The National, Friday September 6th, 2013
PAPUA New Guinea has announced what Prime Minister Peter O’Neill calls a substantial aid programme to the Pacific region.
“This is in line with the announcement by former prime minister Sir Michael Somare that PNG would embark on a programme of regional development assistance to the Pacific, O’Neill told journalists in Majuro, Marshall Islands.
He is attending the Pacific Island Forum meeting for the heads of Pacific’s nations including Australia and New Zealand.
He said the first three countries to receive development aid from PNG were Tuvalu, Tonga and the Marshall Islands.
“Today we are delivering K5 million to Tuvalu for a climate change assistance programme and another K5 million to Tonga for a relief programme as a result of cyclones recently,” he told PACNEWS.
“So far we have also assisted a few countries who are in need of development assistance.
“We have now assisted Samoa during the cyclone and of course through the assistance of acquiring vessels for the Pacific Forum Line.”
For Marshall Islands, PNG has pledged US$1 million (K3 million) for drought relief assistance and for hosting the Pacific Islands Forum meeting this week.
These pledges were made last November in Port Moresby on the margins of the special Pacific ACP leaders meeting.
Earlier this year, PNG announced an assistance of K50 million to Fiji to help it prepare for elections next year.
“We made a commitment to assist Fiji in the elections. We have allocated K25 milion for this year and another K25 million in 2015,” said O’Neill.
He said PNG was now rolling out its regional development assistance programme.
“PNG is able to do this because it has experienced enormous growth, averaging 6% per annum,” he said.
“That growth is expected to continue to grow in the medium term and we are expected to double our GDP in a couple of years.
“That has enabled us to have additional resources to help other FICS and communities throughout the region.”
O’Neill brushed aside suggestions that PNG was aspiring to become a major aid donor in the Pacific.
“We will share our responsibility and resources. We are committed to become an active member of the region,” he said.
“We know the challenges that members face in the region are similar to ours and off course we have our own at home.
“But in a true Melanesian and Pacific way, we are there to help where we can.”
On Fiji, O’Neill is in favour of inviting Fiji into the regional group back but after elections next year.
“We have had that issue for a long time now. Waiting for another year won’t hurt us,” he said.
“I think we are all focused on getting the elections done. PNG is one of the biggest supporters of Fiji in staying engaged with the Pacific.
“We are also able to help them conduct elections in Sept 2014.
“Fiji has invited us to lead the observation of election, we have accepted that and we look forward working closely with Fiji to achieve democratic elections and retain their membership of the forum.”