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Peter O’Neill pushes to rebuild struggling infrastructure


PETER O'NEILL SAYS PAPUA NEW GUINEA has a golden opportunity to overhaul its crumbling infrastructure and improve services.

The Pacific's tiger economy has been growing at 8% a year for a decade, but more than three-quarters of its population still does not have access to electricity or roads.

Mr O'Neill told Radio Australia that, with a loan from a Chinese bank and several major new resources projects coming on line, the time is right for change.

"I am trying to improve the quality of living standards of our people, where basic services have not reached the bulk of our population," he said.

"Eighty-five percent of our population live in the rural communities, they still lack basic educational services, they still lack decent health care, they lack the transportation to get their goods to market and law and order continues to become a major issue in some of those communities.

"Our government is very much focused on those areas that, we as a government, must make it priority that we deliver those services so that it will improve the standard of living for our people."

Some critics have raised concerned the $2.7 billion loan from China's Exim Bank is too big for an economy which is facing a $230 million deficit and weakening commodity prices.

Mr O'Neill says the loan is just a standby arrangement, and the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project, which is due to deliver first gas in 2014, and other major new resources projects will provide sufficient cash flow to finance the country's planned infrastructure overhaul.

"We expect our economy to double by 2014, [and] our infrastructure in the country is declining to a state where some infrastructures are not able to cope with the demands of our people and our economy," he said.

"So when you look at this what solutions do you have?

"[To] our critics we say this: 'Do you want us to allow our infrastructure to continue declining? Do you want us to allow the economy to slow down and that there is no economic growth in the country? Do you want us to allow the unemployment figures to continue to rise?'

"Because when the economy does not grow the unemployment increases, all the other social sectors will decline, [and] that is not a responsibility this government is prepared to accept."

Mr O'Neill was returned as prime minister after protracted political instability over the country's leadership and a drawn out election process.

He says that costly delay, and an expansion of the government payroll in some provinces, has put PNG's economy under pressure.

But Mr O'Neill says he hopes putting that instability behind them will allow the new government to avoid the pitfalls of previous economic booms.

"I think if we continue to provide good stable leadership at the political level and also improve on the performance of the public service, establishing laws that will protect the revenue stream of our country including, as I said, the Sovereign Wealth Fund, and making sure that we have prudent management of our economy, I think we will be able to overcome many of the mistakes that we have made in the past," he said.

"I strongly believe that this is the golden opportunity for our country to make sure that we correct the mistakes of the past."


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Gorethy Atobu

I did enjoy reading the article. It is of good news that leaders are trying to make a better change by bringing basic services to the crying population.

All we need is good governance! Be transparent. Take up the responsibility of being accountable and that will greatly determine a positive change in the country's future.

Leaders must be doers of their own promises. For the benefit of the nation.

More significantly, PNG celebrated thirty- seven years of independence as a sovereign state. Thus this lies as a challenge for us to see and relect on how far have we gone.

Jude Roa

There is so much that PNG can have for a better future. The main problem lies on how the money is being process.

We have the chance to explore and do better for our country. The foremost problem is to do with PNG Administrative Structure, from National Government to Local level Government.

Generally, due to the elongated Funding process from the National government down to Provincial & Local level government, it is very dawdling in progression, therefore, many of the development plans are not enacted/implemented on time resulting in some basic services not fully reaching the completion phase.

Lack of skills and knowledge, many of the public servants are not appointed on Merit/their education qualifications but through bribery and nepotism (wontok system) therefore this determines the quality of services provided at the provincial and local levels.

Centralization-the power and the decision regarding the allocation of the nation’s resources and policy formulation are centered at Waigani, therefore provincial & local level governments do not have the power/authority to obtain direct funding and formulate an effective policy on their own but everything has to go through the national government first, they are only to make recommendations.

Therefore, when there is no allegation set up by the national government, nothing can be done at the provincial & local level government because they only make recommendations for further service funding upon the reports produce by national allegation.

In fact in order to cease such situation, there should be more effective delegation and decentralization of financial powers and funds to provincial administrators and their public servants to enable them to fully implement the services throughout the province.

More training has to be given to the existing public servants to equip them with necessary skills and knowledge to copious participate in the effective delivery of service at the provincial and local levels for the betterment of the citizens.

Incoming public servants should be appointed or selected base on merit. We can change everything if our leaders have the mentality “ Not for Self but for Others”.

Hubert Warpit

Papua New Guinea really needs development. In some areas of PNG there is still need for basic improvement in the lives of the people.

The government should look at areas where the living standards of the people are poor especially rural areas.

The money that the government gets from the loans and from revenue coming into the country's economy should be spent on basic needs of the people.

The prime minister is getting a loan from China so this money should be spent on basic needs and wants of the people like health care, education, roads, electricity, water supply etc.

So we the people need the benefit from the O'Neill Government.

David Kitchnoge

Our problem has always been about converting the feel good paper money, as preached to us by esteemed multiple degree holders in Moresby, into real "lip na ston moni" that people can see, hold, feel and use.

The challenge has always been about shifting wealth from the macro level to the micro level.

I would like to see Agriculture and Works being moved from just a passing thought at Konedobu to having equal status with other key economic ministries such as Finance, Treasury, Mining, Petroleum etc.

Move their head offices to Waigani too and station them next to Morauta Haus to remind us of how important they are to our nation.

Then start working up schemes that would open up the economic bottleneck and funnel the wealth right down to the ground level through agriculture.

A great majority of our people live and breathe the land and we will not go wrong if we invest back into the land.

Put money into Works and get them to talk to PNGDF’s Engineering Battalion in Lae to start addressing access issues in our districts.

Any opportunity that does not result in wealth reaching people in the villages is a wasted opportunity.

Jeffery Johannes

Yep, this is PNG's only, if not the last, opportunity to change; it's now or never.

I think the illness which has been in PNG lies within its administrative and political structures. Papua New Guinea’s administrative structure has a National Administration (which is made up Departments, Agencies and Statutory Bodies), Provincial Administrations and District Administrations.

The Provincial and District Administrations have their own Departments, Agencies, and Statutory Bodies.

The services come a long way before reaching the district level. For a service to reach district level it has to come down from the national administration to the provincial level (including the departments subordinate to these administrations).

That is the whole answer as to why the general public administration structure and services are not fully implemented at the district and local level throughout PNG as stipulated in the Organic Law on provincial and local level government.

If PNG has an administrative structure which is made up of fewer bodies, agencies and departments, the funds will be distributed straight to the local level.

What happens is that, while in the process of the funding or delivering of services from the top to the bottom, the money or funds gets lost somewhere between the National and Provincial administrative departments, and most of the time the local level and the district get left out, some times they don’t get the actual amount passed down by the National Administration, they get less or sometimes nothing at all.

To be specific, the funds are being miss appropriated or are gained personally by the Administrative and the Political Executives.

I personally, recommend that the structure of the hierarchy should be cut down so that the funds wont get lost in the long process, the government should generalize the structure of the Administrations so that the gap between the top and the bottom is thin enough so the funds doesn’t go through a long process to be delivered to the local level and the district level.

Vanessa Saun

Exactly! We can say that the so-called “tiger” economy is growing but what’s an economy when it is growing yet basic services do not reach the majority of the population?

Eighty-five percent of the population live in rural areas and that is almost everyone who still do not have access to basic services while only a quarter of the population are the ones with access to basic services like education, water supply and electricity.

We can go on and on about how the money the government borrowed from foreign countries would help to stimulate the economy but what most people aren’t aware of how the money will be spent.

Our people are very good in talking about issues affecting our people and how they will improve these issues but putting those words into action now becomes their down-fall. It is time to take action, blabbering is so over now!

Samuel Roth

Golden opportunity? How powerful is gold? Gold has limits as in the words of English poet and author, Geoffrey Chaucer, “If gold rusts, what then can iron do?”

We are seeing a vibrant leader giving hopes and sounds promising here. We all, of course, rally behind PM Peter O'Neill, not because, of political affiliations but because of the very words he speaks now and the promises he makes to fellow Papua New Guineans.

We support you, Peter O'Neill on your determination. The question now is, "Will you and your government deliver what you promise?"

Golden Opportunities are just like Golden Handshakes and Golden Pillows.

David Kitchnoge

Yumi olgeta wanbel long toktok blong Tony Flynn na tok Amen!

Tony Flynn

PNG may look like a Pacific tiger economy from Waigani; to most of us it appears as a mangy tabby cat.

There is no real appreciation that our domestic policies are inept. Our leaders are focussed on the export markets to the virtual exclusion of our locally consumed articles.

We should not be bringing lamb flaps into remote areas of Papua New Guinea. After 30+ years of independence there should be small abbatoirs and freezers in district main towns.

Why is Wau not shipping meat to Lae and Port Moresby.

Every main market should have a livestock area for goats, sheep,pigs and dogs etc.

Sucessful farmers employ people, I am not a sucessful farmer and I employ 50+ men and women on an experimental farm.

More farmers mean more local employment and can stem the flow to the settlements. Very few of our arable farmers are much more than exploiters of the soil; they exhaust the soil and move on.

As we develop real farmers we will also develop a local job market. If we do not become "tigers" at least we will be fat pussy cats.

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