Big Budget Plans, Positive Economic Outlook, Year of Implementation and Vision 2050: Do They Really Mean Anything for the Future of PNG?

By LUCAS KIAP

The future of PNG looks bleak yet the leadership in the country talks big about big budgets plans, positive economic outlook, year of implementation and vision 2050. 

To be or not to be misled time and again, read to the last word of this article as I have discussed some of the very disturbing political misconceptions of all time I have observed over the years about the political leadership that has been running the country for the last 38 years. The people of Papua New Guinea are slaves to their political masters with an uncertain future. Papua New Guinea is a political corporation. The country is not an Independent State of Papua New Guinea. 

Now more than ever, the nation needs to redefine and fully understand the political leadership that has been running the country since independence. After 38 years, the nation has remained somewhat worse. The only achievement the leadership can be proud of is – the country has remained intact despite governing a geographically scattered, multicultural and ethnically diverse population of more than 800 language groups. It is however, shadowed by the civil war in Bougainville. Maybe the leadership should be proud of the localization of the workforce in the country, especially in the public sector, public institutions and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). But these too have been running down and most are used as cash cows by any government and normally headed by their political cronies over the years. 

Apparently, the nation has produced more Sirs and some Grand Chiefs from the political circles and the bureaucratic levels but there is very little or nothing they have achieved that the people can be proud about. 

Corruption in Papua New Guinea has become a serious issue, like a virus, more than HIV/AIDS with no cure in sight. It is responsible for the disappearances of billions of kina of public funds, denying people of basic goods and services, limiting opportunities for people to live a better life, making systems malfunction, setting back progress of the country, creating loopholes for systems manipulation and distorting of democratic values. The leadership in the county has done little or nothing to address this incurable disease, even though they admitted it as a grave concern. 

In recent times, the O’Neil government’s commitment to fight against corruption through the establishment of the “Investigative Task Force Sweep” is seem to be the answer yet it seems not as not a single white-collar criminal has been successfully prosecuted. Obviously, it is a “political gimmick and covert operation” to please the people and seeking re-election. If the people of PNG have been smart enough, by this time everyone should know that most MPs in the current government are not new as most of them were in previous governments including the Prime Minister O’Neil himself. Therefore, they can’t offer a solution as they are part of the problem. 

The Free Education policy is yet another “cargo cult” policy, with no value and meaning attached to it. It is not driven to achieve any long-term plans or visions. It is however, a bottle-neck system where it produces more failures with no skills and employment opportunities. Obviously, it is also a “political gimmick” seeking re-election. Yet the future of the country remains in the hands of the children. The innocent children are forced to bear the moral burden of the poor decisions of their leaders as they struggle to get back into a system once rejected them or look for other opportunities. 

The public service mechanism in the country is a grave concern. It has been dysfunctional, lacked capacity and corrupted. Yet without fixing it first, billions of kina have been budgeted every year by the government for development programs for the public service to implement them. These programs, many never get fully implemented as most of the funds are disappeared through expensive private consultants, ghost project proposals, private contractors and service providers. The so called “Public-Private Partnership development concept” is then appeared to be a scam for the siphoning of public funds. Somehow, if this is to be taken seriously, then O’Neil government’s rollout of development programs through the so called “Year of Implementation” theme is clearly a political oriented propaganda and a scam through which billions of Kina will be siphoned.

The government’s attitude toward infrastructure development in the country is yet another serious concern as there are no long-term infrastructure development plans to drive infrastructure development in the country. What every government has been doing was to waste billions of public funds on high cost, temporarily, substandard, low quality and poorly designed infrastructures, which have been deteriorating quickly. The only opportunity the country has to build modern and high standard infrastructures for long-term use is now when the country still has the natural resources. With the current rate of exploiting of these natural resources and corruption a serious issue, if this temporarily approach is to be continued, certainly the future of this beautiful country is bleak. 

Without monitoring mechanisms, checks and balances to monitor and account for every government funded projects, there has been an increase in the theft of public funds. Every year, each MP is given K10 million and for the five years, each MP receives K50 million as development funds. There is little or no evidence in most of the districts of these funds being spent. It is becoming very obvious that these funds are given to MPs for them to spend on anything they wish. The “Five-Year Development Plan” by each MP is useless as it is not a standardized development concept to fairly and equally develop and distribute services to all people. 

There are more challenges the country faces that the political leaders in the country are incapable of addressing them. If political leaders only concern about running the country but can’t address the challenges first, the future of the country can’t be trusted in their hands. The big budgets plans, positive economic outlook, year of implementation and vision 2050, which one often hears political leaders and bureaucrats boast about in this country are nothing more than just mere wishful thinking. With or without knowing, they are continuously manipulating and confusing the people into thinking that they are capable of running the country when in fact they are not. They are only capable of one thing and that is exploiting the people and their natural resources. 

The dilemma facing this generation is, whether to join the past and current generation of leaders to continue following the footsteps of our founding fathers of this nation and repeat the same mistakes and face with bigger and even more complicated challenges, or try to be creative and innovative -adopting new approaches and ideas to address these challenges.