By GYNNIE KERO
Due to the country’s geography, people living in remote areas of the country still lack vital government services.
They walk for days through rugged mountains, bush tracks, cross fast flowing rivers to reach the nearest station to receive services.
Patients who are too ill to walk are carried in stretches by relatives. Mothers in labour give birth on the way before reaching the nearest aid post or health center.
A sad fate indeed.
West Sepik, like many other provinces, is faced with many development challenges like poor transport infrastructure, low literacy levels, low health indicators and a poor communication network, among others.
Governor Tony Wouwou said others included the lack of markets for major commodities like cocoa and rubber and no conducive environment for SME growth and expansion.
The province has total landmass of 35,820 square kilometres and total population of 248,411 which is growing at a rate of more than 2 per cent annually.
It has four districts, 18 LLGs of which two are urban and 16 rural.
West Sepik is unique in two aspects. It has a road link with another country and holds about one third of PNG’s forests reserves which are also depleting at a faster rate with no impact on the living standards of the people.
To overcome some of these challenges, the Government under Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has worked tirelessly over the years with its development partners to improve transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges, airports and wharves.
Growing up as a young boy in the Pangia area of Southern Highlands, O’Neill himself knew the challenges faced by the rural masses.
Last week, O’Neill and a good number of his cabinet ministers visited three Mamose provinces, Madang, East Sepik and West Sepik to launch airport upgrade projects totalling K164.35 million in the three centers.
The airports upgrade is a 10-year programme funded by the Asian Development Bank.
Other multi- billion kina impact projects for SMEs, education, health, transport infrastructure were also launched and committed for people in Madang, Wewak and Vanimo.
Civil Aviation Minister and Kandep MP Alfred Manase who accompanied the Prime Minister described such investments as key to any nation’s economic and social development.
O’Neill says: “Last five years, our government has come up with good policies like TFF.
“We will continue to pay for the fees.
“This would be the sixth year. We spend about K700 million per year on TFF.
“Public servants are paid K5 billion every year, that’s why we face challenges every time.
“Because our population is increasing at a very fast rate, almost 3 per cent every year.
“That is why we need to build infrastructure to enable service deliver and give us opportunity to develop our economy.
“We have huge potential. Politics is a hindrance to such developments.”