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A critique of the Bench Mark Study by ADB on State Own Enterprises

The most revealing aspect of the  ADB study is not the information  put forward  by the writers  in support of  Privatisation but of the lack of critical  information  that the study should  have  generated  in assisting  policy debate in PNG  as to how  PNG can solve the lack of basic services to the bulk of its people in terms of the Provision  for  the Supply of Clean Treated Piped Water.

The supply of Electricity to each house  and  the cost of  supplying  and providing  durable Housing  to the  7 million People of PNG .  The Debate on Privatisation in PNG ended  with the removal of Sir Mekere  as  Prime Minister  in 2002 following the loss of   life’s  and  national  indignation  directed at the World Bank Structural  adjustment Program  and on  Native  Land registration Agenda which is the other critical pillar of the Privatisation debate.

 Privatisation has led Ireland and Greece to the brink of Bankruptcy and is a path that PNG has chosen not to follow. The  undervalued  sale  of PNGBC  and the  near sale of  Telikom PNG  for less  than  its market value is not lost on Papua New Guineans.  PNG needs  the ADB  and other international  Development Partners    to  help  introduce first world Management Practices and cultures  into  our SOE ‘s  so that we too can reach the level of successful  SOE’s  in the Region particularly to the level enjoyed by SOES in Singapore.[ where only a one liner was mentioned  in passing with reference to Tamasek Holding ,  who  incidentally  is the Holder of the Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund ] In the appendix  to the report no data was  available on the number of households connected  to Power in PNG. Yet many of us know that 98 % of household in PNG is not connected by Power.

The influence of Electricity on households is Transformational and the sooner we can generate meaningful debate as to how we can achieve this goal the better it is for the country. The same is true for the provision of Water where the report  gives a figure of  15,736 in terms of  household connected to clean treated piped drinking water [ figure from PNG  Water Board]  Again when will we start talking about how to deliver clean water to the other  7 million People that also live in this country. It is also sad that no study and costing have been made on the Provision of housing for all our People.

In a country where  only  250,000 people out of 7 million pay income tax  the State will continue to play a pivotal role in Providing  free Medical , Education and  inevitably   free Water, Power and Housing to 7 million of our People that live in some 10,000 villages through PNG . To finance this the Department of Treasury must now have to put out desktop studies to let policy makers know how much it will cost the nation to provide these basic services to all our people and to also provide policy makers different Modula’s as to how we can finance this basic services into the immediate future on a sustainable basis.

In this context the ADB frame work and solutions is not the Answer to reducing poverty in PNG or in increasing the quality of life for our People.