The National, Tuesday July 16th, 2013
By JEFFREY ELAPA
SOUTHERN Highlands Governor William Powi believes sustainable sector-wide agricultural programmes should pave the way for development and progress in the country.
Speaking in Parliament last Friday, Powi said according to the ministerial statement by Treasurer Don Polye on the performance rate of the economy to date, the agriculture sector had been disappointing, providing just 37% in real terms.
“This is a major challenge for our country and our people today,” Powi said.
Considering the statistics and the economic health in the extractive sector of the economy, Powi asked if there were programmes and policies in the Department of Agriculture and Livestock to deal with its under-performing rate.
“Does the department have any strategic policy and sustainable programmes to translate the revenue from other sectors in sustainable national agriculture programmes on which 85% of the people depend for business as well as for sustainability?” he asked.
Powi said Papua New Guinea had a high population growth rate of 2.4% and it could not become complacent to allow the agriculture sector to be given low priority.
“The agriculture sector should be developed to grow and sustain our small-scale businesses that Minister Richard Maru is embarking on and I commend him,” he said.
“The agriculture sector must be developed to absorb the 70,000 to 80,000 school leavers who drop out of school every year and the sector must grow the economy to be sustained over the medium to long-term and it must embark on marketing opportunities for rural farmers and businesses.
“It must improve the lifestyle of our people in the villages and communities. It must become the biggest employment provider and it must become the pillar of PNG’s development in the years to come,” Powi said.
He said if developed properly, agriculture was “the engine room that had the potential to transform this country to be a leader in the Pacific”.
“Agriculture is the way forward and the minister and his department must set the institutional and strategic policy framework to propel this country forward with the abundance of resources God has blessed us with and that is not oil, gold or copper but the agriculture sector,” Powi said.