PM defends overseas trips

National, Normal

The National, Thursday 13th September, 2012

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has hit back at Opposition criticism of his recent trips overseas, indicating its members did not understand the processes of government.
Opposition leader Belden Namah said last week senior government members travelling abroad and not running the country were “milking taxpayers’ money that could be spent meaningfully.”
But O’Neill, currently in China to meet political and business leaders, said in a statement yesterday the opposition did not know what they were talking about.
He returns to Port Moresby tomorrow.
Since forming his government last month, O’Neill has travelled to the Cook Islands to attend the Pacific Islands Forum, then last week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Vladivostok, Russia and now China.
The prime minister, who successfully negotiated an undertaking from Beijing to fund major infrastructure projects, said his team was in China for the sake of the people, and was not having a good time as alluded to.
“Their statements clearly indicate to us and everyone in Papua New Guinea that they are irresponsible and are working against the national interests of our country,” O’Neill said.
“Their statements show that they have no economic credibility to speak on the issues they are speaking about. Their arguments are very shallow and childish.
“As a country, we are an important member of an exclusive club of 21 economies in the Asia Pacific (Apec) region.
“And as leader, I have to put Papua New Guinea’s interests in front of these strong economies so that we take advantage of our membership.”
O’Neill said his entourage only included Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato and the Commerce and Trade Minister Richard Maru, who are responsible for dealing with all Apec-related matters.
“On Tuesday, I met with the Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, to discuss opportunities for PNG.”
He also met with heads of companies such as Sinopec, the buyer of PNG’s LNG Gas, Covec, and the ExIm Bank, which continues to provide financial assistance to PNG.
“The trip to China included Treasurer Don Polye and Works Minister Francis Awesa.
“So as you can see, this is not a junket trip; we did not visit hotels and casinos and bars like some leaders do.
“Do these leaders want me to leave the Highlands Highway without any further development and reconstruction?
“China has now indicated that they are willing to finance these projects.
“So the stupidity that is being expressed by Tobias Kulang, the shadow minister for public enterprises and public service and Belden Namah shows clearly that they do not understand business and they do not understand the economy.”