No such thing as a free lunch

Editorial, Normal

THE 125 police recruits in the Southern Highlands Province who locked the gates to the provincial headquarters ought to be disbanded and told to go home.
In taking this unilateral action, they have broken the law. This is not action that should be tolerated from future police personnel.
In any case, they must understand that there is no shortage of people to recruit in their place.
While they were taking this action in Mendi, Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru was releasing a statement in Port Moresby that there was K1 million budgeted in the 2010 budget for recruitment and training of 100 policemen. This allocation and programme will continue over the next five years until a full complement of 500 police personnel is paid for and trained by the provincial government. Some K200,000 was appropriated in 2009 to prepare for the training of the recruits.
This is an initiative of the provincial government that should be appreciated by the people. Training of police personnel is not a decentralised function. It remains the function and responsibility of the National Government but recognising the urgent need in the province and the National Government’s inaction, the SHPG undertook this initiative.
The people recruited under the program are a privileged lot and must appreciate this fact.
Money appropriated under the budget cannot be released until the 2010 provincial budget is approved by the provincial assembly and the Finance Minister. Until then no money can be released.
This tribal instinct to force payment before proper financial procedures and processes are followed cannot be tolerated and particularly not in people who are being prepared at tremendous public expense to be future law enforcement officers.
Such attitudes are becoming endemic in society and ought to be discouraged by the authorities.
We have seen it happen in many instances from the offer of free education to building of roads and bridges.
Not content with the Government providing services free of charge, people try to squeeze more by demanding compensation.
In the case of Southern Highlands, students attending tertiary colleges throughout the country threatened on a number of occasions to take the SHPG to court for non-payment of their tuition fees.
As a direct result the provincial government made a decision to stop payment of tuition fees for tertiary students. The offer is now available, we understand, on an individual needs basis with students having to make a case to the provincial education board. That is the right way to go.
Government funding is not an automatic right to education at present. It is a privilege that should be earned and most certainly it ought to be appreciated.
This lack-of-appreciation syndrome is not peculiar to the Southern Highlands, of course. It is a national affliction that PNG could do without and would gain by the lack of it.
Continuous student unrest throughout the 1980s and early 90s over the National Scholarship Program for all tertiary students finally forced its abandonment.
A whole generation of students was forced off universities and colleges and a new performance-based policy based on academic excellence was introduced.
The Enga provincial government introduced a free education policy in 1997 covering primary education through high school and even tertiary education. This persisted for a full 10 years and many thousands of Engan students gained decent education during that period.
Then it was found that parents and students were taking the Government assistance for granted.
Schools were being burnt to ashes in many parts of the province with the expectation that mother government would come to the rescue and build them back up. Students were exerting pressure on the government to fork out more and more.
Finally the Enga provincial government said: “Enough is enough.”
It decided to impose stringent conditions for school fee support. In exchange for government assistance, students and parents were expected to fulfill certain conditions.
Morobe province too went through a similar experience with the free education experience and was only a few years ago reconsidering its policy on it.
This is the kind of attitude that the Government inculcates in people when it decides to provide goods and services for free without expecting something in return from the people.
It creates the handout mentality that is now entrenched in almost every aspect of life in PNG.
“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” goes the well worn expression.
It ought to be the motto of the PNG’s national and provincial governments.