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Archive for November, 2010

No ambulances in our Nation’s capital

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By BOLA NOHO

RESIDENTS of Port Moresby who rely on St John Ambulance service have been left to their own devices after the service was withdrawn two weeks ago.

The service was withdrawn after St John encountered funding problems. St John Chief Commissioner Douglas Kelson said the service may resume next week if its problems are resolved.

St John is a charitable and humanitarian organisation which has been in PNG for more than 50 years. But its operation in NCD started in 1982.

“The cessation of the operation for the last 10 days is not news because this was predicted six months ago,” Mr Kelson said yesterday while confirming the closure of the operation.

He said there was no funding from the National Capital District Commission since the death of former Prime Minister and Governor, Bill Stake.

“The NCDC is suppose to fund part of our operation but it has not been funding therefore we encountered funding problem,” he said.

The division of health at NCDC referred the writer to the NCD Health Coordinator, Dr Timothy Pyakalia.

Several attempts were made to contact Dr Pyakalia but his wireless telephone was put off each time this reporter dialed the number.

The financial woes of St John Ambulance surfaced early last month when it announced the increase on its ambulance service fees from K10 to K60 per person. The K10 fee was set in 1992.

The St John Ambulance is providing the vital service in NCD as well as other parts of the country but responsible authorities and institutions have not even raise their heads in recognition to help sustain the vital services.

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Where has our $30 million gone?

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By Douglas Marau

Work on the new High Commission building has stopped because the allocated funds are missing

WORK on the new Papua New Guinea High (PNG) Commission office in Honiara has reportedly been halted for the past seven months because the allocated $30 million is missing.

The construction was supposed to complete its first phase this month but workers claimed lack of funds has forced them to discontinue work.

When contacted several times yesterday the PNG High Commission Third Secretary Mary Karo said that they have been informed by the acting High Commissioner Mrs Joyce Bundu not to discuss any matters relating to the incomplete construction.

“We have been advised by our acting commissioner not to discuss matters relating to construction of our new office. Therefore, we will not be commenting on this matter”, Mrs Karo from the PNG High Commission said.

However, two workers who wanted to remain anonymous said it has been seven (7) months now since they were laid off from work. They said the reason was because there was no money to pay their salaries and allowances.

Trans World Construction owned by local businessman Thompson Turueke are responsible for the construction.

“We have decided to discontinue because we were not paid. We understand more than $30 million have been allocated for the new building but we don’t know why we are facing the problem. Either the PNG government are yet to send funds for the completion of the building or the funds were misused”, they said.

The workers added that last week Friday the construction workers went to their boss Turueke in relation to the matter and they were given 14 days.

“We went to see our boss in relation to the matter and he told us that he will pay us after 14 days. So we just have to wait when we will get our money and continue with finishing the building”, one of the workers said.

Attempts to talk to Turueke yesterday were unsuccessful to confirm the report.

The PNG High Commission building is regarded as PNG citizen’s home away from home and the delay has irked a lot of nationals.

Recalled PNG High Commissioner Aiwa Olmi February this year told the media that the building would be officially opened early next year.

With the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting coming up next month, it would not be a positive development update for the PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his delegation.

PMC will only serve a handful of people in Papua New Guinea

November 29, 2010 1 comment

Bushman, Mount Hagan

ALLOW me to give some perspectives of the current health status while Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and Health Minister Sasa Zibe are living in their fantasy land.

Morobe recorded the highest cholera outbreak cases and deaths due to poor water and sanitation problems which is a result of ineffective rural health service delivery.

And we must not forget that Morobe is Zibe’s province.

East Sepik has continuously recorded a high incidence of malaria, dengue fever, elephantiasis, etc. This is a result of lack of coordinated efforts in the rural health sector.

East Sepik is Sir Michael’s home province.

All electorates in the country have some forms of maternal deaths, including other preventative illness that we cannot deny.
It is very common that women and children suffer in silence because most MPs, except for a handful, do not put health and education on top of their to-do list.

So will the Pacific Medical Centre eradicate malaria, cholera, high maternal mortality rates, HIV/AIDS, etc?

If you think building the PMC will make all these go away, think again.

It is a sheer waste of money to build the multi-million kina hospital as the majority of the people are living too far from the hospital.

It’s a mockery for the poor people.

Prof Glen Mola and other committed health workers have committed their personal time and professional lives to save people.
Our leaders do not need the PMC because they seek treatment overseas.

But for the majority of the people, they need their health centres and aid posts to be stocked with basic medicines and staffed by community health workers.

The main hospitals in each province must be upgraded, properly equipped with the latest tool and have sufficient doctors, nurses, medicines, etc.

As far as the public is concerned, the PMC will not benefit 90% of our population except those in the nation’s capital, Central and the well-to-do in other parts of the country.

US govt report slams Papua New Guinea on people trafficking

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Papua New Guinea is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labour, says a US State Department report.

Women and children are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude; trafficked men are forced to provide labour in logging and mining camps. Children, especially young girls from tribal areas, are most vulnerable to being pushed into commercial sexual exploitation or forced labour by members of their immediate family or tribe.

Migrant women and teenage girls from Malaysia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines are subjected to forced prostitution and men from China are transported to the country for forced labor.

Asian crime rings, foreign logging companies, and foreign businessmen arrange for some women to voluntarily enter PNG with fraudulently issued tourist or business visas. Subsequent to their arrival, the smugglers turn many of the women over to traffickers who transport them to logging and mining camps, fisheries, and entertainment sites where they are exploited in forced prostitution and involuntary domestic servitude.

Foreign and local men are exploited for labour at mines and logging camps, where some receive almost no pay and are compelled to continue working for the company indefinitely through debt bondage schemes.

Government officials facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes to allow illegal migrants to enter the country or to ignore victims forced into prostitution or labor, by receiving female trafficking victims in return for political favors, and by providing female victims in return for votes.

The Government of PNG does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so.

The Government showed negligible progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. No trafficking offenders were arrested or prosecuted. PNG does not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, and the penal code does not prohibit all forms of trafficking

Wealthy business people, politicians, and police officials who benefit financially from the operation of commercial sex establishments where trafficking victims are reportedly exploited were not prosecuted.

Most law enforcement offices and government offices remained weak as the result of corruption, cronyism, a lack of accountability, and a promotion system based on patronage…

During the past year, the Papua New Guinean government made few efforts of its own to prevent trafficking during the reporting period.

Source: United Nations HCR and PNG Attitude

Is Papua New Guinea the new Niger Delta?

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

By Laura Freschi, AIDWATCH

The New York Times reports:

In 2014, ExxonMobil is scheduled to start shipping natural gas through a 450-mile pipeline, then on to Japan, China and other markets in East Asia. But the flood of revenue, which is expected to bring Papua New Guinea $30 billion over three decades and to more than double its gross domestic product, will force a country already beset by state corruption and bedeviled by a complex land tenure system to grapple with the kind of windfall that has paradoxically entrenched other poor, resource-rich nations in deeper poverty.

Will Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands harness these revenues to grow economically and reduce poverty, joining the ranks of natural resource success stories like Chile and Botswana?

Or will it instead follow in the path of Nigeria’s Niger Delta, where frustration over lost livelihoods and environmental devastation flares up into kidnappings, oil theft and sabotage? Or the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, a failed World Bank project that has become a cautionary tale against investing in extractive industries in a weak institutional environment?

The article doesn’t provide much cause for optimism:

While the West’s richest companies are used to seeking natural resources in the world’s poorest corners, few places on earth seem as ill prepared as [Papua New Guinea’s] Southern Highlands to rub shoulders with ExxonMobil. The most impoverished region in one of the world’s poorest countries, it went unexplored by Westerners until the 1930s…

…[L]ocal leaders worry about the continuing inflow of guns into an area with almost no government presence, and no paved roads, electricity, running water, banks or post offices. They worry that the benefits of the gas project will fall short of expectations, begetting a generation of young men who will train their anger on ExxonMobil.

PNG’s finance minister says that gas revenues will be invested in sovereign wealth funds, a strategy advocated by the OECD and used by Norway and Abu Dhabi to guard their oil revenues for the future, smooth volatility, and protect against Dutch Disease.

If there were a template for a country that could beat the odds and defeat the resource curse, it might look something like this: Strong institutions. A functioning democracy. An independent judiciary and a free press. A demographically homogenous society.  A diversified economy, with some strong, non-resource constituency that will fight to protect itself against resource distortions.

Unfortunately, this isn’t PNG. The largely rural, fantastically diverse island nation, home to hundreds of different ethnic groups and one-tenth of the world’s languages, is saddled with a weak, ineffective and corrupt government. Comparing perceptions of corruption, ease of doing business, and measures of freedom, Papua New Guinea ranks a lot closer to Chad and Nigeria than it does to Botswana and Chile.

The few pictures in the NYT’s accompanying slide show focus on the challenges of development in PNG, while they hint at the beauty that’s at stake.

Politicians get a pay rise as the rest rough it

November 27, 2010 5 comments

Rowan Callick

PAPUA New Guinea’s MPs have voted themselves a 52 per cent pay rise, immediately before adjourning parliament for six months.

They will earn $32,000 a year, compared with the average income per head of $1400. Prime Minister Michael Somare will earn $105,000 a year after Thursday’s vote.

Opposition MPs walked out when the new Public Services Minister Moses Maladina proposed the pay hike, as urged by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

The commission comprises the Prime Minister, parliamentary Speaker, Opposition Leader, Chief Justice, and heads of the departments of personnel management and of labour and employment.

The pay hike, based on a review by US-based consultancy the Hay Group, will cost an initial $13 million, including backpay for last year. The MPs’ pay rise came after a report was published by Care Australia this week saying PNG was suffering a “chronic humanitarian emergency”.

Julia Newton-Howes, the chief executive of Care Australia, said a survey in PNG’s eastern highlands showed that about 191 babies die in every 1000 live births – compared with fewer than five in Australia.

In the Yelia region those surveyed earn on average under $40 a year.

People in more than half the 260 households surveyed had eaten only one staple food – sweet potato – in the previous day.

Ms Newton-Howes said: “What little government-funded services they have access to, seem to make very little difference to their lives.”

Australia will this year give PNG $457m in aid.

Health Sector is not in a healthy state

November 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Post Courier Editorial

Every day in this newspaper, there is someone complaining about the level of health service delivery to the people in this country. These people who complain about the non existence of the most basic health service in their areas, are people who write in from remote areas of the country.

There are others who write in complaining about the shortage of medical drugs, health staff or equipment and these are people who live in areas where there is a health facility but due to these problems, the people are unable to get the best services they required.

Yesterday on the floor of Parliament, the MP for Moresby North East, Andrew Mald raised four important questions. The questions were on the level of treatment available for cancer patients, particularly women, the shortage of ambulance services in Port Moresby, the difficulties faced by patients to obtain visa to go overseas for treatment and the Pacific Medical Centre or the super hospital.

When answering the questions, Health Minister Sasa Zibe admitted that PNG’s health indicators are very low, it is impossible to install radiotherapy equipment in all hospitals, and on the last two questions, the proposed Pacific Medical Centre was the answer.

There have been heated arguments, also in the media, over the proposed Pacific Medical Centre. On one hand, we see Dr Mathias Sapuri, as head of the technical Working Committee defending the proposal and on the other hand Dr Glen Mola, against the proposal. Dr Mola’s argument is that money should be spent on improving the existing health facilities including the hospitals.

As the debate rages, health facilities in the country are under extreme pressure, trying to cope with the high number of patients with all kinds of health problems confronting them daily. Even in the country’s biggest hospital Port Moresby General hospital, there is overcrowding and in the Angau Memorial Hospital, the next biggest hospital, the cancer treatment unit is only accessed by those who are able to make it, while the rest just cannot go because of the high cost of airfares, medical costs and other associated problems.

We fail to see the logic in the arguments put forward by Dr Sapuri and Minister Zibe that the proposed Pacific Medical Centre will be of help to everyone in PNG.

First, it will be located in the Central Province. What hope is there for patients in Manus, New Ireland, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, West Sepik, East Sepik, Southern Highlands, Enga, and Western Province to access the services at the proposed hospital? The cost of travel for those living in those places will make it much harder for those people to fly down to Port Moresby and over to the super hospital.

Secondly, there is the cost of treatment, which we are told, will be much higher than the fees charged for various services, charged in our current health facilities. Just how does Mr Zibe envisage the ordinary people paying for the services at this proposed hospital? It must be said that the ordinary people will not access these services.

We have to admit that the churches are doing an excellent job in the country in providing much needed health services in the rural areas. And they are doing a good job, compared to the government run services. They get very little help in terms of financial support from the government, yet they run some of the best hospitals, health centres and aid posts. What is their secret?

The health sector gets the second highest appropriation in the national budget every year, yet we do not see much change, rather, the problems are getting worse day by day. It is time, Minister Zibe and his department get real. That is identifying the problems; find the money and fix the problems. We are sure that when there is political will and commitment, international donors will gladly move in with money and expertise to help.