Keep Sir Mekere’s fruitful reforms


THERE was an expected outpouring of grief as well as praise for a great man who was still very active in national affairs up to his truly untimely passing.
Since Sir Mekere Morauta’s death from cancer on Dec 19, both his peers and the common folks whose lives he had touched have expressed their sadness over the great loss.
From the many tributes, we can all see now that the immense contributions of a single man is entwined with the nation’s brief history.
His peers Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Sir Charles Lepani have each alluded to the many significant policy and structural changes he had overseen in the public service as the first finance secretary in the period immediately around independence in 1975.
Years later, as a politician, he set in motion reforms to the state-owned enterprises to ensure good governance and profitability to pay dividends to the shareholder, the State, in order to beef up its funding of other public services mostly in the social sector.
Yes, there would be differences in opinion over what the late Sir Mekere had achieved both in the formative years of country as a young civil servant and later as a politician.
But most would agree that the reforms he initiated especially in the state-owned enterprises have produced and continue to bear good results.
However, along the way since those results, the tight controls and attempts to keep political influence those state businesses have somewhat lessened.
A former head of the Independent Public Business Corporation (now Kumul Consolidated Holdings Ltd) which Sir Mekere had created as part of those reforms to bring all the SOEs under one roof, Thomas Abe, has come out to say that the work done by the reformist was undone later in some respects.
Sir Mekere introduced independent regulation and monitoring, price setting and service standards, governance and accountability, which led to the establishment of the IPBC, now Kumul Consolidated Holdings.
In Abe’s words, while ICCC was strongly managed as regulator of SOEs, the IPBC started to veer off course through heavy political influence from 2004 to 2010 thus affecting governance of SOEs and undermining the objectiveness of Sir Mekere’s reforms.
When a new government appointed him as minister responsible for SOEs, he again set to work in cleaning up what was seen as a mess created by the previous regime.
Believing his work was done, he retired from politics and did not contest the 2012 elections.
However, his good work was seemingly not progressed by those who pursued a different agenda or could not perform as expected.
Time and effort spent on restructuring the state businesses was sadly undone and there emerged a repeat of the litany of the political interference and ineffective management.
In his mind therefore, the situation not only in the public enterprises but the general conduct of national affairs required him stepping in once more to fix things up.
Hence, he was elected again in 2017 and served a mentoring role mainly behind the scenes until his death.
The least we can do in honour of the great man is progress his vision to see SOEs operating profitably and without political influence.
Anything that stands in the way to achieving that should be identified and removed.

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