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PNG Alternate Government can safeguard Health, Education and infrastructure

PNG Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch said today he believed any alternate government would have brought down a better 2019 National Budget than the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Mr Pruaitch said the O’Neill Government reduced funding in real terms for the health sector and dramatically slashed the necessary allocation for tuition fee free education, a clear signal ongoing problems in both sectors have not been resolved.

The Opposition Leader said he had no doubt interference from the Prime Minister’s Office contributed to a highly irresponsible budget that neglected the long-suffering health sector, as well as education and law and order.
Mr Pruaitch said almost on a daily or weekly basis the public has been hearing about lack of drugs and medicines at hospitals, health centres and aid posts around the country at a time when polio has re-emerged after being wiped out 20 years ago.

He said: “Nevertheless the 2019 National Budget brought down by the O’Neill Government has cut the health budget in real terms to K1,553.1 million, leading the Shadow Treasurer, Hon. Ian Ling-Stuckey, to describe this as a national disgrace.”

“This government has been so incompetent that it can boast that funding for tuition fee free education, supposedly a cornerstone policy, has seen funding increase from K602 million to K617 million in 2019. (See Volume 1 pg 102 of 2019 Budget)

“Yet spending from 2018 Trust Accounts shows that in the nine months to September total TFF spending already amounted to K773.7 million (see Vol 1 pg 115).”

Mr Pruaitch said the 2019 National Budget provided ample proof the O’Neill Government had no interest in looking after the welfare of ordinary Papua New Guineans, shifting funds to inflated areas involving misappropriation.
“Let me provide a few examples to highlight the imbalance between desperately needed funding for health and education and other O’Neill Government priorities:

Government revenue in 2019 increased by 12.1% or K1.5 billion to K14.3 billion and a significant part of this increase should have gone to health, education and law and order;
Salaries and wages of government employees will rise by K385 million next year to K4.4 billion, having doubled in just six years;
Capital expenditure for the Utilities Sector has been increased by 93.3% to K615.1 million in the 2019 budget with no attempt made to explain why such a big increase is needed;
The overall Capital Budget was increased by a massive 18.4% to K5.5 billion.”

Mr Pruaitch said most tertiary students would have no difficulty adjusting the budget to ensure there was adequate funding for health and education without seriously affecting other priorities.

The Opposition Leader said Mr O’Neill’s attempts to denigrate the successes of the former National Alliance-led Government was “pathetic and naïve.

“The previous National Alliance Government outperformed the current government in every meaningful economic indicator. It is true, as Mr O’Neill said, that the previous government had seven or eight budgets with a surplus of around K8 billion.

“The surpluses symbolised good fiscal management. The previous government achieved a lot more with much less expenditure, including very positive economic growth rates, significant increases in employment and rapidly rising living standards.
“The O’Neill Government in just six or seven budgets has left future generations with an additional debt burden of K20 billion, falling average incomes, increased levels of poverty – plus the disappearance of tens of thousands of jobs.

“The 2019 Budget is themed, “Building a Broader Economic Base”, which is what in fact the former Somare Government achieved, and which is gradually being destroyed by mismanagement and corruption.

“For the first time in PNG’s history, the media is afraid to publish a true picture of what is taking place. As mentioned in my budget reply, Foreign Direct Investment has been fleeing the country, as confirmed by the World Bank and BPNG.”

Mr Pruaitch said some comments made by the Prime Minister in Parliament were outright lies. “Nowhere has the World Bank or IMF stated that growth levels have been conservatively stated and that they will be much higher next year than the 4% estimate by the O’Neill Government,” he said.

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