By GYNNIE KERO
THE PNG Chamber of Commerce and Industry has suggested to the Government to consider a wage subsidy to assist businesses in keeping workers on the payroll.
Chamber president John Leahy said the payment of salaries should be a matter between an employer and the employee.
Some companies will have to review their operations affecting workers and the supply chains. It will also mean heavily reduced revenue.
“It is important that the payment of salaries should be a matter between the employer and employee. Having said that, consideration should be given by the Government to a wage subsidy (as used to exist in certain circumstances) to assist businesses keep employees employed,” he said.
“The business community is realistic about the capacity of the Government to provide financial support.”
On coronavirus testing, Leahy urged the Government to urgently seek assistance from traditional development partners such as the World Health Organisation and China.
“We (also) need alcohol producers to make their products available for the production of hand sanitisers,” he said.
“The (chamber) has already reached out to Ramu Sugar in this regard and we were informed the company was already in discussion with Brian Bell & Company in this regard.”
Leahy agreed that the country’s economy had been weak for the past two to three years.
Apart from financial institutions and some resource companies, businesses have seen their turnover drop by between 30 to 50 per cent. Now with the crisis, some are just surviving.
“I generally agree with that assessment. But given that the Government has been quite pro-active, there is some basis for optimism that PNG will be largely unscathed. But any such optimism needs to be subject to the very definite qualification that the government and the people all need to take this pandemic very seriously.”
PM calls on people to repent, seek God’s favour
By SAMUEL BARIASI
PRIME Minister James Marape yesterday announced a 21-day prayer and fasting period, calling on Christians to “repent and seek God’s favour”.
“Human effort to battle Covid-19 and any other disease will be in vain if God is not involved,” he said.
Marape admitted that the country’s health system was inadequate to fight Covid-19, so it was time to look to God.
“If superpowers like the United States of America and countries with better healthcare systems like Italy cannot effectively (protect) their citizens against Covid-19, what (can PNG) do?” he said.
“We will do what we humanly can do. But in those areas that that we cannot, we leave it in the hands of God.”
He said the 14-day lockdown was necessary at a time when PNG still had a minimal effect of the coronavirus compared to other countries.
“God has given us this opportunity to stand down and look at ourselves and know how we can contribute to our country, our workplaces, our families and ourselves,” he said.
He said he was just a politician and a sinner who needed God’s wisdom and guidance.
“I pray that Covid-19 will not destroy our country.
“But if I am in the way of this country’s progress, then I pray that God removes me as prime minister,” Marape said.
He said the prayer and fasting period was not compulsory.
“For those sincere Papua New Guineans out there, let’s pray not only for Covid-19, but for issues such as domestic violence, corruption, public servants and politicians not faithful to their jobs, and every other issue our country has,” he said.
Employers urged to pay non-essential workers
By Rebecca Kuku
THE Government has called on employers in the private sector to give their non-essential employees paid leave.
Police Minister Bryan Kramer, representing Prime Minister James Marape, said it meant allowing people to take their annual leave, long-service leave and their allocated sick leave during the 14-day lockdown.
“For those who have already taken their leave early this year, they can be given next year’s leave in advance,” he said.
“We are working with the PNG Business Council (on this). Companies who have not looked after their employees well will be dealt with through the business council,” he said.
“The Labour Department can go to the company and tell them to pay your employees leave during this period.”
He said shops would remain open and food supplies from outside Port Moresby allowed into the city.
“Trucks carrying fresh food produce will also be allowed to come into the city,” he said.
He advised people to refrain from panic-buying and to manage their food supplies for the next 14 days.
“The lockdown is for 14 days. The restriction is only for travelling from province to province. Within the city or province, everything will be business as usual,” he said.
International flight from Brisbane turned back
By REBECCA KUKU
A QANTAS aircraft from Brisbane was turned back mid-flight on Tuesday as the PNG Government stands firm on its 14-day international flight restrictions imposed on Tuesday.
Police Minister Bryan Kramer, representing Prime Minister James Marape, said the flight had Papua New Guineans on board.
“There is a restriction placed on all international flights. It doesn’t matter if you are a Papua New Guinean citizen. There is a 14-day ban in place. We will turn flights away,” he said.
On Papua New Guineans arriving from overseas who have asked the Government to clarify who will foot the bill for them to be “self-quarantined” for 14 days, Kramer said they should pay as they had knowingly left PNG during the global outbreak of Covid-19.
“If you had the money to attend meetings or holidaying overseas and sleeping in hotels, you must have the money to quarantine yourself,” he said.
“The Government didn’t tell you to go overseas.”
Marape announced last Friday that there would be a restrictions on incoming international flights starting Tuesday.
“We have been monitoring since January after the coronavirus was declared by WHO to be contained.
“We are stopping all international passengers from coming into PNG while outbound flights to selected airports will remain.”
Police monitor travelling on highways
By SYLVESTER WEMURU
POLICE in Central have set up checkpoints along the two major highways to monitor the movements of people during the 14-day State of Emergency period.
Central police commander Chief Inspector Tapp Opai said the checkpoints were at Bautama for the Magi Highway and Laloki for the Hiritano Highway.
They are checking on people travelling in and out of the province to see if they are breaching the ban on traveling.
The only people allowed to travel are those working in Port Moresby but living in their villages.
“Police officers will be working on shifts at the checkpoints. I want the people of Central and the others to obey simple instructions. Staying at home is safer than moving around.”