Seasonal Christian greetings to you Papua New Guineans.
The year 2020 has been a difficult year of many challenges, including the worst global pandemic in a century of COVID-19, which affected PNG and the global economy.
And, of course, many other challenges including politics have had negative tolls on our country but by God’s Grace we continue to survive.
The change of Government in May 2019 arose from a collective desire to “Take Back PNG” from the hands of the greedy few who proliferated capitalistic greed and uncontrollable corruption.
The change also was a generational shift from old generation of national leaders who were not willing to fight for people’s rights and resources.
With the underlying theme of my Government to “Make PNG the Richest Black Christian Nation Where No Child is Left Behind”, we took a hard reformist journey that was not going to be easy for the faint-hearted and pessimists.
I am taking our country on the policy path I laid out in my maiden National Parliament address on 30th of May 2019.
Despite all challenges including continual political instabilities, we have delivered the following and more and will progress them in 2021 and beyond.
- Cleaning up government accounts and being honest and transparent on our real national debts, winning the confidence of credible lenders in Australian EFA, World Bank, ADB, IMF, Chinese Exim, Indian Exim, Japanese Government to name a few;
- We picked up interest-free or very low interest loans (under 3 per cent) from this pool of credible lenders to help our Budgets, such as the IMF RCF loan of over K1 billion with zero per cent interest and a grace period of 5 years;
- We successfully used our two Budgets to date (2019’s K17.8 billion and 2020’s K18 billion expenditures) to balance the needs of supporting the economy and jobs while also starting the process of down and starting to lower our debt to GDP ratio;
- We are fiscally responsible, while also not slashing the Budget, as Government expenditures are vital for supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout our country. This includes the 60,000 jobs for teachers and all the work that flows from our SIP programmes in funding local contractors, that in turn employ hundreds of workers all over our country;
- Setting out a clear, multi-year programme of Budget repair which will also see much more of our Budget supporting development expenditure rather than public sector wages. Oro Governor Gary Juffa will set out ways to cut public service waste shortly;
- Settling over K1 billion of previous Government’s bad debts and outstanding arrears to service providers like road contractors, 2015Pacific Games and APEC 2018 bills; paying out expensive O’Neill loans such as nearly K2 billion Credit Suisse debt and having to continually re-finance the O’Neill debt such as over K11.1 billion in amortisation payments in 2019 alone;
- Seeking to engage over 80 per cent of our presently unengaged people by putting low-cost loan facilities in commercial banks for MSMEs, freight subsidies for market access for rural produce and the price stabilisation funding we putting in place;
KEY ECONOMIC SECTOR REFORMS:
- Amended Mining and Petroleum Acts and further reforms being progressed in consultation with all stakeholders including industry partners;
- Proper transparent project negotiations including involving Provincial Governments and Land owners for Porgera, Wafi-Golpu, Papua, Pasca and P’Nyang so that when inks dry up on project agreements, we would be laughing to the banks to support our country’s development agendas unlike past projects where Prime Ministers of past were giving huge tax concessions and selling off our birthright (this is a major point of difference between my Loloata Team and Peter O’Neill’s Crown Team);
- Reforms in the Forestry (such as increased export levies) and Fisheries Sectors to encourage downstream processing here and for Landowners and Provincial Governments to be in these businesses (another major Loloata and Crown difference where Crown team mates wanted to protect the industry status quo);
- Creating Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to attract genuine foreign investments and local industries. Cabinet has already approved zones for each province with investments of over US$20 million to gain concessions and investment incentives;
- Bringing cheaper electricity into our power grid, especially from gas and hydro. For instance, we have already commissioned the five PNG LNG Provincial Governments’ and Landowners’ Dirio Power that will supply cheaper and cleaner electricity to Port Moresby and Central Province while we working on Highlands, Lae, Madang and Sepik power needs;
- Working with development partners including the APEC 2018 commitment to roll out power and communications infrastructure throughout our country;
- Rapidly expanding labour mobility programmes to allow communities to bring back remittances from overseas and support local investment and businesses, as well as building skills;
- Having approved policy for Provincial Governments and Landowners to own a stake in power and water businesses. For instance, in Eda Ranu, the Koiari Landowners will own 20 per cent while Central and NCD will own 10 per cent each and PNG Water will hold 60 per cent equity in the business;
- Stated-Own Enterprise (SOE) reforms in partnership with IMF and ADB to ensure productivity is increased. We are making merit-based appointments including Professor David Kavanamur as Chairman of Kumul Consolidated Holdings Ltd (KCHL) and Mr Isikeli Taureka as Managing Director of KCHL;
- Appointed more women on SOE boards in the last 19 months.
- The Connect PNG policies-based Budget allocations saw funding of over 100 national , regional, provincial and district roads, airports, wharves, jetties, powerlines and ICT;
- New Roads constructions include Tabubil -Telefomin; Lae-Finschhafen-Kabwum-Sialum-Rai Coast; Kundiawa-Karamui; Goilala Highway; Gulf-Southern Highlands; Bulolo-Menyamya-Kerema (Trans Island Highway); Mt Hagen-Ramu-Madang; East-West New Britain Highway; Manus Highway; Mendi-Kutubu; Komo-Koroba; Kainantu-Okapa; major island ring roads like Buka, Kiriwina, Esa’ala, Siassi, Karkar and New Hanover; North Bougainville to South Bougainville Highway; Hawain Bridge and East-West Sepik Highway; Madang-North Coast-Bogia; Kerema-Ihu road;Kiunga-Nomad; Magi and Hiritano Highway upgrades and extensions; Kokoda Highway; Namatanai Southern road; major city and town roads including places like Lae, Kokopo, Madang, Goroka, Wewak, Lorengau and Daru, among other projects we have started all over the
- Constructing rural jetty and major wharf programmes for Vanimo, Lorengau, Kikori, Kimbe and Oro Bay;
- We are also continuing the ADB CADIP programme for our other airports and small airstrips;
- Launched the new JICA loan-funded Lae -Nadzab International Airport construction;
- We are also stepping up higher voltage 132kva lines from Mt Hagen to Lae to complement the Mt Hagen to Hides that is presently running. On that backbone we will run fibre optic cables;
- These infrastructure and more that we will develop all over our country into the future should carry our rural economies and SEZ emphasis for our country; We want to grow our economy so we can finance adequate quality service in our social sector.
Below are some work we have started and we will continue into 2021.
SOCIAL SERVICE SECTOR:
In the education sector, we are honouring our country’s need for education for all through an affordable education policy by paying majority school fees (63 per cent) for primary and secondary schools. We are directing more national education expenditure to assist tertiary students with continuation of student scholarships as well as our Marape Government’s flagship student loan (HELP) programme;
- We also allocated funding for school infrastructure directly through our universities (including new mess for Unitech) and colleges as well as through Districts and Provincial SIP funds;
- We are continually supporting the O’Neill Government-initiated Western Pacific University;
- We are mass rolling out Flexible Open Distance Education (FODE) plus Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) with Small Medium Enterprises (SME) courses for those who left schools at grades 8 to 12;
- We will be working on private universities to enter or set up in our country;
- In the health sector, we are starting a specific provincial hospital programme that will see five of the 16 provincial hospitals yet to be developed attended to;
- We are also looking at a major referral hospital for Bougainville;
- Port Moresby and Lae hospitals are now being developed to be specialist hospitals for heart, kidney, liver and cancer patients;
- We are working to fix and strengthen our medical schools and nursing colleges;
- In our community development, we have publicly recognized PNG as a Christian nation. a National Unity Pillar will be constructed on the hill facing Parliament along Waigani Drive;
- We also started an anti-gender violence lobby group let by MPs like Allan Bird, Hon. Gary Juffa, Hon. Powes Parkop and others. Our efforts to stop violence against women will grow;
- We have started the path of empowering our Provincial Governments, including my version of economic empowerment. These will be better defined in 2021, especially for the three pilot provinces of New Ireland, East New Britain and Enga;
- Our strong progress made on Bougainville will continue. We acknowledge Bougainville as a Special Region and not as a Provincial Neither are the autonomy discussions with Provincial Governments similar to Bougainville;
- Bougainville held a referendum under my watch. We now intend on work with the Bougainville Government to fully empower them in between our efforts to find a full political settlement as guided by the 2001 BPA and subsequent JSBs;
- We will continue the efforts of law-and-justice including modernising police, deliver a modern electronic Judiciary, and complete the K300 million Waigani Court Complex;
- We will institutionalize Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), we will implement Whistle Blowers’ Act, Proceeds of Crimes Act and undisclosed wealth laws;
- We will reform the Ombudsman Commission to strengthen its functions;
- We will use the Correctional Services as a place of training inmates using second chance education and SME training;
- Next year, we will update our Census, fix our Common Roll and prepare the nation for 2022 National Election. We are thinking of introducing biometric voting too for one-person one-vote for a cleaner and better voting process;
- Defence Force will coordinate a National Volunteer SchemeiIn partnership with districts for unengaged youths, including dispatching those disciplined ones for Australian labour and work, as well asin-country work , further education or MSME link-ups.
- Making land available to Papua New Guineans for first-time home-ownership applicants, including converting settlements to suburbs.
The above is the journey we have started and the path we will travel on in 2021 in our efforts to make our country rich and where we don’t leave any one behind.
We are a reformist Government trying to do better for all our people, irrespective of age, tribe, church or political affiliations, so I ask all to rally together in supporting one another and your country.
Have hope and faith in yourself and your country, help contribute to the development of your country wherever God has placed you in PNG.
God Bless Papua New Guinea in 2021.