Spend windfall funds wisely

Editorial, Normal

LANDOWNERS have often cried foul that millions of kina of their money has been wasted through dubious payouts and that tangible development has not reached their far-flung areas.
They have claimed that corruption is rife and that millions of kina in business development grants and other funds has been abused. They point the finger squarely at the Government for this sorry state of affairs.
But is the Government really to blame for this, or are the landowner associations, companies and leaders also to blame?
The Government recently paid out millions of kina to landowners, just for attending the recent PNG LNG licence-based benefits sharing agreement forums.
In the Hides Project Retention Licence 12 area, landowners were paid a total of K1.3 million and in the Gobe Petroleum Development Licence 4 area, landowners were said to have received about K1.5 million.
Other areas also received such payments. After receiving the allowances, in some cases up to K1,000 per person, many landowners went on a spending spree, buying booze and fulfilling other earthly desires.
Some landowners reportedly purchased brand new vehicles, acquired new wives and hired vehicles as a result of the recent windfall.
Is this a reflection of past mistakes, or a sign of things to come?
Sure, it’s fun to shop and reward yourself every once in a while, but for landowners who cry out loud for change, such spending of their little windfall was perhaps a little wasteful.
Most landowners do not have the money-making power of Bill Gates, and many are already buried up to their eyeballs in debt and want the Government to intervene.
Landowners often acquire loans in the hope that sudden windfalls will take care of them, but this is a negative habit that in the long run does more harm than good.
The landowners should pause for a moment and take a good long look at their money management skills and spending habits.
Identify real needs in the family, in the clan, in the community and then larger development needs, then prioritise and spend accordingly.
If the past and current spending habits are any indication, one doubts how landowners will manage greater windfalls generated from the massive US$15 billion (K42 billion) PNG LNG project.
Are we ready to manage the royalties, equities, business development grants, special service grants and other revenues from the project?
Landowner leaders must keep the people’s welfare at heart and help them to learn how to manage the funds that will be flowing in from the gas project.
Once the gas starts flowing, the landowners will have more money to spend than they can ever imagine.
A good idea is to have some sort of a fund, apart from Government-controlled trust and development funds. It’s always a good idea to have cash savings that you can easily get your hands on in case of emergencies.
If a fund is already being planned, that is a good sign. If not, it’s a good time to start planning for one now.
Landowners can start by putting a small amount away and eventually adding to a family fund, community or Incorporated Land Group fund and so forth.
Unexpected income, such as the LBBSA forum allowances, can be a great starting point for such funds.
It’s good not to blow your entire bonus on booze, women and other immediate wants.
Put a little of the money away.
The whole idea is to save for the rainy day and save for a real need, such as for an aid post or maybe to buy a PMV truck for the village or family.
Nothing beats the security of knowing that if the worst happens, you have something to use to get yourself out of a bind.
Education Minister James Marape, who is a local MP, has said that such windfalls can be a blessing or a curse, it depends on how you use them.
Mr Marape is spot on.
Other local politicians, including Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru, have echoed these remarks.
The PNG LNG project is described as “transformational” and there is no doubt that it will bring in a lot of money to landowners, but at the same it will also bring a truckload of issues.
Teaching landowners how to save and spend wisely will help them deal with at least some of the issues prudently.