Prioritise crucial state services

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday June 5th, 2015

 THE news that air safety in Papua New Guinea will be compromised if the state does not act to complete a modernisation programme is sobering news indeed.

Earlier this week Air Services Limited, the body tasked with ensuring the safety and operational status of all airports in the country, through its chief executive officer Captain Ted Pakii said in no uncertain terms that PNG would not be able to meet international expectations regarding the provision of its air service safety and air space management.

“PNG will not be able to meet the expectations of world leaders wishing to attend the APEC summit in 2018 in terms of air space management,” Pakii said.

The modernisation project which had been funded by the Australian Government since 2010 needs state money for completion but the money has not been forthcoming.

PNG’s air service needs very high to high frequency facilities around the country in order to drastically improve its surveillance coverage of the country’s international international and domestic air space and its air traffic management system.

Pakii was candid in his appraisal of the situation.

“If this happens, the very success of staging the APEC summit will be compromised as world leaders will think twice about flying in and out of an air space that is not fully automated and modernised.”

Some of those world leaders include US President Barak Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

These are not men to be trifled with by any stretch of the imagination and Capt. Pakii has rightfully raised the alarm so that the state does not drag its feet.

We are already seeing the effect of a slow-moving government with the Pacific Games venues still in a state of partial completion.  

What is to say the Government holds off completing the project and then lack the funds to act when pushed by time and the concerns from the international community?

What is hard to understand is that the funding required to complete the programme is not substantial as to be a drain on the national purse as other projects some funnily enough situated in the nation’s capital have been.

To support Pakii’s concerns there have been instances of unauthorized foreign military aircraft entering PNG air space over the past 12 months.

These incursions have served as a reminder as to how vulnerable this country is to the threat posed by other states within over region.

But this is not primarily a geo-political issue it is and should always be about safety.  

One would hope that the upgrade of all air services in the country would see other areas in aviation safety brought up to speed. 

This country has had several tragic plane crashes in recent memory that have resulted in the loss of lives.

Making air services safer is paramount and having a modern surveillance system is part of that goal.

According to Capt. Pakii Air Services Limited needs a one-off funding which would be “less than 10 per cent of the total annual budget allocation for roads” to sustain its operation for the next 15 years.

The state has committed close to K200 million in funding but it is the delivery of that money that is causing concern. 

Australia has recently had to write to the PNG Government to honour a K21.4 million commitment it made last June. 

What does that say about our approach to air safety?

When one looks at the overly large amounts of money being thrown into the development of the capital city this does not make sense. 

The State will have spent in total close to K1.5 billion on infrastructure and road development in Port Moresby over the last four years.

To be fair, the country has seen a general push towards modernisation in all sectors over the last decade but this drive has not been uniform.

Health, education, law and order, the defence forces, infrastructure (roads, bridges, ports) and the like have been given priority by the state.

The other state service that must be prioritised is the fire services provided in all major centres.

Port Moresby with its large urban setting requires world class fire and rescue response capability and with the coming major sporting and international gatherings this area must be looked into as well.