By SAMSON KENDEMAN
KEREMA is where the provincial headquarters of Gulf is located. Its population of more than 100, 000 people is spread throughout a total land mass of 34,000 square kilometres with a topography dotted by mountains, lowland river deltas and lush flood plains.
The Kikori, Taurama, Purari and Vailala rivers all converge into the sea known as the Papuan Gulf.
The average villager’s level of income in the province is low to moderate with high transportation costs and lack of good storage facilities being major setbacks. The main sources of income are from the sale of vegetable products, fish, sago and betel nuts at local markets and markets in Port Moresby- a four drive away.
Forestry operations in Kikori district and the Kikori-Kutubu Oil pipeline that passes through the province provide limited work and wages for locals.
Gas has been discovered in Gulf. There is an abundance of prawns, mud crabs, fish and other marine resources.
The lack of a road network, or consistent sea transport into the remote villages means garden food and the people’s favourite, betel nut, cannot reach Kerema town. The province has huge potential just waiting to be tapped.
The Kerema-Malalaua road is the main arterial road that connects to the Hiritano highway which links Gulf with Port Moresby. It is a national highway, which, up until recently, was inaccessible by cars. The government has made funds available for maintenance and sealing of this road.
Many people seeking services in Kerema or Port Moresby have taken to the sea and often travel in very treacherous weather conditions.
In the outer areas of the province, road and bridge infrastructures have faltered. Social and economic activities have seen a decline and law and order has broken down, fed mostly by alcohol and drug abuse. Health and education services in these far flung areas also need help.
The government has made available funds under the Service Improvement Program (SIP) in which PSIP is one component of the program.
An injection of K10 million under PSIP fund is helping the province to start moving forward with its development agendas. Although this is not enough to make a major difference to the people’s way of life, it is a start. The provincial government has realised the urgent need to make improvements and is now keen of delivering essential services that will impact the lives of the Gulf people.
In fact, under the Chairmanship of Governor, Havila Kavo, development of major infrastructure has become a priority.
The Joint Provincial Planning & Budget Priority committee (JPP&BP) recently passed a resolution for total refurbishment on existing impact projects like Kerema Provincial High School. A contract was awarded to three building construction companies to erect double storey male and female dormitories at a cost of over K2 million. Ablution blocks, a computer lab and a number of double classroom blocks will also be covered under this project.
Like many other leaders, Kavo believes in human resource development with the provincial government also sponsoring Gulf students in tertiary institutions around the country.
Kavo said project implementation in 2014 faced serious impediments with the lack of effective air and shipping services and disconnected road infrastructure. Prolonged rains, lack of banking facilities in Kerema and the delay in the release of government funds due to cash liquidity problems seriously affected service delivery.
“It consequently affected the contractor’s performance, project schedule and increased cost of the projects but regardless of the challenges PSIP fund has greatly supported the Gulf provincial government’s annual budget in funding development priorities stipulated under Gulf Vision 2020 which is aligned to Medium Term Development Strategy 2011- 2013 and these service delivery in the province,” he stressed.
Some notable projects already implemented are; double storey classroom for Ilakaraeta primary school, K950, 000. Double storey dormitories and double storey classroom at Malalaua High School, K3, 866,551.00, complete renovation of State House at more than K1 million.
A new Kerema police barracks is being built at a cost K490, 000. More than K690, 000 was used on a water supply for Ihu LLG while an additional K1 million has been expended towards the Baimuru LLG office complex.
Gulf disaster relief has received K1 million whiole another Kmillion has been allocated for the Epo- Murua road feeder road maintenance and up-grading.
Funds are being sourced from PSIP with other development grants complementing ithe efforts.
All impact projects implemented in Gulf are supervised by provincial planning and monitoring division and provincial works unit.
“I want to transform Gulf province into a sustainable cash economy with healthy, intelligent and prosperous citizens,” Governor Kavo stressed during his 41st Independence anniversary speech with his people in the province.
Plans are underway for hydro power installation at Kaintiba, Bema and Hauabango in preparation for a K2 million coffee process factory to be built at Hauabango. An MOA has been signed between the Coffee Industry Corporation and Gulf provincial administration to develop the factory. The Malalaua to Kaintiba road project will also continue.
There is more good news for the Gulf people with Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, promising to build three jetties or wharves in the province during a recent visit to Kerema.
- The writer is the Public Relations and Media Advisor, Dept. of Implementation & Rural Development.