Pacific v South Pacific; blood v Bloody Mary
AusAID in PNG: simple-minded neglect

Rabbie: do more to curb corruption

RADIO AUSTRALIA

PNG’s FORMER Prime Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, has called on the Australian government to put more aid money into training and education to help PNG cope with the enormous brain drain being created by PNG's resources boom.

The former Prime Minister, now chairman of Kina Asset Management, says money currently being paid to high-cost Australia aid advisors would be better spent on training Papua New Guineans. He was interviewed by Radio Australia’s Pacific Business reporter, Jemima Garrett…

RABBIE NAMALIU: The budget has obviously grown quite significantly this year to 9.3 billion kina from just over 8 billion kina last year. There is obviously more revenue availabl, not only for recurrent expenditure but more importantly for the development component of the budget….

JEMIMA GARRETT: How much of these new revenues that the PNG government will be spending are from the construction of the PNG LNG project?

NAMALIU: The LNG project will obviously contribute quite a bit but most will come from existing projects; from gold, from existing mines, from gold and copper mainly and a large part of it is to do with very high commodity prices that are obviously being experienced in Australia as well. So that is having a positive impact on our export earnings year….

GARRETT: As well as the PNG LNG project there are other new LNG projects and new mining projects in the pipeline. Just what sort of impact do you see them having over the next few years?

NAMALIU: They will have enormous impact assuming all of them get off the ground. The Interoil LNG project, although slightly smaller than the ExxonMobil-led one, will be another significant LNG project, and that will also contribute substantially to the economy. There are mines that are in the process of being explored or likely to be developed over the next few years including Frieda River. That's a copper mine. And then Yanderra, which is Marengo Mining. That is copper-molybdenum. Hidden Valley has just gone into production. That is gold, mainly. And, of course, Ramu Nickel, which was supposed to go into production this year is delayed but, once it gets into production, that is nickel and cobalt. So all of those will have a positive impact in terms of increased revenues, and though employment numbers won't be as big as in the non-mining sector areas, nonetheless, it will provide opportunities for employment and a whole range of infrastructure developments that otherwise would not have been made possible.

GARRETT: Just how well prepared is the PNG government to manage all this increase in revenue?

NAMALIU: I think, obviously the biggest problem and the Minister for Treasury, obviously said this in so many words in his budget when he handed it down and that is that the biggest problem is to do with the capacity to deliver, you know to implement, in other words, the budget. And so we have a huge challenge ahead of us to build up our capacity and building capacity is not something that happens overnight. It will take time and take years to do because the mining and petroleum sectors, for instance, both need geologists, both need engineers, both need the whole range of technical personnel, which we have a scarcity of. We just haven't rained enough people to go into employment in that sector. And for the LNG project, we won't be able to supply them with the numbers from within in the short term, because that will require about 6-7000 people, so most of these people are most likely to be recruited offshore.

GARRETT: These projects pay very good wages. To what extent are they sucking qualified people out of the Papua New Guinea public service and jobs like teaching, into the resources industry?

NAMALIU :They are in fact doing that so you see more and more people are leaving existing positions for more lucrative opportunities with the LNG or the other projects, not just in PNG but elsewhere as well. We've been losing professionals overseas to Australia and the United States and elsewhere, especially in the petroleum and mining engineering and geology areas. And that will obviously continue but it will be made even more acute with these projects that are underway now in Papua New Guinea. So we have a huge catch-up task ahead of us to train more Papua New Guineans into these positions and, at the same time, fill in the gaps that are being left behind from non-traditional areas, like teaching.

GARRETT: Australia's Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, has announced a review of the effectiveness of Australian aid. How could Australian aid be used more effectively to see that Papua New Guineans see the benefits of the resources boom?

NAMALIU: Well, capacity building is obviously one area and in that area I know AusAID has already got various programs in the area of training and education but I think that may need to be increased, especially into priority areas. So, if the Australian government, through that program could provide additional opportunities for Papua New Guineans to be trained in those areas, otherwise we won't be in a position to implement programs that are being targeted in the field of education and health and those are just two because they received significant increases in the budget just handed down.

GARRETT: The Australian government has announced a cut-back in the number of high-paid Australian technical advisors. Are Australian consultancy companies that manage many of Australia's aid projects still getting too much of the aid pie in PNG?

NAMALIU: That is obviously what is being said publicly and I think the Minister himself has said so and our own Minister has said the same thing so it's obvious that from both sides of the Torres Strait, I think there is a common view that, perhaps, that is the situation and it needs to be changed.

GARRETT: Would you like to see some of that money that is now going to consultants going to training Papua New Guineans to take part in the resources boom?

NAMALIU: Absolutely, if more of that money can be directed towards training and other opportunities in the education sector that would go a long way to making sure that we train more of our people to fill technical and professional people that are required and trades people as well.

GARRETT: The other issue for Australian aid in PNG is its vulnerability to corruption. Just how vulnerable is Australian aid to corruption?

NAMALIU: Well I think because most of that money is basically controlled through the Australian government through AusAID I don't know that there is that much room for corruption at least in Australian, AusAID funded projects. But certainly as far as the PNG component of the budget which is the main part of the budget is concerned, there continues to be strong evidence of that happening and that is a huge challenge that we have to continue to address. In fact, I think there is some disappointment that the efforts that are being made are not enough to try and curb it and we need to do a lot more at the national level, as well as at other levels of government, to make sure that we minimise the seepage of funds that are allocated for development as well as for services that the national, provincial and local level governments are responsible for.

GARRETT: The PNG government has had difficulty getting services down to the people. To what extent would a bigger effort on anti-corruption help get those services out to the grassroots level?

NAMALIU: I think it could go a long way that a bigger effort is made in that direction especially when it gets down to the district level where large amounts of money or significant resources are being deployed to the district level in particular where the member of parliament is the head of the committee that determines where and how it should be spent, in terms of priorities. So that is a challenge that it has to better address in the years ahead and at the national level as well and, you know, I think we've had several enquires now into various areas where quite clearly, corruption has grown and grown significantly to the point where we are losing millions through stealing as well as through misappropriation. These are real problems and it is important when we have reports of enquires that are submitted that they be acted upon, b because that is the problem with these reports. We set up enquires, spend large amounts of money on them, reports are submitted but very little action is actually taken on the recommendations. That is one of the key things the national government must start doing, must implement and be seen to implement recommendations that have quite clearly been put together as a result of long painstaking enquires into areas where large amounts of money is being misappropriated, or being stolen or being diverted to things that they were not meant for.

Source: Radio Australia, 23 November 2010

Comments

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Arthur Williams

I recall two things, that caused me wry smiles, when Rabbie was being made a big-man or Mai-Mai of New Ireland outside Kavieng’s Malagan Lodge in the mid 1990s.

Quite a large crowd had gathered and, after a singsing group had performed a welcome dance, Rabbie gave us a short speech.

He started by telling us that “New Ireland was the birthplace of corruption” which had been revealed by Justice Barnett’s investigation into the activities of the forest industry within the province.

Near me was one of the two lawyers who had been badly mauled by Barnett’s tribunal for their role in the corruption.

I was amazed to see that silly gentleman clapping with others and even grinning at this terrible reflection on New Ireland’s elites who were involved and exposed by the Judge’s findings

The second ironic twist came after a woven basket was passed around among the audience of the culturally correct ceremony to donate heaps of money for the participants in the historical event that terminated with the carrying aloft of the new Mai-Mai by four stalwart New Irelanders.

To me it debased the culture of New Ireland.

Reginald Renagi

Paul - I fully agree with your comments. Sir Rabbie's response to Jemima's questions are merely restating the obvious.

The former PM could have come up with some simple solutions that will be cost effective to do from within existing resources.

PNG leaders and technocrats must start devising simple home-grown strategies/solutions than keep asking Australia, again and again to put up more money for the next big thing.

They have this pre-conceived notion that if something is that simple a solution, than it can't work. How wrong they can be...

Paul Oates

If there is a positive spin that can be put on this interview its that Jemima Garrett is asking all the right questions. The answers coming from Rabbie Namaliu are addressing the questions but not enunciating anything constructive and practical.

The issue is one of approach. The Australian government is approaching the problem in the only way it knows. The PNG government is also doing the same thing.

Both governments are failing to deliver yet no one seems to be able to bring themselves to admit what everyone knows. The inputs are there but not outputs at a commensurate level with inputs.

You can't get governments and their public servants to admit they aren't performing. That is a no brainer. Someone must be able to break this 'Gordian Knot' of impasse.

It's like that classic antithesis of progress, changing the deck chairs around on the Titanic. Everyone knows there's a looming problem yet all the scurrying around ain't going to change the inevitable disaster.

I think a change of focus and a mix of programs would help.

Peter and Lydia Kailap's approach was very similar to that applied during pre-Independence. The involvement of people in the actual project creates ownership and pride in achievement. That in turn creates a desire to maintain, preserve and build a positive base that a country can use as a basis to grow and proper.

All else is merely smoke and mirrors.

What are the personnel requirements that PNG needs in future? What education institutions are there now that can provide these skills? Where are the trainers (both paid and volunteer) who could train those who are selected on their merits to meet future workforce needs? Fund the areas that need expanding now with a planned and staged program.

This is not a difficult thing to do. I'll lay a bet many people reading PNG Attitude have done this countless times before and could do this in their spare time for nix.

Why are simple solutions sometimes the most difficult to comprehend?

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