Let me from the outset put the record straight that the Opposition is quite skeptical of this budget ever achieving much of what it sets out to achieve.
Mr Speaker, year in year out, Papua New Guineans have been crying out for delivery of basic services in health, education, roads, bridges, wharves, airstrips and more but, their wishes have always been that.
There isn’t much that this government can show for the large sums of money it has purported to have spent over the years since it took office.
All our public infrastructure and services have fallen into disarray.
Our hospitals, health centers and clinics continue to struggle for the basic of drugs while people, especially the mothers, young and old, continue to die of curable illnesses whilst this Government watches.
Building of a K500 million health facility in Bautama City can also be one of the examples of a confused government whereby the Prime Minister looses touch with his Cabinet ministers and the grassroots people.
Most of Papua New Guinea’s schools, universities and colleges have fallen into disrepair despite the allocation of large sums of money over the years, including the RESI funds which largely benefited the government members of parliament.
A very good example can be drawn from the Aiyura National High School where a relative of a very senior legislator in this parliament won the contract and misused most of the funds and the matter is now in court.
Most of the RESI funds have been expanded from trust accounts and have been misused or corruptly applied.
Our roads are all in a sorry state including our biggest investment, the Highlands Highway, which feeds all the highlands provinces which are home to some major resource projects including the PNG LNG project – we say thank you for the national highway funding.
Can the Government assure the people that the highway funding will not end up with the wantoks of ministers in the form of relatives and political cronies?
Just recently we learnt from the media that the Works Minister has allowed hiswantok a contract so what is the guarantee there that the people will get real benefits from those highway funds?
Mr Speaker, our coastal and maritime provinces continue to be neglected in terms of proper wharves, jetties and the like.
Those that are usable are almost collapsing preventing our rural people from bringing their produce safely to the markets.
Mr Speaker, given the harsh topography and ruggedness of our beautiful country, a large part of our rural communities depend on air services to access Government services and bring their produce to the market.
We have, on many occasions, heard the cries of our rural people for the government to allocate funds and follow through with implementation and rehabilitation and continued maintenance of our rural airstrips.
A lot of these pleas have fallen on deaf ears for reasons only known to this Government.
The Transport Minister is already planning to spend K1.4 billion to upgrade the Jackson International Airport while this budget reflects very little to even upgrade the rural population’s very-important infrastructures such as the jetties and the airstrips.
Mr Speaker, there are so many other deficiencies in the performance of this Government to effectively manage and implement a lot of its money plans which I can continue to talk about but I do believe you all are familiar with.
We therefore strongly believe that this Government has failed miserably to implement its past budgets and we believe the 2011 money plan will be no different.
It is our strongest conviction that this government lacks the capacity, the willpower and know-how to successfully implement the 2011 money plan.
Mr Speaker, our biggest fear is that a lot of the money that is intended for projects in the 2011 budget will be squandered as was always the case in the past.
It is therefore important that all sectors within the Government’s public service machinery be overhauled and this Government quickly put in place proper management strategies for this budget to ensure that the people of Papua New Guinea really benefit from this money plan.
Mr Speaker, this budget is prepared using many tested and untested assumptions that stand to be put through rigorous volatilities in the market.
The global financial crisis and its impacts may have subsided to an extent, but the global market is still quite volatile with rumblings still in Europe (Ireland andGreece) and other parts of the world.
The weakening of the US dollar in recent times has had a positive impact on resource prices especially gold and oil but would this be sustainable?
The Opposition will monitor this budget assumption with interest to measure its performance against set revenue targets.
Note that all may be rosy now but history has it that things may quickly turn for the worse so the onus is on the Government to monitor its assumptions on the parameters used in the budget to ensure that it achieves and implement it budget effectively.
A big part of the budgets direct revenue is funded through incomes from resource projects either directly or indirectly apart from other tax revenues.
It will also be funded through the increases in project grants owing largely to the depreciation of the Kina against the Australian dollar and the increased funding from AUSAID.
Mr Speaker, it is also important for the government to note that this may be good but, it must also seek to encourage growth in the other revenue sectors to cushion the effects of volatility and uncertainties that surround the global commodity prices and diversify its future revenue source.
Mr. Speaker, the opposition notes several deficiencies in the 2011 budget and among them are some glaring issues that we will now address.
- Insufficient funds have been set aside for disaster and emergencies (disaster risk management – K 5.7m and K1.9m disaster management) despite numerous advice and warnings from experts citing a pending El Nino weather pattern that may have massive implications on the lives of a large part of the population which depends on the land for survival. It is imperative that the government plans and budgets for, not only the El Nino weather pattern but, for natural disasters which PNG is not immune to;
- Mr Speaker, the 2011 Budget has allocated minimal or no funding directly for upgrading of rural airstrips which serve a large part of the population of PNG that lack any other means of transport. This is total neglect on the part of the Government to provide a vital service to the rural people of PNG.
- Mr. Speaker, the Westminster system of Government and democracies all over the world consist of and depend on a vibrant opposition to strike a balance and ensure that healthy debate on matters affecting the nation are tested and agreed to through healthy debates, government policies are properly implemented and the three arms of government are operating efficiently. The Opposition is appalled at the government’s deliberate attempt to weaken the rules that govern any democracies by its dismal budgetary allocation to the opposition. This government has again used this budget to suppress the work of the Opposition to ensure that the Government of the days is answerable to the people of Papua New Guinea through its management of this country.
Mr Speaker, the Opposition believes that apart from the Sovereign Fund, all monies included in this massive budget that the government has put forward for 2011 should never be placed in trust account.
This government has had a very poor record of managing, auditing and reporting of funds held in trust accounts.
Many a time Papua New Guineans have demanded for the Government to make public its records on the use of public funds held in trust account but to date this Government has failed miserably to make these records public.
It is common knowledge that a lot of these funds have been abused without a trace thus putting a lot of our project in jeopardy.
It is therefore imperative that this budget be managed outside of trust accounts and by the normal government accounting system as specified under the Finance Management Act so that funds are put to good use for the projects they are intended for are subjected to proper procurement and scrutiny processes to bring accountable and tangible benefits to the people of Papua New Guinea.
Mr Speaker, this budget is framed so much around the LNG project but not everyone in the Papua New Guinea will benefit directly from the LNG windfalls.
It will only be the landowners around or within the project areas, the pipeline and the processing facility.
All Papua New Guineans will however feel the negative impact of this project on their lives through high cost of goods and services brought about by the LNG project.
With high revenue comes an increase in money supply thus putting an upward pressure on inflation.
The people of Papua New Guinea are already expressing their concerns about the increased prices of basic store goods.
The sad story is that it will get worse.
For majority of Papua New Guineans, life will get harder.
For businesses, the cost of doing business will escalate which will greatly affect profitability unless these costs are passed onto the consumer.
The Papua New Guinean agriculture sector stands to suffer the most as not only will its costs increase but, increased money supply will appreciate the Kina thereby rendering our agricultural exports expensive and non-competitive on the global market.
It is therefore very important that the Government prepares to put in place a well-planned monetary and fiscal policy to manage the negative impacts on the economy brought about by inflation.
It must also plan to assist the agriculture sector, be in through increased subsidies or other assistance to ensure it survives as it is the livelihood of most Papua New Guineans.
Like all major oil and gas projects all over the world, increased revenue from the LNG project and other resource sectors will increase inflows of revenue, thus causing currency appreciation making Papua new Guinea’s other exports, especially in the agriculture sector, become more expensive, thus reducing its competitiveness on the global economy.
Mr Speaker, a large part of Papua New Guinea’s population depends entirely on the agriculture sector for their survival.
This situation will therefore have a devastating effect on the livelihoods of a greater part of the population of this country.
It is therefore critical that the government immediately put in place policies within the monetary and fiscal management frameworks, including subsidies to ensure that it mitigates the effects of this resource curse on the livelihoods of the rural people of this country and the population at large.
Mr Speaker, as you are aware, dependence on one particular sector of investment for any country is a dangerous trend as it exposes the country to adverse market conditions which come with a very high level of risk.
We believe in diversity of investment in all available sectors to cushion the risks that something bad may happen to the one investment or sector thereby destroying our economy.
Mr Speaker, it is encouraging to see that the government has awoken to the fact thatPapua New Guinea does not have the capacity to supply labor to the economy through the education system that Papua New Guinea inherited after independence.
It has taken the PNG LNG project for reality to sink in and remind the Government that all is not well.
In its current form, the Papua New Guinea labor market is competently unable to supply all the labor requirements not only for the PNG LNG project but, also to fill in the vacuum created by movement of people into the resource sector and new jobs created as a result of the resource boom.
Mr Speaker, the Opposition strongly believes that the initiatives current undertaken by the Government to address this labor shortage is a little too late as a lot of jobs have been lost to foreign labor and the PNG LNG construction phase has truly taken off leaving Papua New Guinea way behind.
It is sad to note that the people of Papua New Guinea have again lost out on job opportunities because the Government has failed to realise in time and plan to educate Papua New Guineans in time to capture these once-in-a-lifetime job opportunities.
Do we always have to play catch up while our people suffer?
The Government doesn’t care Mr Speaker; maybe we all should buy houses inCairns, catch an early flight into Port Moresby for Parliament Session and afternoon flight back into Cairns.
Yumi giamanim ol pipol istap.
Mr., Speaker, there will be a huge demand that will now be place squarely on the shoulders of this government to, not only manage this massive budget but, the large revenue windfall that will reach our shores as a result of the PNG LNG project.
For this country to truly benefit from the developments and growth that will come with this massive revenue, Papua New Guinea will need to be able to greatly lift its implementation capacity to truly realise economic growth.
The biggest worry that most Papua New Guineans share is the capability of this government and its machinery to adequately manage this massive windfall revenue.
This Government must quickly address these capacity issues to ensure that Papua New Guinea does not fall into the resource curse that has happen in many resource rich countries.
This country must avoid at all cost from following these trends where it become a poor nation after the life of such project simple because it has failed to improve its management capacity.
Finally Mr Speaker, it has been alleged that over K5 billion of public funds has been stashed away into trust accounts which have yet to be audited.
This government owes it to its people that a thorough audit must be done quickly and made public so that the people can see how their money has been managed.
The under funding of the Ombudsman Commission, Public Prosecutor, Attorney General, Auditor General and the Police has reflected badly on the overall status of this country at the international level.
PNG has been listed as one of the corrupted countries in the world, unsafe to take a holiday and Member of Parliament are almost immune to prosecution.
Mr Speaker, the K20m allocated for the upgrading of this parliament house must be managed by the Finance Department as I have a copy of the 2010’s first quarter audit and believe me, all financial procedures has been breached.
Parliament’s operating account has been operating on a K2 million negative; therefore, nobody in this house must be trusted anymore to independently operate such funds anymore.
Mr Speaker, the Finance Minister must be mindful the performance of this 2011 budget will reflect his first budget ever as the minister responsible, therefore, his future reputation depends on the strict management of this budged and urge him to so and commend him of his efforts so far.
By Dr Werake Yu
Before everyone gets hyped up about the Pacific Medical Centre, let us get some facts right.
If I am correct, the PMC will be a private super-specialist centre and the four regional hospitals will be public hospitals.
Why should patients from these regional hospitals be sent to this private hospital and who will foot the medical bill?
Dr Mathias Sapuri, as a former dean of the school of medicine and health sciences (SMHS), should be proactively supporting and promoting human resource development (pathologist, clinicians, radiologists, etc).
Currently, the SMHS is desperately in need of quality and qualified lecturers to help produce world class graduates. Is it difficult to inject funds into SMHS to create teaching positions for biomedical engineering lecturers and pathologists lectures and thus build up its status?
The chairman of the technical advisory committee on the PMC project should rightfully be the president of the PNG Medical Society, who represents the medical fraternity of the country.
Sapuri is no longer the president of the society. Prof Nakapi Tefuarani is the president of the PNG Medical Society.
Sapuri is a profit-oriented full time private practitioner.
Whose interest is he serving?
Is he really putting the people of PNG first before profits?
The Port Moresby General Hospital is the teaching hospital for the SMHS. PMGH should be completely upgraded into a state-of-the-art hospital using the K500 million. The students of SMHS and the public can then fully utilise the PMGH.
The concept of building a new medical centre and then linking it with human resource development is too shallow and tastes sour. The PMC will not drive the government’s Vision 2050 for PNG to become wise, healthy and happy. Instead it will do the opposite by sucking the health system dry, leaving the rural people unhealthy and unhappy.
By Prof Glen Mola
IT was reported that some callers to a FM100 talkback show expressed support for the building of the Pacific Medical Centre.
However, the most positive part of the report was the part where Dr Mathias Sapuri is reported to say that Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare had written to his committee advising them not to use existing funds for the project but seek alternative funding support to building the medical centre.
I can only hope the word is honoured and no public funds would be wasted on this project.
Now that we are all clear that the PMC will be built with alternative funds, one can consider the cost effectiveness of the project.
It will apparently cost more than K500 million and initially have 150 beds. That comes in at about K1.6 million per bed!
Complex and sophisticated medical technology needs to be properly set up for multiple daily uses. For example, it is not efficient to do one heart operation per fortnight as this would mean an incredible waste of resources that had to be set up afresh every fortnight.
Several years ago, the Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania closed down its heart operation unit because it was doing less than 300 heart operations per year. The heart surgeons considered it not only a waste of money (in terms of economy of scale as mentioned above), but also dangerous in terms of the infrequency of the procedure for the teams involved in doing the procedures (blood bank, heart lung machine technicians, ICU staff, special anaesthesiology requirements, etc.)
Practice makes perfect and for doctors to do procedures well, they need to be doing them almost every day. The same applies to other complex and sophisticated medical procedures like kidney transplants and radiotherapy.
So, if we set up a Pacific Medical Centre that can do these complex procedures they will not be working at top efficiency, the unit cost for each case will be way above what it would cost in an institution where the procedure was performed on a daily basis. This means that we would be spending more money to achieve not so good outcomes.
If some alternative funding source really wants to spend money on helping Papua New Guineans with complex medical problems requiring specialised and sophisticated care, the most cost effective way of doing this would be to invest the K500 million at 10% giving K50 million per year available to send patients to Brisbane or Singapore for these treatments.
In the meantime, the health workers of PNG should focus on doing what we can do well in country to well serve the majority of people with every day and life-threatening medical, surgical and reproductive health problems.
The question that I would really like the supporters of the PMC to answer is why don’t they use the private hospital up the hill behind Port Moresby General Hospital which was built with MVIL money in 1990s?
This hospital also cost many millions of kina. And why was this beautiful private hospital never equipped and opened? Today, it just sits there rotting away, an example of health planning folly at its worst.
But some do not want to even learn from past mistakes, it seems.
Just days before his plans for a ‘super hospital’ were trashed by Prime Minister Michael Somare, who accused his Health Minister of misleading the National Executive Council over the project, Sasa Zibe launched another bitter attack on Dr Glen Mola.
In a document titled ‘Transforming Health Services at all levels in PNG‘, Zibe says Mola has “published baseless fabrications and outright lies in opposition to the proposed Cabinet-approved Pacific Medical Center”.
Zibe also accuses Dr Glen Mola, “of either (a) intentionally lying to protect his own business or parochial interests or (b) knowingly grossly misrepresenting the facts on material aspects of the Pacific Medical Center (PMC) project or (c) is an ill-informed naysayer who is not interested in knowing the facts and wants this country to perpetually maintain the status quo”.
This is the second time Zibe has publicly attacked Dr Mola – read more about his previous attack here.
Zibe’s defence of his now condemned private hospital plan also contains a long quotation that he attributes to former US President Bill Clinton in support of the Pacific Medical Centre plan:
Mr Prime Minister, your country’s Pacific Medical Center project is precisely the kind of public private partnership healthcare initiatives that we [the Clinton Foundation and our partners] support around the world….; with your country’s booming energy and mineral sectors, with your local population and international investors’ increasingly needing better healthcare, and as your national economy expands and Papua New Guinea’s population increases, this is a perfect time to undertake this major healthcare project…and I want to support you and your people on this major project….
The publication of this quote is likely to embarrass the United States who 10 days ago denied any support for the project and Michael Somare’s condemnation of the project came, not coincidentally, just hours before Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary touched down in PNG last week for short visit.
THE National is reporting the Churches Medical Council of PNG (CMC) has commended Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare for stopping the funding for the controversial Pacific Medical Centre (PMC).
Council Chairman Wallace Kintak has said the proposed super hospital would take funding away from the rest of the health system.
If we are not careful, then, this planned white elephant will eat more money earmarked for revitalising the current health system.
Kintak said the government should look at the current health situation, rural health facilities were in a state of disrepair, dysfunctional and struggled to care for patients.
Church health facilities needs to be upgraded and extended.
The new National Health Plan needs to be supported so that more community health posts are built throughout the country
He added that there was lack of basic health care for majority of the people in rural areas, adding that specialist health workers were refusing to go to rural areas because of lack of infrastructure.
Kintak said as a result that contributed to high infant and maternal mortality rate.
It would be sound economic to upgrade all current health facilities, including the Port Moresby General Hospital.
We do not need a new super hospital.
Since it was reported in the media that the prime minister had stopped funding for the PMC, public support had been pouring in commending Sir Michael for making the right decision.
Dr Lusove Ngomo, Goroka
The more the people express their disapproval, the more stubborn the health ministry becomes.
Among the many comments, health workers are the ones making the loudest noise as their mark of disapproval.
Most are professional people at the end of the health service delivery system who feel the pinch of not being adequately resourced.
They are often forced to make do with whatever little they have. Often they have to improvise to save lives.
Most, if not all health facilities, are either understaffed or underfunded as revealed in a case study and published in the The National (Oct 19).
Even if funding is available, accessibility is cumbersome, courtesy of long and unnecessary financial procedures.
It is quite ironic for a learned doctor like Dr Paison Dakulala to aggressively defend this ambitious project.
He was a clinician before being appointed to his current position. Therefore, he should know all the problems faced by his co-workers. I am sure he knows where to better invest the K500 million.
We need to reopen all the closed community health posts, including building some more because the existing and those closed were built long ago to cater for a smaller population at that time.
With the rapid rise in our population, we need to increase facilities and manpower as well as constant supply of basic medicines and equipment.
All other levels of health facilities should also be strengthened and supported too.
By the way, can somebody from the health ministry tell me just how the Pacific Medical Centre will help in reducing the high maternal and infant mortality rates?
We all know that most of our maternal mortality and infant mortality rates come from the rural settings where 85% of the population is based. Just how much of the 85% of our rural population will have access to the “super hospital” at Bautama when accessibility to the Port Moresby General Hospital, the country’s tertiary referral hospital, is minimal?
It does not matter whether the ambitious project is reflected in the national health plan, Vision 2050 or whatever plans, the proposal to build PMC should be shelved.
When our country’s social indicators, particularly health, show an improvement, then we can talk about building a state-of-the-art hospital.
One way to do so would be to fast track the implementation of Provincial Health Authorities Act, which is the vehicle to drive all health programmes to produce the desired results.
In a major victory for people power, Prime Minister, Michael Somare, has responded to the public debate on the issue of the Pacific Medical Centre and told Health Minister, Sasa Zibe, not to waste public money on the project.
There has been sustained criticism on this blog, in the letters column of the Post Courier newspaper and from the medical profession, led by Professors Mola and Hill, over plans to use public monies to build the private ‘super hospital’ outside Port Moresby.
That exposure, analysis and outpouring of public anger has now born fruit, with the Post Courier revealing that Somare has written to Zibe telling him ‘that since the PMC has been debated in the public arena I have decided to put my weight behind the discussion and provide mu own views’.
Somare has directed that no more public funds will be wasted on the project and told his Health Minister to instead concentrate on ‘improving the provision of current health services for the people’.
The Prime Minister has also siad the whole PMC project was ‘sugar coated’ and accused Zibe of deceiving NEC in his submissions on the project. Somare’s letter says:
Many of the local and US global partners mentioned in the accompanying documentation as supporting the project have since disclaimed any interest to be a partner in or as having said they support the PMC.
It is also disingenuous to suggest that the PMC project will not take anything away – existing or future government – funded healthcare projects or programs. It is obvious that any money provided to the PMC project would come at the cost of existing and future government health projects and programs.”
The irony of the whole issue is that the National Government cannot even maintain at a respectable and decent physical levels the current hospitals and health facilities.
This is compounded by the fact that the National Government cannot effectively deliver basic health services let alone guarantee the supply of basic drugs to the general public.
My preference is to see more money channelled to rehabilitating the current hospitals and medical facilities as well as ensure that basic drugs and services are afforded to our people. Please do not use any more funds to pay for this project and redirect these funds to improving provision of current health services to our people.
The Post Courier newspaper says the United States Embassy in Port Moresby has denied the US government will be funding the proposed Pacific Medical Centre, which is to be built outside Port Moresby.
When Health Minister Sasa Zibe announced Papua New Guinea government’s plans to build the K500 million ‘super hospital’ he claimed the project would be financed by overseas donor’s, principally from the United States. But those donors have all denied involvement in the project and now the US government has made clear it will not be bank-rolling the private hospital plan.
Meanwhile PNG’s Ambassador to the United States, Evan Paki’s assertions that the PMC concept is supported by Bill Clinton were proved to be false when former US President failed to make a promised announcement of funding at his recent Global Initiative meeting in New York.
Health Minister Sasa Zibe has also been exposed for misleading the public over the financing plans for the luxurious private hospital.
Zibe’s claims that no money would be diverted from funding for PNG’s dilapidated public hospital system were disproved when confidential documents surfaced showing Zibe had put a proposal to the National Executive Council that K230 million in loan funding from the Chinese government was to be diverted from support for public hospitals to part fund the PMC.
The PNG government has already provided K20 million from the public purse to support the PMC project. No details have been provided of how these monies have been spent.
The PMC project if opposed by most health professionals in PNG who say the hospital will only benefit a privileged few and the monies would be better spent on improving regional hospitals and rural health facilities that serve the majority of the population.
By Jujito Tubana
THE plan to build the Pacific Medical Centre is a waste of taxpayers’ money. As such, it should be withdrawn immediately.
My question is simple: “Why spend so much money to build this facility when all the main hospitals, rural health centres and aid posts do not have medicine or lack supply?
The Port Moresby General Hospital, the nation’s largest hospital, does not have the following:
- A properly equipped labour ward for expecting mothers;
- The emergency ward is a death trap as there are inadequate emergency facilities;
- There are not enough doctors and nurse on standby; and
- Many patients have died while waiting to be served.
We have to improve our current primary health care facilities before wasting money on such a facility which will only be used by politicians, businessmen, corporate clients and the rich.
Why build a state-of-the-art hospital when the majority of the population cannot afford to pay private clinic fees?
That money should rather be spent to improve and upgrade all major hospitals in PNG and improve rural health services.