Leaders’ Summit a roaring success

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday February 22nd, 2016

 AFTER the 2012 general elections, the coalition Government decided to put together a development charter that would guide them through their five-year term in office.

Led by seasoned leaders like Sir Puka Temu, they worked over two weeks to draw up the development plan.

The likes of Temu and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill have been part of past governments that have achieved little, by their own admission, due largely to the absence of such a plan.

A practical development agenda to guide the government in its pursuit to revive the nation’s ailing infrastructure, improve the public service, fight corruption and law and order and enhance business.

The leaders coined the Alotau Accord, which contained a long list of policy priorities, they felt that they could deliver within this Government’ term in office.

The priorities are set within the framework of the PNG Vision 20/50 and other broad policy guidelines and their goals.

To track their performance, the Government decided to hold a Leaders’ Summit, an open forum chaired by the prime minister, every year.

The 4th Leaders’ Summit held in Port Moresby last week was a success for a government seeking to build an impressive report card heading into the general elections next year.

Performance reports delivered by CEOs representing various districts throughout the country were simply outstanding and inspiring.

They presented picture slides and gave a narrative of various development projects that were changing the lives of people in those districts, most of which are very rural.

Over the years the Government had come under intense criticism for allocating vast funds of money in PSIP and DSIP to be spent in districts.

Critics said it was a huge waste of money as districts lacked the capacity to spend the money.

The slides told a very remarkable story that anyone attending the summit would wonder whether some of these critics actually go out to visit our rural areas.

Since 2013, more than K3.4 billion has been spent on development projects throughout the country; putting a child to school in a remote area, or building a road to open up access to markets for the first time.

The stories of new roads, classrooms, teachers’ houses, health centres and hospitals being built in districts like Dei, Henganofi, Gazelle, Kokopo, Telefomin, Nuku, Abau, Menyamya, and Chuave were inspirational.

For example, Dei administrator Steven Korowa told of how K35 million was spent in the district since 2013. Of this money, K9 million was spent to build five roads in the area that now connect with neighbouring districts of Mt Hagen, Mul-Baiyer, Anglimp and Jimi in Jiwaka.

“The agriculture potential in this area is huge. We believe the roads and bridges we are building will prompt people to work their agriculture, particularly coffee, which Dei is reknowned for,” Korowa said. His district has also spent over K15 million building classrooms, teachers’ houses, and dormitories for students in the district’s four high school and one secondary school.

Earthwork has already started for a rural hospital to be built for K20 million. It’s a state of the art facility being built in partnership with the Australian Government and Western Highlands Provincial Government.

Keys for 10 three-bedroom houses built for the district’s public servants were ready to be handed over for occupancy.

Korowa said he served as district administrator under previous MPs in the electorate, and what was happening in the electorate in the last three years was unprecedented.

Indeed, Dei has a good story to tell. It is clear the Government’s investment in transport infrastructure, school and health facilities is getting the right result.

Dei is home to Gumanz Coffee, once one of the largest coffee estates in the Southern Hemisphere that now lie in ruins.

At a time when the country is feeling the pinch of its reliance on the export of oil and gas, gold and copper, the shift to agriculture should be imminent and swift.

The summit heard the challenges of service delivery in rugged and landlocked districts like Telefomin (West Sepik) and Menyamya (Morobe).

No doubt the Government has to be proud of its impressive record of delivery.

The rousing applause Prime Minister O’Neill received when he ended his speech to close the summit speaks volumes about the level of confidence in his leadership.