What happened to the K611 Million Household Assistance Package?

To throw off the scent of its failures the government hastily creates another smoke screen hoping to wriggle out clean in what the pompous Treasurer eloquently puts it, "Marape's 13-Year Budget Repair Plan makes PNG's debt risks sustainable."

Not so fast Mr. Treasurer! Let's start with what happened to the K611 Million Household Assistance Package to help families put food on the table across the country on the adverse effects of high inflation. 

On the budget papers and grand speeches in parliament, it sounds good but on the food table, it is not their day in and day out. There has been no noticeable reduction in the prices of key household commodities despite the Government’s allocation of K100 million for this purpose in the recent Supplementary Budget.

In the Supplementary Budget presentation on the 2nd of September 2022, the Treasurer informed Parliament that the Government had announced way back in April 2022 that IRC would be engaging with local companies to lower the costs of key items such as flour, tinned fish, rice and ox, and palm and in return, these companies would be granted an equivalent reduction in taxes. A budget of K100 million was allocated for lowering prices of key household commodities as part of the Government’s K611 million Household Assistance Package.

The Treasurer however went on to inform Parliament that this relief package has still not been implemented because additional legislation will be made in October to implement these changes. The Treasurer however did not provide any update on this issue despite making a statement in Parliament on Thursday, October 13th, 2022.

On the 12th of October 2022, the Prime Minister in his response to a Question without Notice from the Opposition Leader relating to the economic situation and rising prices responded by saying that the 10 percent GST on essential items such as rice, tinned fish, and tinned meat and other sanitary goods has been removed. 

The people are not seeing and feeling the effect of this Government intervention so the Government needs to come out clear and update the people of Papua New Guinea on this package. 

One would wonder if this K100 million assistance package has been implemented at all or if has it gone down the Covid-19 billions of kina rabbit hole and made its way to the war chest to fight a government takeover. 

Apparently, the Government cannot deliver on its promises such as this,  therefore how can it assure the rest of the people of PNG that it is capable of guiding the country and handling the country’s affairs through the current tough economic times?

The economy had taken a nose-dive since the Marape Government came into power.

It is often blamed on the Covid-induced fallout creating demand-pull inflation or the Russia-Ukraine war somewhat causing inflation due to supply chain disruptions.  However, the real infliction point for PNG is the government's failure in introducing the right monetary and fiscal policies in stabilizing the rising cost of goods and services. 

To date, the Marape-Rosso government hasn't announced any real economic recovery plan and in the absence of inflation, strategy PNG is expected to see inflation spiraling at a level that would be difficult to control.

Treasure Ling-Stuckey's IMF tailored 13 Year Budget Repair Plan is a haze of bong smoke to create another stunt for the bewildered unsuspecting Papua New Guineans 

While the commodity prices are picking up and good indication on revenue still there is no immediate sign of inflation coming down in the near future. 

Therefore, for the best interest of the nation and her people, it is time the government works very closely with the opposition by way of bi-partisan to arrest the impending doom. 

The opposition has been proposing all-out measures to control inflation and provide necessary assistance to the hardest-hit people, particularly the low-income earners and the poor, to manage the inflationary pressure.

Accordingly, both monetary and fiscal policies should work in a coordinated manner to handle the current episodes of inflation. Inflation in PNG has largely depended on imported goods and the supply chain has a big role to play in determining food prices, which will be carefully regulated through fiscal policy.

We will need to subsidize agriculture to reduce the cost of domestic food production and keep prices affordable. In order to control the market, import duties, as well as other regulatory duties, will be reduced and increased, while essential commodities including food such as rice, flour, tinned fish, and cooking out are sold at low prices in the open market to protect the poor people from the heat of inflation.


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