Ex-banker Rick Houenipwela becomes new Solomons Islands Prime Minister

A former governor of the Solomon Islands' central bank was elected prime minister on Wednesday, immediately vowing to sort out the Pacific island nation's shaky finances.

Published: 15th November 2017 10:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th November 2017 10:51 AM   |  A+A-


HONIARA: A former governor of the Solomon Islands' central bank was elected prime minister on Wednesday, immediately vowing to sort out the Pacific island nation's shaky finances.

Rick Houenipwel was elected by members of parliament after his predecessor, Manasseh Sogavare, was ousted in a vote of no confidence last week.

The 59-year-old, who is a member of Sogavare's Democratic Coalition for Change, won a vote for the leadership 33-16 in the 50-seat parliament against rival John Moffat Fugui.

"I stand here today as your newly elected prime minister. This is an awesome responsibility which I take with sincere humility," he said in on the steps of parliament after his election.

"The road ahead is challenging, I am fully aware of the enormity of the task before us."

The South Pacific archipelago of 650,000 people has enjoyed a period of relative stability recently after an Australian-led peacekeeping force helped restore law and order following years of ethnic violence.

But it is still plagued by corruption, poor infrastructure and one of the weakest economies in the Pacific.

Houenipwela was governor of the Solomons central bank in the 1990s before moving to Washington and serving as a senior adviser to the World Bank.

After returning home, he was elected to parliament in 2010 and has completed stints as finance minister and public service minister during his political career.

He will serve as prime minister for the rest of the government's term, which is set to end when elections are held late next year.

He acknowledged it was a short tenure but said he was determined to make his mark in the short time available.

Houenipwela said he would continue his predecessor's infrastructure programs, while improving financial accountability. 

"An important objective of the government is to stabilise our ailing fiscal situation," he said. 

"It is my government's priority to immediately address the cash-flow situation. My government will ensure there is fiscal discipline across all government sectors."

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