Human touch vital for new provinces

Editorial, Normal

FOLLOWING the passage in the special Parliament sitting just risen, of the interim authority bill for Hela and Jiwaka, the two youngest provinces are in existence. It is easy to imagine a sense of euphoria creeping into the minds of the people of Hela and Jiwaka. That is to be expected for two people who have been talking and fighting for separate provinces for so long.
One can also imagine the not-so-little tussle that must be going on to see who gets what job in the new administrations. Certain individuals have been at the forefront of the movement and they will want their just rewards. That too is to be expected.
It would pay, however, for the people and the leaders of both new provinces to be conscious of certain realities.
The first of these is that this is end of a dream but the beginning of the struggle. Dreams, unfortunately in this world, do not transfer to reality overnight. They must be translated. A province does not just happen with the granting of that status by Parliament. Progress, prosperity and development must be created by the conscious and collective will and cooperation of the people, good by-laws and policies of the provincial legislature and the responsible and expert managerial skills of the administration.
The second reality is that Hela and Jiwaka are provided with an excellent opportunity to create their separate provinces with the benefit of the experience of all the other provinces before them. They have a chance to avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that have laid waste to many other provinces. They can organise their political, legal, financial and administrative arrangements differently from all the others so long as they conform to the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments.
As the technicians set the nuts and bolts of the two provinces together, they must be reminded too of the reality that there is no legal framework that is perfect. There is no system or process that is perfect. Laws and systems just set the parameters within which certain activities must be conducted. How to conduct that is the difference between whether or not an entity can function effectively. That is the human touch. That is the missing link.
For far too long our politicians and civil service managers have blamed the laws and the systems for their own human shortcomings. Laws are made for the benefit of the people. So are systems and processes. They do not, of their own accord, get up and serve the people. They must be made to work by human beings.
It is the human touch that is to blame for the inadequacies of the provincial government system and indeed all other failed or failing systems and processes in PNG today.
This is clearly obvious from the provincial government system itself. Even though the Organic Law on Provincial Governments was drastically overhauled and reformed in 1995 after two decades of operation, the reform is no more effective 14 years later.
Flow of Government services to the rural areas is not much better than it was under the operation of the previous system. By some measures, it has deteriorated further. The provincial government system has become expensive, not less as was intended under the reforms. It has become more politicised, not less.
Now there are moves in court and in Parliament to get rid of the reforms and revert to the original system of provincial government. So who is the culprit? It is not the system or the law. It is the human touch: the managers, the bureaucrats and the politicians who have failed.
That being the case, Hela and Jiwaka must give every attention to the selection of their technocrats, their bureaucrats and their managers. For it is going to be the human touch, the human expertise, the human experience that is going to decide whether they walk down a different path.
It is going to mean an immediate stop to the jobs-for-the-boys syndrome. It means those who have brought the “separate province” case this far might need to be rewarded and stood down to make way for others to take over. It will mean advertisements for all jobs in the administrations must be done nationally and even internationally for the top jobs.
There can be no “Hela for Hela” and “Jiwaka for Jiwaka” mentality. Such mentality has killed many a good province in the past. Get the best people from anywhere in the country or abroad to do the job and the job will get done.
Only then can Helans and Jiwakans enjoy the fruit of right and insightful decisions – the first of which is the selection of the right people to lead them – the human touch, the missing link.