The National, Tuesday July 16th, 2013
PAPUA New Guinea has enjoyed unprecedented and sustained economic growth for over a decade but its people are still suffering, a former member of parliament said yesterday.
“Our people are still struggling to get three square meals a day; they are not able to access basic health and education services because of the cost, lack of transport and other factors,” former Moresby Northeast MP Andrew Mald (pictured) said.
“The benefits of this sustained economic growth must impact on our people and there must be real change in their standard of living.
“Today, you look around places such as Port Moresby and more than 90% of the city residents are living below the poverty line.”
Mald said a country’s development was usually measured by taking into account the standard of life of its citizens and Papua New Guinea could not beat its chest and claim that it was experiencing real development when its citizens were struggling every day to make ends meet.
He said it was time the government and the public service got their act together by initiating policies and programmes that enabled the benefits from the economic growth to be passed on to the citizens.
“The tax review announced by the government is necessary,” Mald said.
“This exercise must be undertaken quickly and the personal income tax regime must be set at an appropriate level,”
“People in the informal sector must be assisted with credit finance to get into small enterprises and farmers around the country must be offered subsidies so that they enjoy some real returns for their sweat.
“The Public Service Management Act must be reviewed and changes made to make sure all public servants are held accountable to the people, who are ultimately their paymasters and the beneficiaries of their work.
“For too long, public servants have indulged in fraud and corrupt activities that have directly impacted on the delivery of government services and misuse public funds. This must stop.”
Mald said the government’s energy and resources must be focused on improving the lives of its people, many of whom had flocked to the cities and towns for a better life because they were not able to get anywhere in their villages.
He said in a country that was the envy of other economics in the Asia-Pacific region, the cost of living was so high and “one only needs to walk the streets of Port Moresby to see and feel the plight of the people”.
“The prices of our traditional commodities are dropping on the world market. The price drop is going to affect 90% of our people who live in the rural communities and what is the government doing about it?” Mald said.
“It cannot continue to tell the farmers that the prices of our commodities are determined by world market forces and continue to do nothing about it.
“It must create price stabilisation funds to prop up prices, impose reforms in the import of food stuff, provide transport support for farmers to move cash crops to markets and subsidies production cost.”
He said the public service must work with the Government to provide quality advice and carry out programmes that were established properly to help every citizen.