomon Islands has a land area of 27,540 square kilometers (10,633 square miles) and a total coastline of 5,313 kilometers (3,301 miles). The land area of Solomon Islands is slightly less than that of the state of Maryland. Guadalcanal is the largest island, about 5,300 square kilometers (2,047 square miles). Other islands include Makira, San Cristobal, Vella Lavella Ren-nell, and Santa Cruz. Honiara, the capital, is located on the north coast of the island of Guadalcanal.


The population of Solomon Islands was estimated to be 466,194 in July 2000, based on a census taken in November 1999, the first since 1986. Over that period, the population increased by 43 percent, corresponding to an average annual increase of 2.8 percent. This was a substantial decline from the average rate of 3.5 percent per year between 1976 and 1986, but the current rate is still high by world standards. The birth rate was estimated at 40.9 per 1,000 population in 2000, one of the highest in the Pacific, and the death rate was 6.8 per 1,000 population. The projected population by the year 2010 is 620,500.

The great majority (93 percent) of the population is of Melanesian ethnicity, with about 70 different language groups, mostly located on the larger islands of the archipelago. A minority (4 percent) is of Polynesian descent comprising about 8 different languages; these people mainly originate on the small outlying islands, although many are now settled elsewhere. An even smaller minority (about 1.5 percent) is of Micronesian ethnicity, mainly descendants of those resettled from the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) during the colonial period. The rest of the population is mainly of European or Chinese ethnicity. Of the major countries of the Pacific, Solomon Islands is the least urbanized, with only 13 percent living in urban areas. The only significant urban center is the capital Honiara, with about 50,000 people; in recent years Honiara has been growing about 35 percent faster than the rest of the country.

Despite high birth rates, Solomon Islands governments have not aggressively promoted family planning. For several years, there has been a low-key population planning policy, which promotes smaller family sizes and infant and maternal well-being. According to the 2000 census, birth rates have declined considerably, perhaps due to improvements in infant health and greater availability of contraceptives.


The Solomon Islands' economy is largely dependent on agriculture, forestry, and fishing. For a high proportion of the population (mainly village-based), the Solomon economy involves the production of subsistence foods and other items for personal consumption. The main item of production for cash at the village level is copra (the dried flesh of coconut), but also significant in some areas is cocoa, market vegetables, and marine products including fish and shells.

The agricultural cash economy is a legacy from the British colonial period. After the establishment of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate in 1893, the colonial administration facilitated the establishment of plantations, usually run by British settlers, and the recruitment of local labor. While there were some attempts to introduce new crops into the subsistence economy, the colonial administration took few initiatives to diversify the economy before independence in 1978.

During the 1970s the logging, fishing, and rice industries increased production as a result of new private investments and international aid programs. Through the 1980s and 1990s the 2 most significant items of production for export were timber and fish. Ethnic tensions on Guadalcanal in 1999 and 2000 caused some disruptions, but a peace settlement was reached in October 2000, and these economic activities are projected to reach previous levels. Large-scale mining started in 1998, and this sector is expected to expand if political stability is maintained.

Various small-scale manufacturing enterprises in recent decades have resulted in some import substitution (replacing imports of some food, furniture, and similar items with locally made products) and limited exports of food, beverages, construction materials, and furniture. Local processing within the fishing industry is also important.

Services have been mainly confined to the public sector , particularly in civil administration and education. Tourism has remained a small-scale activity, partly because the government did not actively promote tourism as an economic alternative until the mid-1990s. An 18-month civil war disrupted economic activity in the country, but by 2001 the economy was rebounding even though tourists were warned to steer clear of Guadalcanal, where most of the fighting had occurred.


Since independence in 1978, Solomon Islands has modeled the Westminster (British-style) system of government. The British monarch serves as head of state, and there is a unicameral parliament made up of 50 members (MPs) elected by voters over 21 years of age at least every 4 years. Each electoral constituency is represented by the MP who gains the most votes. The prime minister is elected by majority vote in parliament.

There is considerable fluidity in the party system, and parties have formed and reformed both during and between elections. Since independence in 1978, most governments have been coalitions, with the prime minister representing the party that gained the most votes in an election.

There are 9 provinces (Choiseul, Western, Isabel, Central, Rennell-Bellona, Guadalcanal, Malaita, Makira, and Temotu) and 1 Town Council (Honiara). Each has its own elected members and has authority over various aspects of development, including parts of the education, health, and transport systems. In response to ethnic tensions in 1999 and 2000, the central government has worked to increase the powers of the provincial governments.

Since the Solomon Islands has about 80 distinctive language groups, political parties have usually attempted to attract members and appoint cabinet ministers from various parts of the country in the interests of ethnic diversity. However, some degree of ethnic tension has persisted, and there have been calls for regional independence. In 1999 these tensions came to a head when the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army attacked settlers from the neighboring island of Malaita who had settled on Guadalcanal, amid fears that Malaitans were beginning to dominate the government and parts of the economy. In early 2000, the Malaitan Eagle Force took over the capital, forced out most Guadalcanalese and essentially overthrew the government. In October 2000 a peace settlement was signed, and international monitors arrived, mainly from Australia and New Zealand. By early 2001, there had been only minor breaches of the agreement.

Before the ethnic tension, the government had embarked on a modest restructuring program that involved some cutbacks in government expenditure, especially by reducing the number of civil servants. This was partly a response to high levels of government debt, and major fluctuations in revenue as a result of varying levels of exports and commodity prices. During the tension, the government approached insolvency (an inability to pay its debts), but was rescued by international aid, especially from the Republic of China (Taiwan). During this period, aid from Australia and New Zealand was channeled into peacekeeping activities.

The major sources of government tax revenue are customs revenue and inland (internal) revenue, which in 1997 accounted for about equal amounts of the total. Customs revenue is also equally divided between import taxes and export taxes, particularly on logs. Inland revenue originates from personal taxes, business taxes, and from other sources. A relatively small proportion of inland revenue is derived from individual income tax since only a small proportion of the population works in the paid labor force .


The nation's numerous islands make its transportation infrastructure heavily dependent on maritime transport. Until the 1970s inter-island transport consisted mainly of canoes, mission ships, copra trading boats, and the occasional government boat. Regular passenger transport is now handled by government boats and increasingly by private companies.

The country is served by 1,360 kilometers (845 miles) of roads, but well over half of these are private plantation roads. Only about 34 kilometers (21 miles) of these roads are paved, mainly in Honiara. Most outlying islands have few or no roads, with a transportation infrastructure consisting of walking trails or outboard motor canoes.

Solomon Islands is served by 1 international airport, Henderson Field near Honiara, built by the U.S. military during World War II and since upgraded by aid from Japan and other sources. Another airport, at Munda in the Western Province, can also accommodate international (usually charter) flights. It was also built during World War II and has runways paved with coral. There are 31 other airports with unpaved runways throughout the islands, mostly for smaller aircraft operated by Solomon Airlines, but domestic airfares are high. During the ethnic conflicts in 2000, international and domestic flights were interrupted. By early 2001, Solomon Airlines was again flying to Brisbane and Nadi and operating most domestic flights, but other international airlines were still weighing the risks of resuming service.

Most households in Solomon Islands do not have access to electricity. In Honiara and in other provincial centers, power is generated by diesel generators operating on imported fuel. During the 1990s attempts were made to develop hydroelectric power for Honiara, but these plans were delayed due to problems related to land and compensation.

Telephone service is available only in Honiara and some towns. Domestic and international connections,

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations a Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Solomon Islands 8,000 658 AM 3; FM 0; shortwave 0 57,000 0 3,000 1 3,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Philippines 1.9 M 1.959 M (1998) AM 366; FM 290; shortwave 3 (1999) 11.5 M 31 3.7 M 33 500,000
Micronesia 11,000 (2001) N/A AM 5; FM 1; shortwave 0 N/A 2 N/A 1 2,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

including Internet access, are usually good. These connections are provided via satellite by Solomons Telekom, a joint venture between the government and Cable and Wireless, Limited, and which holds a monopoly on telephone services. In 1997, Solomon Islands had 3 radio but no television stations, although there are about 3,000 television sets in the country. The civil war in 2000 destroyed many telecommunications buildings and equipment. All expansion was temporarily postponed during the conflict.


While a very high proportion of the population lives in rural areas, agriculture, fishing, and hunting have contributed only about one-third of GDP in recent years, and this proportion has declined slightly since the early 1980s. In terms of formal employment, agriculture made up only 21.8 percent of the 34,000-strong labor force in 1998, although the subsistence and village cash cropping sector employs large numbers who are not enumerated in these surveys. Industry has shown slight growth in recent years, and made up 17.4 percent of the formal labor force in 1998. The service economy, which includes everything from domestic labor to work by skilled professionals, is the dominant sector, contributing about 40 percent of GDP, and supplying 60.8 percent of the formal labor force in 1998. The economy was devastated by the civil conflict that lasted between June and October of 2000. In the wake of the war, many major companies closed and farmers had difficulties moving their products to market. Foreign aid has helped the country weather the economic difficulties.



Through much of the 20th century, under British colonial rule, Solomon Islands represented a classic example of a plantation economy, with coconut production being the primary activity of both village smallholders (individual farmers) and large-scale expatriate (foreign) plantation owners. For village producers, the production of copra (dried flesh of coconuts) is still an important source of cash, and several large coconut plantations are still operating. As a source of export income, coconut products have steadily declined since the 1960s. During the 1990s, a number of coconut oil presses were installed in various parts of the country, and this has increased the value of this product.

For many years, government and international aid donors have sponsored initiatives to diversify the agricultural base of both smallholder and large-scale farmers by promoting the production of cocoa as a new crop. In 1998, cocoa comprised about 5 percent of export income. Also moderately successful has been the production of chilies, mostly at the village level.

In the late 1970s, large-scale rice production was established by an American company on the Guadalcanal Plains, leading to a small export trade. The industry collapsed in the next decade due to flagging domestic demand and the destruction of much of the crop in 1986 by Cyclone Namu. Production resumed in the mid-1990s on large plantations on Guadalcanal and on a smaller scale in many villages. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization estimated that 4,500 metric tons of rice were produced in 2000, up from 1,300 metric tons in 1998.


Most timber exports have been of whole logs, with only about 10 percent of total production in the 1990s being milled within the country. Logging began during the British colonial period and escalated considerably after independence in 1978. It is estimated that accessible timber resources may be exhausted by about 2010 if present levels of logging continue. The rate of exploitation was a major political issue during the 1990s and into the 21st century.


Fishing is an important activity at 3 different levels: subsistence production (production that only meets the immediate needs of the producer), small-scale cash fishing, and the large-scale offshore fishing industry. Small-scale cash fishing is most successful near urban markets, especially Honiara. Since the early 1980s, 31 fishery centers providing refrigeration and marketing services have been established throughout the country, although many of these have since failed. In the late 1990s, some centers were being renovated amidst attempts to facilitate the marketing of fish to Honiara and to Australia.

There were 2 major local fishing companies in 1999: Solomon Taiyo Ltd. (STL) and National Fisheries Development (NFD). STL has a large cannery at Noro in Western Province which produced nearly a million cases of canned tuna in 1999, about one-quarter of which was sold domestically. While domestic prices for fish remained high during the year, the world price of tuna plummeted, causing NFD to cease operations late in the year. STL closed during the period of ethnic tension, but is expected to open again.



Small-scale mining during the 20th century consisted mainly of gold-panning operations on Guadal-canal; the Gold Ridge mine in the central part of the island did not begin production until 1998. Developed by Ross Mining, this operation was expected to produce gold for about 10 years. The mine was closed down in June 2000 as ethnic tensions reached a peak. As of early 2001, the mine had not reopened, although negotiations were underway with landowners and the government about issues of compensation and security.


Except for the production of traditional handicrafts, manufacturing has never been a major industry in Solomon Islands. In the late 1990s it contributed about 5 percent of the country's GDP. The most important manufacturing enterprises cater to the local market in such sectors as food processing, beer, furniture, construction materials, and construction of outboard canoes. Traditional handicrafts such as woodcarvings, weavings, and shell ornaments are sold to tourists or exported on a small scale.



Despite its beautiful beaches and calm lagoons, Solomon Islands has always had a relatively small tourist industry. About 12,000 people visited the islands each year, with relatively little increase until 1997-98. Although official figures are not available, the numbers of visitors dramatically fell in 1999 and 2000 as a result of ethnic tensions and the interruption of air services into the country.

Guadalcanal and the nearby islands were major battlegrounds during World War II, and in the decades after the war most tourists were returning veterans or their families, both American and Japanese. Following the end of the war, the landscape was strewn with downed airplanes, tanks, and other war material, and the beaches of Guadalcanal and some of the other islands were littered with landing craft. Much of this material has since been exported as scrap, but even in 2001 there are remnants. Both the Japanese and the Americans have constructed hilltop monuments for the many thousands of troops killed during the war. More recently the country has become a center for scuba diving and snorkeling; along with spectacular coral reefs, there are many sunken warships still intact for divers to explore. Many tourists are attracted by the great cultural diversity of the country and its traditional villages.

Tourist infrastructure is limited, with only a few international standard hotels, mostly in Honiara, although there are guesthouses in most areas. Since the mid-1990s, efforts have been made to develop ecotourism (nature holidays), mostly village-based but in many cases supported through international aid programs. Unlike neighboring countries such as Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Fiji, the Solomon Islands has no flight and accommodation packages available to international travelers.


The financial services sector is small and mainly serves the local market. International banks such as Westpac and ANZ are located in Honiara and 2 provincial centers. The National Bank of Solomon Islands (a joint venture between Bank of Hawaii and the local National Provident Fund) is the only commercial bank with branches in smaller towns. The Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) regulates money supply and is responsible for general economic monitoring, and the Development Bank of Solomon Islands (DBSI) offers small-scale lending for development projects.


The retail sector is not well developed. Most retail operations are in Honiara and other towns, but the range of goods is limited. Villages are served by small locally-run shops selling basics such as soap, kerosene, rice, tea, sugar, biscuits, and fishhooks, or by copra trading boats that also serve as retail outlets.


According to the International Monetary Fund and other sources, Solomon Islands' exports in 1999 were valued at US$116 million (a drop from US$168 million in 1995) and imports at US$110 million (a drop from US$154 million in 1995). The drop can be attributed in part to the economic crisis in Asia, which lowered demand for the logging exports of the Solomon Islands. Despite the drop in overall trade activity, Solomon Islands has had a positive balance of trade in recent years, a situation rare among Pacific countries. This may be attributed to high volumes of log exports during the 1990s and, to a lesser extent, the steady export of fish products.

Japan is by far the largest destination for exports, taking about one-third of all exports by value in 1999. It is also an important destination for timber products, even though companies operating in this industry are mainly Korean. The largest fishing enterprise in Solomon Islands

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Solomon Islands
Exports Imports
1975 .015 .033
1980 .074 .089
1985 .070 .083
1990 .070 .091
1995 .168 .154
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

is a subsidiary of the Japanese Taiyo Company, and many of the fish products are destined for the Japanese market. Other important export destinations for its timber and fish are Thailand and the Philippines.

Imports from Australia account for 37 percent of the total imports to Solomon Islands, making it the single largest source. The next largest import sources are Singapore, Japan, and New Zealand, which provide a variety of foodstuffs, fuels, and machinery.


Since independence in 1978 the Solomon Islands dollar has floated freely. In 1982, its dollar was worth slightly more than the U.S. dollar (SI$.9711 to US$1), but fell to about one-fifth of the U.S. dollar by 2001 (SI$5.0745 to US$1). In the 1980s, this was partly a result of a negative trade balance, but this does not seem to have been a factor in recent years, when exports have tended to be of greater value than imports. During the 1990s, the rate of inflation has averaged 10.7 percent per year.


The United Nations Development Program 's Human Development Indicator (HDI), which measures a country's welfare using income, education, and health statistics, ranks Solomon Islands 121st out of 174 countries.

Exchange rates: Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands dollars (SI$) per US$1
Nov 2000 5.0968
2000 5.0864
1999 4.8381
1998 4.8156
1997 3.7169
1996 3.5664
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Solomon Islands 419 583 666 784 753
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Philippines 974 1,166 967 1,064 1,092
Fiji 2,096 2,319 2,102 2,356 2,416
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Although it ranks as the second poorest nation in the Pacific, it is better off than many African countries. Per capita GDP in 1998 was only US$753, about one-fortieth that of the United States. This is a decline from the peak figure of US$784 in 1990. Still, in most parts of Solomon Islands there is little evidence of the desperate poverty found in some parts of the Third World. Most households have sufficient food, although nutrition surveys have found some cases of malnutrition, particularly in urban areas where food is expensive.

Other indicators show that Solomon Islands is a poor country. Seventy percent of adults are illiterate, and only 41 percent of boys and 36 percent of girls aged 5 to 14 were enrolled in primary school in 1999. Health services have improved in recent years, but infant mortality is relatively high at 38 per 1,000, and there is only 1 doctor for every 7,292 persons.


Only about 16 percent of the working-age population participate in wage and salary employment, much of this centered in Honiara. There is far more demand for employment than there are jobs, especially for the unskilled. Wages for unskilled work are low, at SI$1.20 in agriculture and fishing and SI$1.50 in other sectors. Since many products consumed in urban areas are imported, these wages are inadequate for living well in town.

There are 2 major unions: The Solomon Islands National Union of Workers (SINUW), representing workers in the private sector , and Solomon Islands Public Employees Union (SIPEU), for government workers. Unions in the private sector have become weaker in recent years, possibly as a result of the surplus of potential labor; the public-sector union has been more successful in promoting the interests of its members.


1000 B.C. Evidence of human settlement on some islands.

140-670 A.D. Evidence of Lapita pottery culture on some islands.

1568. Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña visits several islands in search of the fabled mines of King Solomon. Islands given Spanish names include Guadal-canal, Santa Isabel, San Cristobal.

1600-1700s. Explorers visit from Spain, the Netherlands, England, and France.

1800s. Regular contact between Solomon Islanders and whalers, missionaries, and traders. Labor recruitment ("blackbirding") for plantations in Fiji and Queensland. Lever's Pacific Plantations begins establishing large-scale plantations.

1893. British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP) declared.

1942. Japanese invade Solomons; Allied forces counterattack.

1943. Allied forces occupy Guadalcanal in February; Japanese evacuate in December.

1940s. Rise of "Marching Rule," an indigenous movement on Malaita that advocates independence, non-payment of taxes, and return to tradition; leaders are jailed in 1948.

1978. On 7 July, Solomon Islands becomes independent; first prime minister is Peter Kenilorea.

1986. Cyclone Namu strikes; many people on Guadal-canal buried by landslides, plantations destroyed.

1990s. Escalation of ethnic tensions as vigilante groups (Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army, then Isatabu Freedom Movement) begin to drive Malaitan settlers off the land.

2000. Malaitan group (Malaita Eagle Force) takes control of Honiara in June; Townsville Peace agreement, with international monitoring, is signed in October, allowing full access to Honiara by all groups. It guarantees compensation to offended parties and mandates confiscation of weapons.


There was much optimism about the economic future of Solomon Islands in the 1990s because of its wealth of timber, fish, minerals, and other resources. At the same time, there was a recognition that the timber resource was being exploited at an unsustainable rate, and that it would be only about a decade before the accessible forests were logged out. There was also some apprehension late in the 1990s about the oversupply of the global fishing infrastructure and the increasingly competitive nature of the industry in the Pacific. By 2000, ethnic tension between groups on Guadalcanal and Malaita raised fears about the survival of the nation-state. By early 2001 there was some optimism that the peace agreement of October 2000 would hold, and that the economy would eventually return to normal. However, many critical industries were still closed awaiting assurances of ongoing security. The future of the Islands' forests remains uncertain, but some efforts to improve the effects of over-fishing included sustainable harvesting of black pearls.


Solomon Islands has no territories or colonies.


Asian Development Bank . Solomon Islands 1997 Economic Report. Manila: ADB, 1998.

Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI). Annual Report. Honiara: CBSI, various years 1980-1999.

Solomon Islands Employment 1998. Honiara: Solomon IslandsStatistics Office, 2000.

"Solomon Islands Ministry of Commerce." <>. Accessed May 2001.

United Nations Development Programme. Pacific Human Development Report 1999: Creating Opportunities. Suva: UNDP, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook, 2000. <>. Accessed May 2001.

Wardlow Friesen




Solomon Islands dollar (SI$). 100 cents equals 1 dollar. Coin denominations include 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and 1 dollar. Paper notes include 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 dollars.


Timber, fish, coconut products, cocoa.


Machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, mineral fuels, chemicals.


US$1.21 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$142 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.). Imports: US$160 million (c.i.f., 1998 est.).

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Solomon Islands


Solomon Islands

Major City:

Other Cities:


People have inhabited the SOLOMON ISLANDS since at least 1000 BC. The Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña y Neyra of Peru first visited the islands in 1567, seeking the legendary Isles of Solomon. The name "Solomon Islands" and the promise of gold helped lure settlers to the region starting in 1595. The first European settlers were killed by the islanders and by disease. Other attempts to colonize the islands failed. Missionaries arrived in the mid-1800s. The United Kingdom declared a protectorate over the southern Solomons in 1893, which gradually encompassed the entire archipelago by 1900. Commercial coconut farming began in the 20th century. During World War II, most planters and traders were evacuated to Australia. The Japanese occupied the islands during the war, and they were almost constantly a scene of combat. As a result, abandoned war equipment littered the islands, some of which remains today. After the war, the islands returned to British rule, but nationalistic movements emerged. US forces remained on the islands until 1950. The post-war generation moved closer towards self-determination, and an elected governing council was created in 1970. The Solomon Islands became independent on July 7, 1978.



Honiara is located on the island of Guadalcanal, the site of bloody fighting between US and Japanese forces during World War II. Honiara derives its name from nahoniara, or "place of the northeast wind." The adjacent high mountains deflect rain away, so it has a relatively low amount of rainfall compared to the rest of the island. The city itself was established after the war on the site of the original American military base that was constructed of Quonset huts between Kukum and Point Cruz in order to utilize existing roads, waterfront facilities, and buildings.

Honiara, with a population of 53,000, is the major commercial center of the Solomon Islands and has a developed port and support services. The town originally was confined to the narrow east-west seashore area, but it later grew to cover inland areas and several ridges that were once World War II battle sites. Some of the newer communities along the ridges started out as squatters' camps. Construction in Honiara still occasionally unearths human remains or even live munitions from the war.

There is a bomb disposal unit that detonates unexploded wartime munitions about 8 miles outside the city. A mile-long stretch of Honiara along Mendaña Avenue (between the Mendana Hotel and Chinatown) is the nation's primary commercial and business district, with government offices, the port facility, the main shopping area, hotels, banks, restaurants, and churches. The Central Market there is the nation's main food market, with produce arriving from all areas of the country.


Soccer, rugby, volleyball, softball, and cricket are played at sport grounds in or around Honiara. Tennis and squash are played at clubs in Honiara, and boxing matches are held in Kukum. The Solomon Islands' only golf course is located at Ranadi, less than 3 miles from Honiara. The golf course is located next to the remnants of a US wartime airstrip. Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular tourist activities.

The Central Bank in Honiara has a display of traditional local currency that includes money made from feathers, dolphin teeth, shells, and clamshells. The governor general's residence and a memorial to the US soldiers killed at Guadalcanal are also in Honiara. The Botanical Gardens contains an orchid garden, a creek, and a greenhouse used for growing herbs.

Guadalcanal saw heavy combat during World War II, as the US and Japanese fought for control over Henderson Field, the islands' air-strip. One of the most furious sea battles ever fought took place off Savo Island, near Guadalcanal in August 1942. The naval battles between Guadalcanal and Savo during 1942-43 sent dozens of ships to the ocean floor and the channel became known as Iron Bottom Sound. Many were beached or sank close to shore, and these are possibly the most accessible shipwrecks in the world. They now provide many popular dive sites near Honiara for both experienced and beginner divers. Two popular dive sights are at the mouth of the Bonegi River, and feature sunken Japanese transport ships encrusted in coral and teeming with tropical fish.

About 12 miles from Honiara, divers can also explore an American B-17 bomber lies that lies intact under 50 feet of water. The scattered remains of aircraft, artillery, tanks, guns, and vehicles from the war also attract US and Japanese servicemen to revisit battlefield sites on Guadalcanal (such as Bloody Ridge, Tenaru, and Red Beach) and New Georgia. Six of the original Quonset huts built by the US still remain in Honiara, just west of the Mataniko River. The provincial government of Guadalcanal still uses the buildings. Honiara's Central Hospital is still known by its wartime designation of "No. 9."

South of the capital is Skyline Ridge, the site of the decisive American victory at the Battle of Mataniko River. The Skyline Memorial there honors all the US troops that served in the Solomon Islands. There are Japanese memorials atop Mt. Austen and east of the airfield at the mouth of Alligator Creek (Ilu River). The Vilu Village War Museum, 15 miles west of Honiara, has a wide range of war artifacts, including Japanese and American aircraft.

The National Museum and Cultural Center in Honiara contains exhibits covering archeology, dance, currency, weaponry, and body ornamentation. The cultural center is in a park-like setting of traditional leaf houses that exhibit the different building customs of Solomon Islanders.


AUKI is the provincial capital on the island of Malaita. The island (population 87,000, 1992 est.) is home to many Melanesian tribes, each with different languages and customs. Auki serves as a central location from which to explore many villages and experience a variety of cultures. One of the most popular modes of exploration is a motorized canoe tour. A one hour tour will take you to Langa Langa Lagoon, where very little has changed over the centuries for the natives who worship sharks as deities. Natives will often share a performance of the traditional warriors' welcome dances or witch doctor rituals. Some may demonstrate the ancient art of making shell-money or the local custom of fortune telling. The ancient custom of shark calling is also practiced here. Day trips and tours of other local villages can be arranged. Auki is also the site of the Bush Cultural Village, a unique area where visitors can arrange to see cultural demonstrations.


Geography and Climate

The Solomon Islands is a chain of six large and numerous small islands in the South Pacific, about 1,200 miles northeast of Australia and 300 miles east of Papua New Guinea. The largest island is Guadalcanal, covering some 2,047 square miles; other major islands are Makira, San Christobal, Vella Lavella, Choiseul, Rennell, New Georgia, and the Santa Cruz group. The topography varies from rugged mountains on Guadalcanal to low coral atolls. The highest peak is Mt. Makarakomburu on Guadalcanal, at 8,127 feet. The climate is tropical, with hot northwest equatorial winds bringing heavy rainfall from December to March. From April to November, the islands are cooled by drier southeast trade winds. The annual average temperature is 81° F ; annual rainfall is 120 inches.


The population in 2000 was estimated at 470,000 with a density of only 39 persons per square mile. Population density varies significantly from island to island, as most mountainous and heavily wooded areas are inaccessible. Most of the population is concentrated along coastal areas. Melanesians account for about 93% of the population; Polynesians, 4%; Micronesians, 1.5%; Europeans, Chinese, and others, 1.5%. Melanesians tend to live on the larger islands, while Polynesians inhabit the smaller islands and the atolls. Honiara is the Solomon Islands' most ethnically diverse area, with people of Melanesian, Polynesian, Gilbertese, European, and Chinese origins. Christianity is the principal organized religion; the leading sects are Anglican, Roman Catholic, Baptist, United (Methodist/Presbyterian), and Seventh-Day Adventist. Melanesian pidgin English in much of the country is lingua franca, and English is spoken by 1-2% of population. There are also 120 indigenous languages.


In 1893, the British government established a protectorate over Guadalcanal, Malaita, San Christobal, and the New Georgia group. The remainder of the islands were under German control. Some of those islands were transferred to the United Kingdom in 1900 and the area became known as the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. During World War II, many battles between Japan and the United States were fought on or near the islands. The impact the war made on society gave impetus to a pro-independence movement in the 1950s.

In 1970, the Solomon Islands' first general election was held, and a new constitution was introduced in 1974. On June 22, 1975, the islands officially ceased being a protectorate, and by 1976 the government was acting on its own.

The Solomon Islands became a member of the Commonwealth in July 1978. Under its independence constitution of 1978, the government is a parliamentary democracy with a ministerial system and a unicameral National Parliament. The parliament has 47 seats. The prime minister is selected from the parliamentary majority party. The head of state is the British monarch, represented by a governor-general.

'The judicial system is a blend of British and traditional systems and consists of the High Court, magistrate's courts, and local courts.

The flag consists of two triangles, the upper one blue and the lower one green, separated by a diagonal gold stripe; on the blue triangle are five white five-pointed stars arranged in a quincunx.

Arts, Science, Education

Education is not compulsory, and many schools charge fees. Christian missions (mainly Anglican) supported by government grants, continue to provide some primary schooling. In 1994, there were about 60,500 primary school students, but only 7,800 secondary school students. Higher education is available at the Solomon Islands Teacher College, the Honiara Technical Institute, and the University of the South Pacific Solomon Islands Center.

Commerce and Industry

The economy relies on the exports of copra, timber, and fish. At least 50% of the workforce depends on subsistence agriculture, fishing, and forestry for at least part of their livelihood. Cocoa, spices, and palm oil are also important export commodities.

The islands are rich in undeveloped mineral resources such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold. In 1998 Ross Mining of Australia began producing gold at Gold Ridge on Guadalcanal. Minerals exploration in other areas continues, and there are hopes for further gold production.

Tourism could prove to be an important service industry for Solomon Islands, especially for marine activities such as diving. However, limitations of public roads and transportation systems are the biggest deterrents to building on tourism.

Foreign aid accounts for about 13% of Solomon Islands GDP. Principal aid donors are Australia, Japan, and the Republic of China and New Zealand.


There are no railways, but the islands do have about 800 miles of roads and another 500 miles of private logging and plantation roads. Shipping services link the Solomon Islands with other Pacific islands, Australia, Japan, and Europe. Honiara and Rini Cove are the two main ports. Government vessels provide interisland transport and handle about one-third of the country's shipping. Henderson Field on Guadalcanal is the main civil airport.

Solomon Airlines has provided flights between the islands and to nearby Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu; however, the service was suspended in Fall of 2001 by Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for not meeting safety requirements. Service may return once safety codes are met.

In the Solomon Islands, vehicular traffic moves on the left. Surfaced roads are found only around Honiara, located on Guadalcanal Island. These surfaced roads are two lane, not well marked, and are poorly lit at night. The remaining roads in the Solomon Islands are made of coral or gravel or are dirt tracks. Travelers must take care when driving off main roads to avoid trespassing on communal land.


About 6,000 telephones operate on the islands, and radiotelephone service provides overseas links. The government operates five radio transmitters; there are no television broadcasts but satellite television from Australia is available at some hotels. Local weekly papers include Solomons Star and Solomons Voice.


Hospitals and pharmacies in the Solomon Islands are limited to population centers and missions. The nearest reliable medical facilities are in Australia or New Zealand. Medical conditions resulting from diving accidents may require medical evacuation to Australia or New Zealand.

Malaria, tuberculosis, and hook-worm are still health problems. Some urban children suffer from malnutrition due to a steady Western diet of processed starches and sugar. An outbreak of Dengue fever occurred in Spring 2002.


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*



June Queen's Birthday Celebrated*

July 7 Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Thanksgiving Day



Passage, Customs & Duties

U.S. passport holders do not require visas to enter the Solomon Islands. Passports, onward/return tickets and proof of sufficient funds are required. Visitor permits are granted upon arrival at Henderson International Airport in Honiara. Visitors may enter any number of times provided the total period in the Solomon Islands does not exceed 90 days in a 12-month period. The Solomon Islands government strictly enforces immigration laws, and travelers may face fines and other penalties if they remain in the country beyond the authorized period.

Persons arriving on yachts should call the nearest immigration office to complete arrival forms for issuance of visitors permits. Travelers who anticipate the possibility of transiting or visiting Australia are advised to obtain an electronic travel authority (ETA) or visa for Australia before leaving the United States. The ETA is available to eligible U.S. citizens at time of ticket purchase through travel agents and airlines. For more information about entry requirements, travelers may contact the Solomon Islands Mission to the United Nations at 800 Second Avenue 4th Floor, New York, NY 10017-4709; Tel: (212) 599?6192.

The Solomon Islands' customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Solomon Islands of items such as firearms and ammunition, sexually explicit material and certain prescription drugs. Other items may be subject to quarantine regulations or import duty. The Solomon Islands' government prohibits the export of military artifacts from World War II. It is advisable to contact the Solomon Islands' Mission to the United Nations for specific information regarding customs requirements.

There is no U.S. Embassy in the Solomon Islands. However, there is a U.S. Consular Agency in Honiara. The Consular Agent, who has general information and forms (such as passport applications for forwarding to Port Moresby) may be contacted at B.J.S. Agencies Limited in Honiara, Tel (677) 23426; Fax (677) 21-027. Primary assistance for U.S. citizens is provided by the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea, which is located on Douglas Street, adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby. Use this address for courier service deliveries. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1492, Port Moresby, N.C.D. 121, Papua New Guinea; tel (675) 321-1455; fax (675) 321-1593.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and to obtain updated information on travel and security from the Embassy. Information may also be obtained from the Consular Agent in Honiara. American citizens may submit consular inquiries via e-mail to

Disaster Preparedness

The Solomon Islands lie in the South Pacific cyclonic trajectory, and is vulnerable to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and sudden tidal movements. The Pacific Cyclone season extends from November through March. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available via the Internet at, and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page at


Harcombe, David. Solomon Islands. Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1993.

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands, independent Commonwealth nation (2009 pop. 515,870), c.15,500 sq mi (40,150 sq km), SW Pacific, E of New Guinea. The islands that constitute the nation of the Solomon Islands—Guadalcanal, Malaita, New Georgia, the Santa Cruz Islands, Choiseul, Ysabel (Santa Isabel), San Cristobal (Makira), the Shortland Islands, and countless smaller islands—are only part of the 900-mi (1,448-km) Solomon Islands chain, which also includes Bougainville and Buka, which are politically part of Papua New Guinea. The capital is Honiara, on Guadalcanal.

Land, People, and Economy

The Solomons are mountainous and heavily wooded. The inhabitants are largely Melanesians, although some Polynesians live in the outlying atolls. About one third of the people belong to the Church of Melanesia, and there are minorities of Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations. English is the official language, but a Melanesian pidgin is the lingua franca; there are about 120 indigenous languages.

Farming, fishing, and forestry are the main occupations. Cocoa beans, coconuts, palm kernels, rice, potatoes, vegetables, and fruit are grown. Economic development has been slow, and industry is limited to fish processing, mining, and lumbering, with the last contributing most to the nation's economy. There are large undeveloped mineral resources. By the 1990s, logging levels had become unsustainable and the government instituted regulatory legislation, but large-scale logging was nonetheless expected exhaust the nation's forests sometime in the 2010s. Timber, fish, coconut products, palm oil, and cocoa are the main exports, while foodstuffs, machinery, manufactured goods, fuels, and chemicals are imported. The main trading partners are China, Australia, and South Korea.


The country is governed under the constitution of 1978. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by the governor-general, is the head of state. The government is headed by the prime minister. The unicameral National Parliament has 50 members, all elected by popular vote for four-year terms. Administratively, the Solomon Islands are divided into nine provinces and the capital territory.


A Spanish explorer, Álvaro de Mendeña de Neira, was the first European to visit the islands (1568), but his colonizing efforts failed. European settlers and missionaries arrived throughout the 18th and 19th cent. In 1885 the German New Guinea Company established control over the N Solomons. The southern islands were placed under a British protectorate in 1893; the eastern islands were added to it in 1898. In 1900, Germany transferred its islands (except Bougainville and Buka) to Great Britain in return for British withdrawal from W Samoa. Bougainville and Buka were occupied by Australian forces during World War I and were placed under Australian mandate by the League of Nations in 1920. During World War II, Choiseul, New Georgia, Ysabel, and Guadalcanal were occupied by the Japanese (1942) but were liberated by U.S. forces (1943–44).

The Solomon Islands became self-governing in 1976 and independent in 1978. The government is parliamentary, with a governor-general representing the British crown, a prime minister and cabinet, and an elected unicameral parliament. In Aug., 1997, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu became prime minister after winning a leadership vote in parliament. Ethnic strife broke out on Guadalcanal in 1999, as island natives fought with immigrants from the island of Malaita. In 2000 the battling between ethnic-based militias intensified, and the Malaita militia took Ulufa'alu hostage in June. The prime minister resigned under duress; Mannasseh Sogavare, who was chosen to succeed him, pledged to seek a resolution to the violence.

After elections held in Dec., 2001, Sir Allan Kemakeza was elected prime minister. Despite efforts to negotiate an end to the violence, it continued, ruining the economy and bankrupting the country. In July, 2003, an Australian-led peacekeeping force, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), entered the Solomons at the government's request to restore order. RAMSI was largely successful, disarming rebels, arresting their leaders, and enabling people displaced by the violence to return home. The military component of RAMSI was finally phased out in 2013; police officers associated with RAMSI remain in the Solomons.

Corruption accusations against several government ministers led to large losses for Kemakeza's party in the Apr., 2006, elections. Former deputy prime minister Snyder Rini was elected to succeed Kemakeza as prime minister, but Rini's election sparked protests in Honiara by demonstrators upset with his ties to what they regarded as a corrupt administration. The protests turned into anti-Chinese riots because the corruption has been associated with the money and development brought by recent Chinese investors. Additional Australian and New Zealand forces were sent to the Solomons to help restore order, and Rini resigned when he lost parliamentary support. In May, Mannasseh Sogavare was elected prime minister with the support of the opposition parties.

The new government's relations with Australia subsequently became strained when Australia's ambassador criticized a Solomons investigation into the post-election riots as a potential whitewash and was expelled. The situation worsed when Sogavare appointed Julian Moti, an Australian lawyer of Fijian descent who was wanted in Australia on child sex charges, as the Solomons attorney general. Australia sought Moti's extradition from Papua New Guinea, where Moti was arrested (Sept., 2006) while in transit. Moti managed to flee with apparent help from Papua New Guinea and Solomons officials, and then entered the Solomons illegaly and was held there. (His appointment as attorney general was suspended as a result of his illegal entry.)

A Solomons police investigation into Moti's illegal entry resulted in a raid on the prime minister's office. Sogavare criticized the raid as an Australian violation of his nation's sovereignty because of the presence of Australians (hired by the Solomons government) throughout the police force; the Australian government denied having any involvement in Solomons police affairs. A Solomons court cleared Moti of all Solomons charges in December, the Australian-born police commissioner was subsequently declared an undesirable immigrant, and in July, 2007, Moti became attorney general. In Apr., 2007, an undersea earthquake and tsunami caused widespread significant destruction in the W Solomon Islands, devastating the nation's second largest city, Gizo.

Sogavare lost a confidence vote in Dec., 2007, and Derek Sikua, backed by the oppostion and some former Sogavare supporters, became prime minister. Moti subsequently was deported to Australia; in 2009 the indictment against him was stayed permanently by an Australian judge. After the Aug., 2010, parliamentary elections, Danny Philip cobbled together a disparate coalition to narrowly secure the prime ministership. Charges of misuse of funds led the coalition's erosion in Nov. 2011 and Philip resigned; Gordon Darcy Lilo succeeded him as prime minister. Heavy rains led in Apr., 2014, to devastating flash floods in Guadalcanal, especially Honiara, and other parts of the Solomons. The parliamentary elections in Nov., 2014, led the following month to Sogavare's return as prime minister.

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

Official name: Solomon Islands

Area: 28,450 square kilometers (11,000 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Makarakomburu (2,447 meters/8,127 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern

Time zone: 11 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,688 kilometers (1,049 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest; 468 kilometers (291 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 5,313 kilometers (3,301 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The nation of Solomon Islands is located in the South Pacific region of Oceania, nearly 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Australia and about 485 kilometers (300 miles) east of Papua New Guinea. With an area of about 28,450 square kilometers (11,000 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. Solomon Islands is divided into seven provinces and one town.


Solomon Islands has no outside territories or dependencies.


Solomon Islands has a tropical monsoon climate with very few extremes in temperature. November through March is the hottest period, while from April through October it is cooler and drier. Normally, the daytime temperatures range from 25°C to 32°C (77°F to 90°F), with nighttime temperatures ranging from 3°C to 5°C (38°F to 41°F).

The northwest monsoon, which brings warmer and wetter weather, lasts from November through March. Cyclones often start in the Coral Sea and the area of the Solomons, but often veer away from the islands themselves. Annual average rainfall is 305 centimeters (120 inches). Average humidity is nearly 80 percent.


Solomon Islands is an archipelago formed by the exposed peaks of a submerged mountain chain. This chain extends from Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea to the northern islands of Vanuatu. The Solomon Islands nation covers the central islands of this chain.

Almost all of the larger islands are volcanic in origin and are covered with steaming rain-forests and mountain ranges intersected by narrow valleys. Most of the smaller islands are low coral atolls. Solomon Islands lies on the Transitional Zone along the edge of the Pacific and Australian Tectonic Plates. Earthquakes and volcanic activity are common.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Pacific Ocean lies to the north and east of the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Sea is southwest of the islands and the Coral Sea is directly south. Solomon Islands are surrounded by expanses of coral reefs. Unfortunately, much of the coral barrier is dead or dying.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Bougainville Strait lies between Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea and the northwestern islands of Choiseul, Vella Lavella, and the Shortland Islands. The Indispensable Strait connects the South Pacific to the New Georgia Sound, which lies between the two lines of islands that make up the archipelago. Kaoka Bay is located at the southeastern end of the sound, between the islands of Guadalcanal and Malaita.

Islands and Archipelagos

Solomon Islands is a country that is only a part of the larger chain of islands that are also called the Solomon Islands. The largest island in the country is Guadalcanal, which covers 5,300 square kilometers (2,047 square miles). There are five other large islands, all in the western part of the chain: Choiseul, New Georgia, Santa Isabel, Malaita, and San Cristobal. Smaller islands include: Bellona, Duff, Gizo, Kolombangara, Ontong Java, Rennell, Savo, the Shortland Islands, Ranongga, Simbo, Rendova, Vangunu, Nggatoake, Russell, and Vella Lavella. To the east of these islands lie the part of the chain called the Santa Cruz Islands; these include Santa Cruz, Nendo, Tikopia, Utupua, Vanikolo, Anuta, Fetaka, Duff, and the Reef Islands. In addition, there are approximately 992 islets, atolls, and reefs in the group.

Lagoons and mangrove swamps surround the islands at the coasts.


There are no major lakes in Solomon Islands. There are several smaller ones, including Lake Te Nggano.


The short, narrow, and impassable rivers of the Solomon Islands are navigable only by canoe.

Mataniko Falls is located southwest of the capital city of Honiara on Guadalcanal. The double-sided falls pour into a cave full of stalagmites.


There are no desert regions in the Solomon Islands.


Guadalcanal Island contains the nation's only major grassy plains. The alluvial deposits from the streams on this island created the surrounding land mass.


The five largest islandsChoiseul, New Georgia, Santa Isabel, Guadalcanal, and Malaitaare characterized by heavily forested mountain ranges. The terrain is very rugged; Mount Makarakomburu, the nation's highest point, reaches 2,447 meters (8,127 feet) on the southern end of Guadalcanal. Steep, narrow valleys intersect with the mountain ranges.


During World War II (193945), Japanese soldiers who were trying to avoid capture by the Americans hid in the cave at Mataniko Falls on Guadalcanal.


There are no plateau regions on the Solomon Islands.


There are no major man-made structures affecting the geography of the Solomon Islands.


Oceania is a term that refers to the islands in the region that covers the central and south Pacific Ocean and its adjacent seas. The north-south boundaries for the region are the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the southern tip of New Zealand.



Bennett, Judith A. Wealth of the Solomons: A History of a Pacific Archipelago, 18001978. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987.

Diamond, J. Solomon Islands. Chicago: Children's Press, 1995.

Jack-Hinton, Colin. The Search for the Islands of Solomon 15671838. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.

Newton Abbot, David, and Charles Newton Abbot. The Solomon Islands. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1972.

Solomon Islands: A Travel Survival Kit. South Yarra; Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet, 1988.

Web Site

Solomon Islands, Pearl of the Pacific. (accessed June 19, 2003).

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Solomon Islands
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 466,194
Language(s): Melanesian pidgin, English
Literacy rate: N/A

The Solomon Islands is located in the South Pacific, east of Papua New Guinea. Far from being remote, the islands lie along the sea routes of the South Pacific Ocean, the Solomon Sea and the Coral Sea, a strategic position bitterly fought over in World War II. A British protectorate since the 1890s, Solomon Islands declared independence in 1978.

Despite the British influence, only 1 to 2 percent of the population speaks English. Most speak a Melanesian pidgin dialect, and there are around 120 indigenous languages. The chief of state is the British monarch, represented locally by an appointed governor general. Heading the government is a prime minister elected by the unicameral National Parliament. The country's economy depends on agriculture, fishing and forestry. Ethnic violence and financial problems prevent the country from capitalizing on its natural resources, which include lead, zinc, nickel and gold.

The press in Solomon Islands is free, and recent governments have acknowledged the importance of a free press to democracy. There is one daily newspaper, The Solomon Star, which has been publishing since 1982. The Solomon Star publishes weekdays in English and has a circulation of around 5,000. The country's other newspaper, the Solomon Express, appears on Friday and its circulation ranges between 1,000 and 2,000. It is sold primarily in the capital city of Honiara. Between 1997 and 1998, three new private weekly papers debuted only to fold for lack of financing.

There are three AM stations serving around 57,000 radios. There are no television stations on the islands, but there are about 3,000 televisions. There is one Internet service provider.


Australian Press Council. "Country ReportSolomon Islands." (2002). Available from

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Solomon Islands." The World Fact Book 2001. Available from

CocoNET Wireless. "Solomon Islands." The University of Queensland, Australia. (1995). Available from

Jenny B. Davis

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Solomon Islands
Region: Oceania
Population: 466,194
Language(s): Melanesian pidgin, English
Literacy Rate: NA

Situated in the Southwest Pacific, about 1,200 miles northeast of Australia, the former British colony became an independent parliamentary state and a member of the Commonwealth in 1978.

Prior to 1974, education was provided mostly by subsidized Christian mission schools, then the local authorities assumed responsibility. The Provincial Government Act of 1981 created nine provincial governments with further responsibilities delegated to Area Councils. At this level, traditional chiefs and leaders can participate in decision-making.

While education is not compulsory, 97 percent of the children attend primary school, and 17 percent attend secondary school. In 1994 there were 65,493 primary pupils and 7,811 secondary pupils. The Solomon Islands have a College of Higher Education and, in 1971, a branch of the University of the South Pacific in Honiara, the capital, was opened. Programs for teacher training, and trade and vocational education are provided at the College of Higher Education. Other rural training centers run by churches are also involved in vocational training.

As of 1995 the adult literacy rate was 64 percent. The language of the great majority of the people is Melanesian pidgin, which is a simplified English-based speech used to facilitate communications between different groups of people, including Melanesian, Polynesian, European, and Chinese. There are 120 indigenous languages. Only 1 to 2 percent of the population speaks English.

Since the bulk of the population is engaged in farming and fishing, the people live in small, widely dispersed settlements. Therefore, there is a need for distant learning.


Turner, Barry, ed. "Solomon Islands." The Statesman's Yearbook : 1371-1376. St. Martin's Press, 2001.

U.S. Department of State. "Solomon Islands." Background Notes On Countries of the World. Washington, DC, 1999.

Bill T. Manikas

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands Melanesian archipelago and nation in the sw Pacific Ocean, se of New Guinea; the capital is Honiara (on Guadalcanal). Solomon Islands include several hundred islands scattered over 1400km (900mi) of the Pacific Ocean. The principal islands are volcanic, mountainous, and densely covered by equatorial rainforest. The n Solomons have a tropical, oceanic climate, but further s there is a longer cool season. The largest island is Guadalcanal, and other inhabited islands include Choiseul, Malaita, New Georgia, San Cristobal (Makira), Santa Isabel (Ysabel), and the Shortland Islands. The coastal plains support c.90% of the population and are used for subsistence farming. The vast majority of the population are indigenous Melanesians. The main languages are Melanesian dialects, but English is the official tongue. The first European discovery of the islands was by the Spanish in 1568. The islands resisted colonization until the late 19th century. In 1893, the s islands became a British Protectorate, while the Germans controlled the n from 1895. In 1900, Germany ceded its territory to Britain. During World War I, Australian troops occupied Bougainville and Buka (now in Papua New Guinea) and the League of Nations mandated them to Australia in 1920. In 1942, the Japanese occupied the s islands. After heavy fighting, particularly on Guadalcanal, US troops liberated the islands in 1944. In 1976, the Solomons became self-governing and, in 1978, achieved full independence within the Commonwealth. Coconuts (providing copra and palm oil) are the major products, but tuna is the biggest export earner and lumber the main industry. Area: c.27,900sq km (10,800sq mi). Pop. (2000) 429,000.

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

Culture Name

Solomon Islander

Alternative Name

Melanesia; Melanesians; Wantoks ("one people," people from the Melanesian region sharing certain characteristics, especially the use of pidgin English).


Identification. When Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira visited the Solomon Islands in 1568, he found some gold at the mouth of what is now the Mataniko River. By a turn of an amused fate, he erroneously thought that this could be one of the locations in which King Solomon (the Israelite monarch) obtained gold for his temple in Jerusalem. Mendaña then named the islands after King SolomonSolomon Islands.

The islands are most widely known to the outside world for the World War II battles that were fought there, especially on Guadalcanal. Peace prevailed for most of the rest of the century in a country that was sometimes called the "Happy Islands," until ethnic conflict erupted in late 1998.

Location and Geography. The Solomon Islands lie northeast of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. They are part of a long chain of archipelagos called Melanesia, which stretches from Papua New Guinea in the north to New Caledonia and Fiji in the south. Second largest in the Melanesian chain, the Solomon Islands archipelago covers approximately 310,000 square miles (803,000 square kilometers) of ocean and consists of 10,639 square miles (27,556 square kilometers) of land. There are a total of 992 islands in the Solomon Islands, including the six main islands of New Georgia, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, Guadalcanal, Malaita, and San Cristóbal.

The climate of the Solomon Islands is equatorial, tempered by the surrounding ocean. Rainfall is often heavy especially in the interior near the mountains and on the windward sides of the large islands. Coastal areas of the main islands sheltered from the prevailing wind get less rain and, therefore, are drier. Honiara, the capital, is situated on Guadalcanal, in a rain shadow cast by a high mountain range.

Demography. The population of the Solomon Islands is estimated to be approximately 450,000. It is comprised predominantly of Melanesians with the rest of the population consisting of Polynesians, Micronesians, and small pockets of Chinese and Europeans. The annual growth rate is around 3.5 percent.

Most of the population (85 percent) live in villages. Only those with paid employment are found in the urban centers and provincial headquarters of Honiara (the capital), Auki, Gizo, Buala, Kira Kira, and Lata.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Melanesian region of the Pacific is known for its polylinguism. Among Melanesians and Polynesians in the Solomon Islands, approximately 63 to 70 distinct languages are spoken and perhaps an equal number of dialects. Each of the languages and several of the dialects are associated with distinct cultural groups.

Solomon Islanders also speak a variant of English called pidgin English (a form of Creole). And in formal places, such as in church services and in schools, English is spoken although it is usually interspersed with pidgin English and the native languages.

Symbolism. The multiplicity of ethnic groups made it quite difficult for the nation to agree on one symbol for itself. The leaders at independence, therefore, chose an amalgam of symbols to closely represent the different islands and their cultures. This is shown in the national coat of arms, which displays a crocodile and a shark upholding the government (represented by a crown) and a frigate bird supporting both. Also displayed are an eagle, a turtle, a war shield, and some fighting spears. The coat of arms also includes the phrase "to lead is to serve," which characterizes the general belief of the founding fathers who called on every member of the new nation to cherish duty and responsibility.

History and Ethnic Relations

The first discoverers of the Solomon Islands were the island peoples themselves. They settled the main islands and developed land-based communities, first with agriculture and then through animal husbandry, particularly pigs. They also developed fishing and other marine skills, especially in the lagoons.

Subsequent migrants, finding that the big islands were occupied, settled on the outlying islands, most of which are coral outliers. Sikaiana, Reef Islands and the Temotu Islands. These migrants were mostly Polynesians, and they mastered fishing and navigation.

The first contact with Europeans was in 1568 with Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira. Mendaña left and returned a second time in 1595 with the intent to settle. He died of malaria, and the settlement was short-lived.

Until 1767, when English explorer Philip Carteret landed in the islands, contact with outsiders was limited. It was in the 1800s, when traders and whalers arrived, that contact with Europeans became constant and enduring. Entrepreneurs, church missionaries, and the British colonial government officers soon arrived thereafter.

Before Britain proclaimed protectorate status over the islands in 1893, there was no single centralized politico-cultural system. What existed were numerous autonomous clan-based communities often headed by a male leader with his assistants. Unlike Polynesian societies, there had not been a known overall monarch ruling the islands.

Within the islands, there was intercommunity trading and even warring networks. These networks were further cemented by intermarriages and mutual help alliances.

With the arrival of churches and government, communication was made easier between the islanders, and further networks then developed. The British also put an end to intertribal warfare and conflicts. As a result, the predominant cultures of Melanesia and Polynesia were deeply intertwined with the cultures of the different churches, and both urban and rural lifestyles. Added to this was the introduction of western popular culture.

Emergence of the Nation. The emergence of nationhood came late to most Pacific nations so that the Solomon Islands was given political autonomy from Britain only in 1978, in a peaceful transfer of power. Calls for political independence, however, preceded the 1970s. Starting in the 1990s, Solomon Islanders made several attempts at independence through indigenous movements. Government was an anathema to the leaders of these movements because they did not see why they had to pay taxes when they received little in return from the government.

National Identity. In the Solomon Islands, national culture developed from the convergence of a number of factors. One of the most important is the high level of tolerance and comity developed between different churches in the last century. Unlike the government, church missions have done a lot for the people. They have provided schools, clinics, church buildings, and overall good will. The churches have enabled different cultures to assimilate such teachings as the social gospel of sharing and caring.

Another factor that congeals national culture is the sharing of a lingua franca, the "Solomon Islands pidgin English." Although pidgin English is not a compulsory subject in schools, it is the social glue that cements relationships particularly in a country with multiple languages.

Concomitant with the above is the concept of wantokism. Wantokism is a rallying philosophy that brings together, in common cause, people who are related, those who speak similar languages, those from the same area or island, and even the country as a whole. Its social malleability means that it can be applied in more than one situation especially when one is new to a place or unfamiliar to a group of people. It is a concept in which mutual hospitality is shared among and between different individuals and groups. The concept also traverses national boundaries. It is shared particularly among the three main Melanesian nations, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea.

The development of a national culture was also influenced by the battles Solomon Islanders experienced during World War II. Although the "war was not our war," the fact that many Solomon Islanders had common experiences, including putting their lives at risk to save their country from the enemy (the Japanese), helped unite them into one people.

Ethnic Relations. The ethnic groups of the Solomon Islands reflect the natural division of the islands. A Guadalcanal person would readily identify with others from Guadalcanal. This would equally apply to a Malaita person who would easily relate to another Malaita person. But within the islands, ethnic associations follow the different languages. Having more than seventy languages in the Solomon Islands means, then, that there are more than seventy ethnic groups as well. It was only in the late twentieth century that ethnic relations became politicized, resulting in violence.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

With a relatively small population and large land area, space is affordable in the Solomon Islands. In urban areas, however, the choice of space is limited because of the restricted availability of houses and the nature of freehold land tenure. In such circumstances, Solomon Islanders have to fit into these new environments and quickly adapt to what is generally known as the taon kalsa ("town culture"). This includes developing relationships with one's neighbors from other islands and sharing transportation.

Houses in towns usually take the form of the Western bungalow with three bedrooms on average. These are built mostly of cement and timber, with corrugated iron roofing. A kitchen and other convenient amenities are included therein. Often, however, the practice of having in-house toilets infracts the tradition, as still practiced in rural areas, of having separate toilets for men and women as a sign of deep respect for one's siblings.

In rural areas, large villages are often situated on tribal land. Villages comprise individual families placing their homes next to other relatives. There is usually a village quad (square) where children can play and meetings can be held. Sometimes, village squares are used for games consisting of intervillage competitions. In other areas, family homes are made on artificial islands built over shallow shoals in a lagoon by gathering rocks and piling them together to make a "home over the sea." This lifestyle has several advantages: living over the sea is generally cooler, most of these artificial islands are mosquito-free, and families have greater privacy so they can bring up their children as they wish without the undesirable influences from other children.

In rural areas, most Solomon Island dwellings are made of sago-palm thatching often with a separate kitchen. Most dwellings are rectangular in shape, raised on stilts with windows for ventilation to take advantage of the frequent land and sea breezes. A separate kitchen is convenient where open-stove cooking is done especially with the family oven, which is used for large Sunday cooking or for public festivals, such as weddings and funerals.

For those who live in mountain areas, which often experience cold nights, houses are generally built low. Often the living area includes a fireplace for heat. In places such as the Kwaio Mountains, on Malaita, where traditional worship is still practiced, men's houses are built separate from family houses. Also, the separately built bisi (menstruating and birthing hut) is where women go during monthly menses and during childbirth.

An important piece of national architecture is the parliament house, which was built as a gift from the United States to Solomon Islands. The building features rich frescoes in the ceiling telling stories of various life-phases in the islands. On the pinnacle of the roof overlooking the whole town are carvings of ancestral gods, which are totemic guides to the different peoples. The building epitomizes the unity of the country besides being a symbolic haven for democratic deliberation and decision making.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Traditionally, yams, panas, and taros are the main staples in the Solomon Islands. These are usually eaten with fish and seashells, for those on the coast, or greens, snails, eels, and opossums, for those inland and in the mountains. The traditional diet does not distinguish between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What is eaten is usually what is available at that time. Solomon Islanders do not use many spices in their cooking except for coconut milk. During harvesting seasons, breadfruits and ngali nuts are gathered, and eaten or traded.

Today, the traditional diet has changed markedly, especially in urban areas. Rice is becoming the main staple, and is often eaten with tea. For lunch and dinner, rice is eaten with canned meat or fish. The locally-produced Solomon Taiyo (canned tuna) has become a favorite protein source.

For urban families with limited income, breakfast consists of tea with leftovers from previous meals. More affluent families drink tea or coffee and eat buttered bread, rolls, or biscuits. Lunch and dinner are usually the big meals of the day. Eating does not necessary follow time, but as they say, "it follows the tummy." Most families eat together so they can talk. Traditionally, the habit of eating at tables was not the norm. Today, it is becoming one.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. There is a saying that "everyone who goes to a feast expects to eat." Usually a lot of preparation is required for ceremonial occasions. This might involve preparing a pig for the oven, making manioc, taro, yam or swamp-taro pudding, and roasting fish; when it can be afforded, a cow is prepared.

Traditionally, there are no special drinks (particularly alcoholic ones) that go with the food. Water is the main drink. But if the hosts prefer, green coconuts are prepared, to be drunk after the main courses.

Often, in kastom feasts, guests are provided with betel nuts to chew. Similar to desserts, betel nuts are eaten as the final food that tops off a good meal.

Basic Economy. Most of the people are rural villagers who depend on subsistence agriculture for sustenance. Therefore, agriculture and fishing are the mainstays of village life. Any surplus food or fish is bartered or sold at the markets.

Land Tenure and Property. In the Solomon Islands, 85 percent of land is managed under customary tenure, meaning that local clans and members of clan groups have control over it. Traditionally, people do not own the land; the land owns them. People merely have stewardship over the land which is held in "good faith" for them and for subsequent generations.

Commercial Activities. Beginning in the early 1990s, small-scale industries were encouraged, resulting in goods that are sold mostly in the local area at retail and wholesale stores. Examples of these locally-produced products are beer, furniture, and noodles. Otherwise, agricultural products have been the main commodities for sale. In the service sector, hotels and small motels were established in the late twentieth century to encourage small-scale tourism.

Major Industries. Except for Marubeni Fishing Company, which produces canned tuna, and Gold Ridge mine, which produces gold, most of the industries are comprised small or medium-sized businesses. The main industries are geared toward local markets, including the food processing sector, which produces such items as rice, biscuits, beer, and twisties, a brand of confectionery. Other manufacturers produce twisted tobacco, corrugated roofing sheets, nails, fibro canoes and tanks, timber, and buttons.

The tourism industry has only been recently encouraged. The Solomon Islands has stellar scenery, including lagoons, lakes, fauna and flora. The government has encouraged controlled tourism to attract Australians, Japanese, Americans, and scuba divers.

Trade. The export of palm oil and kernels, copra (dried coconut), cocoa, fish, and timber constitute the bulk of the country's trade. The main destinations for these products are Japan, the United Kingdom, Thailand, South Korea, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Singapore. Other exported products that are traded in relatively smaller quantities include beer, buttons, precious stones, shell money, and wooden carvings.

Division of Labor. Most Solomon Islanders are self-employed. According to the most recent census data available (1986), 71.4 percent of the economically active population (133, 498) was engaged in non-monetary work in villages, including subsistence farming. The labor force engaged exclusively in wage-earning activities was only 14 percent. A further 14.5 percent was engaged in both wage-earning and subsistence production.

In the formal monetary sector, there were approximately 34,000 employed persons in 1996. Looking at the distribution of this number in terms of economic sectors, 58 percent of the employed were in the service sector including the public service, financial services, and trade; 26 percent in the primary sector, which includes agriculture, fisheries, and forestry; and 16 percent in the secondary sector including manufacturing and construction. It is also useful to look at the relative roles of the public and private sectors in providing employment. In the year under consideration the public sector accounted for 32 percent of the total wage employment while the private sector accounted for the remaining two-thirds.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The Solomon Islands does not have caste or class divisions as found among some Asian cultures. Instead, the country has different tribal groups found on the different islands. Individuals and groups gravitate towards their own kith and kin. Broader still, they move along island lines or interisland groupings according to various affiliations, including marriages, church memberships, and general friendship.

The emergence of a semblance of class was brought about during the colonial days between those who moved to urban centers and those who remained in villages. Today, those who are employed in the formal sector form a sort of elite class, in contrast to those who are not formally employed either in the public or the private sector. The late twentieth century saw the emergence of another class, a small group of businesspeople.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Social stratification is more obvious in urban areas where people are known by where they live. The well-to-do often live in suburbs such as Ngosi, Tandai, and Lingakiki. Those who live in Kukum Labor line or at the mouth of Mataniko River are usually less affluent. In a similar manner, people are known by the cars they drive, the houses they live in, and the restaurants and bars they frequent.

Political Life

Government. On the eve of political independence in 1978, Solomon Islands' government leaders decided to retain the parliamentary system of government that had been employed during the colonial era. The nation has a governor-general who represents the British monarch, a prime minister as the head of the executive, a speaker of the house who heads parliament, and a chief justice as the highest legal officer. There is no limit to the term a person can serve as prime minister. The speaker is voted for a five-year term, while the chief justice remains in office until retirement unless he or she has proven unable to carry out his or her constitutional duties. The fifty-member parliament is elected every four years.

Leadership and Political Officials. Leadership in traditional culture follows the "big man system." People become leaders when they gain influence by the manipulation of their abilities around followers and resources. Today, most leaders are elected through either consensus or popular ballot.

National leadership in the Solomon Islands has long been dominated by Solomon Mamaloni, who died in January 2000, and Peter Kenilorea. Mamaloni's style of leadership was the "all rounder" who rubs shoulders with almost everybody whom he comes across. He was ready to help those who seek his assistance. It was his professed belief that Solomon Islanders should do things for themselves, as much as possible. Kenilorea, on the other hand, takes a different stancea gentleman's approach with the usual formality and selectivity. Kenilorea is a real statesman and his contributions to the country have been well-recognized by the jobs he has been given after his occasional spells from politics.

By and large, most Solomon Islanders respect the members of parliament because many leaders have established close rapport with their people. Solomon Islands has experience with coalition governments, resulting from a weak party system, shifting party alliances, and frequent "number contests," often devoid of political merit. Inevitably, this leads to a lot of personal politics and the cult of individuals.

Social Problems and Control. For a long time the Solomon Islands has been free from large-scale social problems. Most problems were concentrated in urban areas, particularly Honiara. Otherwise the rural areas were quite free of conflicts other than the occasional land dispute cases and community arguments that emerged among villagers.

Unlike other countries where sectarian conflicts have flared among members of different religious groups, religious comity in the country is enviable. In the early twenty-first century, the most serious conflict was centered on Guadalcanal, where Guadalcanal residents faced off against resident Malaita people. The conflict arose when the police without due cause or care shot a Guadalcanal man. Thereafter, the conflict raged on. The Guadalcanal people formed an ethnic freedom fighters group called Isatabu Freedom Fighters and chased 20,000 people from Malaita who lived on Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal militants asserted that Malaitans have contributed to many of their problems. Later, a Malaita force was formed, called the Malaita Eagle Force. More than 50 people were killed in the early years of the conflict.

Other social problems prevalent mostly in urban areas include burglary, theft, break-ins, and general social discord between neighbors. During soccer matches, fights often break out between rival supporters. These fracas take serious dimensions when games are held between different island groups, especially during the annual competition between the best provincial teams, competing for the Solomon Cup.

Military Activity. The nation has no standing army or navy. It was only when the Bougainville Crisis spilled over from Papua New Guinea into the Solomon Islands in the early 1990s that the Police Field Force (PFF), a paramilitary unit, was established. Since the Guadalcanal conflict began in late 1998, the PFF has been instrumental in keeping order, arresting offenders and troublemakers and maintaining imposed government decrees in Honiara and around Guadalcanal.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The government of Bartholomew Ulufalu, which gained power in the 1997 election, was accommodating to major structural adjustment programs (SAPs) pushed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. For a long time, various governments were skeptical about SAPs. The fear was that devaluing the dollar, wage cuts, and other economic stringencies were meant to help only the urban economy. Rural areas, it was believed, would be adversely affected.

Ulufalu, however, as a trained economist, was inclined to adopt the program of the IMF and World Bank, and did so. Although the economy began recovering and revenue collection improved markedly, rural villagers saw their purchasing power diminished. The cost of essential services began to soar. School fees, for example, increased by more than 100 percent. Many rural parents could no longer afford to send their children to school. Thus, the structural adjustment program that was meant to improve social conditions merely exacerbated them.

Nongovernmetal Organizations and Other Associations

Except for the churches, Nongovermental organizations (NGOs) arrived in the Solomon Islands in a big way only in the 1980s. There are the usual ones, which include the Red Cross, Rotary Club, Save the Children, and Catholic Relief. The best known NGO and the one that can be regarded as indigenous is the Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT). Well organized, well funded, and innovative in its aims and approach, SIDT has contributed to development in quite a revolutionary way with its emphasis on total change for the person (metanoia ). It has mobile teams spreading their network in all corners of the country. In addition to a women's group, SIDT also offers opportunities for training and learning for those who would like to look at development and life in more innovative and empowering ways.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In traditional societies, kastom dictates the roles of women and men. This was true in all the villages. Household duties were the preserve of the women, as were such gardening tasks as organizing garden boundaries, planting, and weeding. Men took care of felling trees to clear areas for gardens, building canoes, hunting, and fishing.

As Solomon Islanders encounter the Western lifestyle, there is a blurring of these traditional roles. Many Solomon Islanders, however, do not challenge traditional roles, rather they attempt to reconcile these roles with their new ones as doctors, lawyers, teachers, or even ministers and pastors in the churches.

Marriage, Family and Kinship

Marriage. Traditionally, parents and adult relatives often arranged marriages. One of the reasons for this was to ensure not individual but social/ communal compatibility. Love was developed not outside of marriage but within marriage. Marriage outside of the clan was often the norm but sometimes arrangements were made for marriage within the clan for exceptional reasons. Great care was taken that close relatives, ranging from first to third cousins, were not involved. The existence of a bride price (better termed "bride gift") differed from one group to the other and from one island group to another. The bride price was not a payment but compensation to the parents and the family for the "loss" of a family member.

Today marriage has changed markedly. Although traditional arranged marriage is still practiced, many marriages are a mixture of individuals making their choice with the blessings of the family. Today marriage can take the form of a court marriage, kastom marriage, church marriage, private marriage, or mere cohabiting. Cohabiting is not widely practiced because it is still socially stigmatized.

Domestic Unit. The family, by definition and through socialization, is "extended" in the Solomon Islands. Even in urban areas, family comes before money and food. As the saying goes, "one cannot cry for money and food but certainly one weeps when one's relative or family member passes away."

Who makes a family decision depends on the criticalness of the issue. Men often make critical decisions because they have to negotiate and account for the decisions if need be. Women often make decisions pertaining to the household, those that involve women's affairs, and those that involve her own relatives. Although men take on the critical decisions, women often play a role in these decisions in the background, out of the gaze of others.

Inheritance. In the Solomon Islands inheritance differs from one group and one island to another, with both patrilineal and matrilineal inheritance being practiced. For example, on Malaita it is patrilineal while on Guadalcanal it is matrilineal. Custom courts in these islands are cognizant of this. Even the national court system considers these differences in its decision making.

Inheritance includes not only material things but also knowledge, wisdom, and magical powers, which are often regarded as heirlooms of the tribe. Fathers often pass on canoes, adzes, spears, and the necessary skills to use onto their sons. Where these are scarce, the first born is often given custody of the items, although the other sons may seek permission for their use from time to time. Mothers often pass on to their daughters body decorations, gardening and fishing skills, and magical incantations.

In towns, inheritance mostly involves money and Western goods and properties, such as houses and cars. In such cases, Western laws apply, especially the British laws of property.

Kin Groups. Belonging to a kinship group is still important in the Solomon Islands. The stigma that comes with not belonging to a kinship group is a heavy onetantamount to be regarded a bastard.

As mentioned above, there are matrilineal kinship groups on islands such as Guadalcanal, Isabel, Shortlands, and Bougainville, and patrilineal groups on islands such as Malaita. Although one belongs to one's father's group or one's mother's group, secondary membership in the other side is never discounted. Today, there is a mixing of both sides and the strength of such relationship is regarded in terms of "how often and easy people do things together." Being visible during a kinship event is important in order to make oneself known to other members, especially the young ones.


Infant Care. It is the parents' primary and foremost responsibility to care for their children. In the Solomon Islands, members of the extended family often help. Solomon Islanders believe that a child, especially an infant, should not have unrelated people close to her or him all the time; a close relative should look after the child. It is believed that infants should be soothed, calmed, or fed every time they cry for attention. It is only when children start to speak and think for themselves that they are slowly left alone.

Child Rearing and Education. Again, it is the parents and relatives who are responsible for the formative education and training of children. Children are taught to watch carefully, ask few questions, and then follow through by participating when asked. A good child is said to behave very much like her mother, if she is a girl, or father, if he is a boy. Good children carry family values with them in life. When one makes a mistake, the parents are often blamed. If the children do well, the parents receive the credit first.

A boy is said to be mature when he can build a house and canoe and make a garden. A girl is regarded as grown up when she can cultivate food gardens, hew wood, carry water, and look after her family and family members even when her mother is absent.

Higher Education. Higher education is highly prized in the Solomon Islands. Although fees are high, parents go to great lengths to pay for at least one of their children to get a decent education. Some wealthy families send their children to such places as New Zealand and Australia for their high school education. Only in 1992 did the first Solomon Islander receive a Ph.D.


In the Solomon Islands, respect for elders and women, particularly in rural areas, is a must. On Malaita, infraction of such rules, especially those pertaining to the dignity of married women, often incurs the immediate payment of compensation. When one is talking to a woman who is not a relative, one is expected to look away as a sign of respect. Strangers are expected to be respected particularly as they are regarded as new and know little of community kastoms. Often when they make mistakes, strangers are gently reminded of community protocols.

Girls are not to show signs of friendliness to strangers, or even boyfriends, when they are with their brothers or relatives. Boys are mutually required to do the same as sign of respect to their sisters and relatives. When guests come to one's house, it is hospitable to allow them to eat first and eat the best. To do otherwise is a sign of moral weakness and lack of respect and dignity for oneself and one's family.


Religious Beliefs. Traditionally, Solomon Islanders believe that ancestors, although invisible, are still around. Therefore, one can invoke their help if need be or ask that their wrath or curse befall one's enemies. Animism was practiced before Christianity reached the islands. For believers in animism, most living things have spirits and it bodes well to maintain a cordial relationship with one's ancestors and the whole ecosystem. For those who live near the coast, totem gods include sharks, octopi, and stingrays. Inland people worship crocodiles, snakes, the eagle, and the owl as deity totems.

Today Christianity pervades most of the country. There is a lot of syncretism between Christian worship and traditional beliefs. People usually pray to the Christian God but use ancestors or those who have recently died as mediators. The belief is that those who have passed on are closer to God and can "see" better.

Today, 90 percent of Solomon Islanders are professed Christians. The five main Christian churches are the Catholic, Anglican, South Sea Evangelical, Seventh Day Adventist, and Christian Fellowship (a derivative of Methodism). Beside Christians, there are traditional practitioners, Mormons, Muslims, and Baha'is.

Religious Practitioners. Teaching and preaching are accented in churches. Healing is one of the sacraments but not the major one. Some people in the Solomon Islands still practice traditional healing. In the Western Solomons, there are healers who can fix broken bones, massage swollen bodies, and cure aching heads. Others have the power to pull cursed objects from a victim's body by sucking them out or by sending another spirit to bring them back. Still others practice black magic.

Rituals and Holy Places. In the Solomon Islands, shrines are always taboo places. These are the places where ancestral remains are kept and ancestral spirits live. Small children are not allowed as the spirits would cause them harm. Nowadays, very few of these places have sacrifices offered as many people have become Christianized.

Today, only Christian rituals are regularly practiced and performed. For example, during the Easter season the stations of the cross is performed and special prayers offered. There are prayer walks in the night as faithful prayer warriors stage spiritual warfare against Satan and his host of angels.

Death and the Afterlife. Death is as important as birth in the Solomon Islands. When people are born, there is celebration. When they die, there is festivity to mark the passing away of a life.

It is believed that when people die, they merely "take the next boat" to the other world. But spirits do not go away immediately after death. They linger for a while as they find it difficult parting from their loved ones. Then after some time, the deceased spirits move on.

When there is a death, the corpse is kept above ground as long as possible. This is to allow all the loved ones and family members to pay their last respects. After the deceased is buried, people resume their normal lives. The widow or widower and close relatives then cleanse themselves and continue life again.

Medicine and Health Care

In traditional Solomon Island society, every disease has a spiritual cause or explanation to it. Before Western-introduced diseases, there were traditional cures for most diseases. With the introduction of Western diseases and medicine, the whole equation changed drastically.

Today, the Solomon Islands is accosted in varying degrees with diseases and medical challenges like most third world countries. Lifestyle diseasesincluding cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and diabeteshave been blamed on dietary changes, namely the increasing dependence on imported foods such as white flour, white rice, sugar, and canned meat, as well as an increase in smoking and alcohol consumption. Among vector-borne diseases, malaria is prevalent in the country.

Despite the above, great strides have been made in the country. In the 1990s the average life expectancy was 63 years for men and 65 years for women.

Secular Celebrations

The Solomon Islands has a number of secular celebrations. The first is Independence Day (7 July), which is a colorful day when most island people converge on the capital (Honiara) to celebrate. Queen's birthday (12 June), is usually co-celebrated with Independence Day, and commemorates the birth of Queen Elizabeth II of England. Honors and medals are given to those who have done heroic and great things for the country and people. Christmas Day (25 December) is always a time when families disperse from the capital and meet with their loved ones at their homes to celebrate Christ's birthday. The Christmas holiday is not only a religious holiday, but also the longest holiday of the year for most people. New Year (1 January) is the most celebrated day of each year. There is a tradition of playing a lot of games, especially water games, and competitions between villages.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Artists in the Solomon Islands are mostly self-supporting. With the encouragement of tourism in the late twentieth century, many more people have taken up the arts, with the specific intention of making money from their artistic skills.

Literature. Literature, both written and oral, has had a sporadic history in the Solomon Islands. It has been seriously studied only since the 1970s. There is a writers' association that has an open membership for all who are interested. This has encouraged both oral and written literatures.

Graphic Arts. The graphic arts are also a relatively new area promoted mostly through touristic advertisements and salesmanship. Graphic arts courses are now offered during summer semesters at the University of the South Pacific Center in Honiara. With more businesses being set up in the capital, many graphic artists have had tremendous income earnings. Sign writing, for example, has been a big moneymaker.

Performance Arts. Music has been a popular pastime in the Solomon Islands. In most of the islands, music is made to keep people together and enhance their companionship. Many Solomon Islanders are natural song composers. The Sulufou Islanders and the Fuaga Brothers are two of the more popular bands.

Drama is valued for its ability to pass on certain messages and influence decisions. Many schools have drama groups that perform historical stories, such as World War II battle tales.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE) is an institution founded in 1984 that grew out of the old Teachers' Training College. Since its inception, its achievements have been remarkable. SICHE's schools include industrial arts, agriculture, nursing and health studies, and education. SICHE also has a Solomon Islands studies program, which has not yet been fully developed.


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John Moffat Fugui

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands are in the South Pacific, east of New Guinea, and export copra and coconuts. In 1886 Germany and Britain agreed to spheres of influence but the German sphere, including Bougainville, was later administered by Australia. During the Second World War there was extremely heavy fighting, particularly on Guadalcanal, where Japanese and Americans struggled for control of an important airfield.

J. A. Cannon

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