Summit to focus on cash crisis

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday February 17th, 2016

 THE two-day National Leaders’ Summit begins today amid concerns over the Government’s cash flow situation.

Some departments and agencies are reported to be facing payroll dilemmas and have pointed fingers at the Treasury Department for delays in the release of their monthly disbursements.

It is envisaged that Treasury Secretary Dairi Vele will allay their fears when he delivers a state-of-the-economy address during the opening session of the Leaders’ Summit this morning.

But before he does that, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is expected to reassure the country and its citizens that not all is doom and gloom when he delivers his opening state-of-the-nation address.

O’Neill’s address will be focus on the summit theme of “Consolidating the Gains and Maintaining Economic Growth”.

This is the fourth Leaders’ Summit since 2013 and the Prime Minister has made a passionate plea to all Ministers, MPs and governors to attend the meeting, which could well be the last before the 2017 general elections.

With the issuing of the writs just 13 months away, it may not be appropriate to hold a final Leader’s Summit during the election year. But that is the prerogative of political leadership.

While the Prime Minister is expected to urge citizens to continue to support his Government’s development initiatives and programmes, the public service sector will be put on notice to ensure effective delivery of services in this crucial year before the general elections.

And that is possibly the greatest challenge facing new Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari as he convenes his first Leader’s Summit in the hot seat.

It may be a daunting task for others but not so for the country’s top bureaucrat, who has been there and done that.

Lupari believes the O’Neill Government has achieved in the last three and a half years.

“There are a lot happening in many parts of the country, in the cities and towns, and villages and remote areas.

“No matter where you go, a road is being built, health centres are being renovated, or classrooms built for more children to be accommodated in schools. What the Government is delivering is visible. The results are there for people to see,” Lupari told NBCTV in an interview yesterday.

“This Government has done more in three years than any other government,” said Lupari, who was Chief Secretary in the previous Somare Government and held various department head positions in past governments.

The Leaders’ Summit is being held against the backdrop of a global economy that is in a slump as a result of a sharp decline in oil price and prices of other minerals and exports.

This has impacted PNG and most countries whose economies are dependent on exports.

However, the Chief Secretary says the 2016 Budget was framed to cope with this scenario and Papua New Guinea will cope.

“We are tightening the belt, and this is where I expect the public service to be responsive. Our job is to coordinate and interact so as to meet our targets.”

The stage is set for a meeting of political leaders and bureaucrats that will focus on what is expected to be a difficult but challenging year for the government and the country.

Prime Minister O’Neill’s overview of his Government’s performance and achievements to date will set the pace for discussion and dialogue on key issues affecting the economy and delivery of services to the people.

Treasury Secretary Vele’s address on the state of the economy is expected to focus on the need to keep tight controls on public spending.

UNDP Resident Coordinator Roy Trivedy will also give an assessment of his organisation’s view of the improvements to PNG’s social indicators since the government began implementing its policies.

Director of the Institute of National Affairs Paul Barker will present a critique of 

the government’s performance and the state of the economy.

Barker has been a vocal critic of the government’s spending and the Prime Minister has decided that he be heard at the Leader’ Summit so his views are given serious attention by government planners.

The Leaders’ Summit will end tomorrow with a set of resolutions which the Prime Minister will take to Cabinet for further direction and implementation.