After studying in Australia I was seen as someone with new ideas and skills, says Solomon Islands Central Bank Governor
The Governor of the Solomon Islands Central Bank, Denton Rarawa, says that his Australia Awards scholarship was critical to advancing his career.
But his time ‘Down Under’ during the 1980s as a Bachelor of Economics student at the Australian National University in Canberra also inspired him in another life changing way.
“Even a minute before the end of the game, Australians are still trying to score and I think that’s the attitude of Australians―you never say die, you never give up,” he says. “That impressed me and that attitude has assisted me a lot in my life and career.”
Upon his return to Solomon Islands in 1992, Mr Rarawa was quickly promoted to head the economics department at the Central Bank. “When you come back with economic qualifications, the organisation looks at you as somebody who will have new ideas and skills,” he says.
By 1998, Mr Rarawa had risen to the role of Deputy Governor of the Central Bank and he suddenly faced the biggest challenge of his career—ethnic conflict had brought the country to a standstill.
“It started very small and then quickly grew. Foreign companies closed down and left. The expatriate community left. Law and order deteriorated to a state where militants were controlling everything,” he recalls. “For the bank, we stood our ground.”
Together with other senior Central Bank leaders, Mr Rarawa met with the militants. “We told them that if anything happens to the bank or the staff we would close down and the economy would collapse,” he says. The militants got the message and banking services continued. “I think it helped provide confidence to people,” he says.
Today the Central Bank has grown into one of Solomon Island’s most respected institutions. Mr Rarawa is now at the helm as the Governor and a shining example of the many Australia Awards alumni who are leading important reforms across Solomon Islands.
“The challenge of the Solomon Islands economy now is to grow,” he says. To help the economy expand, the bank is focused on creating an environment where the private sector can grow and where people across the country can access the banking system.
“The introduction of mobile phone banking has really allowed a lot of people to get connected and access services like bank accounts, loans and other regulated financial services, boosting and expanding the economy as a whole,” he says.
“If you are lucky enough to get an opportunity to study in Australia, go for it,” Mr Rarawa says. “It’s an opportunity for yourself, your family and for the country as well … it could be a life-changing opportunity.”