Finding the way forward

Editorial, Normal

PUBLIC Service Minister Peter O’Neill believes the answer to bringing more services to the districts is by setting up district authorities. Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch went further by having border development authorities set up just to cater for border provinces and directing money to these authorities to speed up development for border people.
No one questioned why the treasurer should be bringing in legislation to set up border development authorities when that function clearly lies with the Minister for Provincial and Local-level Government Affairs, Job Pomat. Mr Pruaitch has weakened the role of Mr Pomat and no one in Government has said anything about it.
Members of Parliament now receive K10 million under the District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) to accelerate rural development. If all goes well, then we should be seeing some real changes in the coming years.
All these interventions are confirmation that the bulk of the people of Papua New Guinea who live in rural areas have not been getting the services they are supposed to have been getting from the national and provincial governments. In order words, leaders have failed in their job to deliver services to their people. It is as simple as that.
In the process of drawing up a 40-year national strategic plan (NSP) for the nation, Prof David Kavanamur told top public servants that the Government should immediately declare a state of emergency on the collapse of service delivery to the rural areas of PNG. He said the findings of his task force derived from provincial consultations raised critical concerns about service delivery and public service responsiveness in general.
“I must point out here that through the national strategic plan task force consultations, our findings are pointing to a national crisis due to the chronic decline in services, especially in rural PNG – particularly within the districts where the majority of our people live. In order to secure a sound future we must embark immediately to effect changes to rationalise the public service workforce currently being regarded as the focal point for service delivery,” Prof Kavanamur said in his address.
“This grave state of affairs at the local level is totally unacceptable and should prompt the immediate declaration of a state of emergency on rural service delivery collapse under relevant sections of the Constitution so that specific directives are issued by the Government in the national interest to address the most affected concerns which we refer to as ‘service delivery critical’.”
Prof Kavanamur delivered his statement in Lae when the leaders met to draw up the 40-year NSP. It is a plan that is supposed to set the vision and the blueprint of where PNG should be in 2050 – a long way away.
It hopes that by the time we get there, PNG will be a happier, wealthier, prosperous and united country. How do we get there is the big question. How do we get there when under the five-year Medium-Term Development Strategy (MTDS), we could not bring any real changes to the rural areas?
The National Economic and Fiscal Commission (NEFC) said 12  provinces were struggling to raise revenue to fund the delivery of basic services to their rural districts – and might have “no hope” of ever succeeding. Comparatively, six other provinces had more than enough money to spend on basic services but were not spending enough, it said.
The cash-rich provinces are Western, Southern Highlands, Morobe, New Ireland, Enga and West New Britain.
“They have sufficient money to fund their minimum service delivery obligations,” Dr Nao Badu, chairman and chief executive officer of NEFC, said.
He said the data showed these provinces were choosing not to spend the money they have available. Their poor cousins, according to NEFC, are East New Britain, Madang, Gulf, Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Oro, Central, Milne Bay, East Sepik, Sandaun and Manus.
Dr Badu said these provinces had “no hope” of getting enough revenue in order to achieve the minimum level of service delivery to the bulk of their people in the rural areas. But he said he hoped the districts, provinces and the Department of Treasury would use it as a guide towards future budgets.
“If they know the true cost of delivering services, then it will help them to make budget decisions,” Dr Badu said.
The information the NEFC has collected should be used as a yardstick and guide by all provinces to better plan for the future and deliver health, education, agriculture, village courts, roads and bridges and all other basic services to the rural people efficiently and effectively.