Hope for the new year

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday January 4th, 2016

 ANY new beginning brings its share of optimism and expectations of bigger and better things. And 2016 is no different. 

From the family homes to business houses and the corridors of power, the New Year has arrived with similar optimism and expectations for greater achievements, success and prosperity.

At the political and government level, 2016 should be another year of implementation of policies, programmes and projects. 

The past 12 months saw the implementation of major programmes and projects, including the Pacific Games infrastructure, Kumul Flyover, road and airport redevelopment in Port Moresby, Lae and other major centres. 

The O’Neill Government is expected to continue its focus on the districts and local level governments to make a greater impact in the year before the 2017 general elections.

Again, if all planning is funded and all District Services Improvement Program (DSIP) funds distributed without prejudice and political considerations, the political leadership can rest assured that its ambitious district plans will bear more fruit for the majority of people living in the rural areas. 

Although there have been steady progress made last year, there is a greater need for more infrastructure development and social services in the districts and local level government areas this year.

The government’s tuition free education policy was again welcomed with open arms by struggling parents but a few hurdles remain for school authorities, especially with the increased enrolment of school-aged children.

It is envisaged that as free education rolls into its fourth year, some of those niggling issues will be ironed out in preparation for a smooth start to the new school year.

The Government’s free public healthcare policy was implemented last year but access to these services by ordinary citizens, especially in the rural areas, remains a major problem given the limited capacity of our public health institutions.

The impact of the El Nino weather pattern was profoundly felt in many parts of the country, especially in the Highlands where droughts were prevalent. Government disaster relief efforts were slow to start but finally trickled into the rural areas. 

The dry spell also resulted in the closure of Ok Tedi mine, which depends on the Fly River to ship copper concentrate to the coast for exporting. Despite this major setback, the country continued to earn revenue from other mining and petroleum resources, including liquefied natural gas (LNG). It was the first full year of LNG exports and followed the billions of kina the project developers expended during the four-year construction phase.

The preparations for the 2015 Pacific Games was the major development focus in the first half of last year with construction of venues and associated facilities in the nation’s capital.  

Despite a worrisome slow start to construction and other hiccups, the games organisers and Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko confidently met the deadlines for completion by the start of the sporting extravaganza in July.

The O’Neill Government had every reason to be optimistic of success last year, from the continued implementation of its policy initiatives and programmes such as the DSIP to the preparations and successful staging of the Pacific Games.

Given the broad development aspirations of Vision 2050 and the mid-term strategic development plan and shorter term plans such as National Budget, there is little room for chance in 2016. The same is true for large corporate bodies and the smaller businesses which have their own long term targets and the annual budgets to guide them.

The way ahead for Papua New Guinea still very positive and this year should see the continuation of Government programmes and projects to bring about significant changes. 

What could possibly derail the country is either a natural calamity of titanic proportions or a global economic disaster such as the financial crisis experienced towards the end of the last decade.

Generally, nations and citizens shape their own destiny.  Papua New Guineans should know where we are heading and what challenges lie ahead.

Our people have placed their trust and confidence in the current political leadership to navigate our ship and keep it on the right course.

Barring any major hiccups, our country should make good strides over next 12 months.  And the air of optimism is a good tonic for the start of a brand new year.