Papua New Guinea currently suffers from an acute shortage of skilled manpower, deputy Opposition Leader Bart Philemon said on Tuesday.
Mr Philemon, who is the Shadow Treasurer, said in his Budget reply to Parliament that this was likely to impact negatively on the implementation of key developmental projects, including the Government’s public investment programme.
“The secretary for Employment and Industrial Relations hit the nail on the head recently when he said PNG did not have adequate skilled manpower to supply the large workforce required for the construction phase of the PNG LNG project.”
Mr Philemon said the Government knew all along that it would face this problem when key petroleum and mining projects came on-stream.
“Yet, it has failed to address this vital issue despite having all the financial resources at its disposal.”
He said the simple fact was that this Government had neglected key educational institutions that train skilled manpower.
“Many of our technical and vocational institutions do not produce sufficient qualified tradesmen, like carpenters and motor mechanics, because they are starved of budgetary support.
He said the Government only allocated K288.9 million for the whole education sector, which was 1.2% lower than this year’s allocation.
“I am surprised that community college, a new innovative scheme introduced by the Prime Minister, has been given another K20 million. Can the Treasurer tell us how the first K30 million allocated in 2009 has been spent?”
“May I also ask why these public monies are kept in a private lawyer’s bank account?”
Mr Philemon said if the Government was serious about developing human resource, it would have given priority to the development of a skilled workforce.
“By now the country would have adequate manpower required for large resource development like the PNG LNG project.”
He said the Opposition recognised the importance of human resource development as a key ingredient for sustained economic and social growth.
“As such, we will give top priority to the upgrading and maintenance of all technical and vocational institutions.
“We will also establish new internationally accredited colleges to absorb the up to 50,000 young people who leave formal education every year.”
Mr Philemon said the Opposition would like to see the revival of all apprenticeship schemes so that Papua New Guineans can become qualified and skilled trades men and women.