Time has come to deliver basic services

My Say, Normal


THE cry for service delivery is now becoming louder and the focus of all government talks following last month’s Lae summit on the 40-year National Strategic Plan.
The provincial governors discussed and endorsed the political structure and administrative delivery mechanism.
In response, some sectoral agencies are reviewing their own performance and activities.
Most others are, however, still unsure and will most likely wait to see what develops and side with the winners.
The provincial governors adopted 12 resolutions of which more than half are policy-related while the others concern administrative matters.
The policy-related resolutions suggest that the politicians have basically done nothing more than resolved to ensure continuity of a political structure that suits their needs.
Other political options were quickly dismissed even if they might have cost-benefits.
So in truth, the summit failed miserably to acknowledge the sentiments for autonomy for provinces.
The argument that Bougainville is a special case is weak and unacceptable.
PNG will not sink if it lets go of Bougainville.
We also note that the Open MPs have not commented on the resolutions reached at the Lae summit by the provincial and regional MPs.
The current political structure fully supports the regime that is in power and marginalises the Opposition members as well as their constituencies both in terms of policy-making and in resource allocation.
What appeared in the annual budget appropriation documents as a corollary of the political structure is not a true picture of how the money is spent or allocated.Even the resource-rich provinces get ripped off when their representatives do not align with those in power.
Consequently, the provinces or regions of origin of those in power seem to get a lot more than their fair share of government resources.
Such actions are a major factor for the poor delivery of basic goods and services to various parts of the country.
How could anyone say that the retention of the current political structure augers well for a meaningful participatory power-sharing?
A member of the National Strategic Plan task force told a talk show last month that PNG’s political system operates the same way as Australia. This is not true.
The task force has failed miserably by not offering a federal system of government as an alternative political system.
This system is the best for PNG as it will ensure fair distribution of budgetary resources.
Most other ills of modern democracy such as insecurity to properties and lives, law and order, unemployment, population control and adequate social services (for example health and education) could be easily planned and managed regionally if PNG is divided into four states, namely Papua, New Guinea Islands, Highlands and Momase.
Those who operate the current political structure are not able to plan and manage the ills of modern PNG because they are too scared, or are too comfortable, to worry about the survival of this country. 
Political power-sharing under the federal system could have offered the benefit of a meaningful development politically, economically and socially to all citizens without the fear of marginalisation and dominance by those of one race or creed.
As to the administrative structure, the resolutions of the Lae summit seems to bring out the same old inefficiencies of the centralised system of administration where Waigani failed miserably to acknowledge its hold on power and its recall of power over resources is strangulating the provinces from delivering any form of goods and services effectively.
This is the dilemma this country faces every day. 
The issue of lack of capacity at the sub-national level to effectively deliver could easily be managed once power is devolved to enable lower level administration to perform.
At the operational level, without considering its track record of failures, the almost defunct agency has been the Provincial and Local Government Affairs Department which has failed miserably to coordinate and assist the administrations in the provinces in the short history of this country.
This bureaucratic failure forced the politicians to find ways to shortcut the process of delivery by establishing the Rural Development Office in 1999 to be responsible for intervention in the rural areas and subsequently allocated substantial amount of money under the Somare-Temu Government to the districts much to the envy of every other bureaucratic implementer and implementing agencies.  
It is important to note that the Provincial and Local Government Affairs Department is flooded with expatriate consultants who are driving donor-driven development agendas under the guise of donor-supported development initiatives and interventions.
As agents of foreign governments, they try to make their models work in PNG.
Consequently, the much talked about “service delivery model” devised to support the implementation of the National Strategic Plan was mooted, designed and completed.
The service delivery model document is supposed to be the property of PNG but unfortunately, was not seriously studied before it was sent down to Canberra for approval.
The document is expected to be presented to the Somare-Temu Government for adoption soon.
It is now becoming clear that foreign agents have infiltrated our government system under the guise of offering technical assistance.
They are engaged in intelligence gathering and the information gathered will be used by their governments to dictate terms with PNG.
The experience of the National Economic Fiscal Commission (NEFC) is a classic example where approval had to be sought from one Australian woman every time its wants to use some of the materials that carry the logo of NEFC.
The National Strategic Plan will be treated as a subservient piece of paper to the documented service delivery model.
Is this what the Government wanted? 
The whole planning concept under the NSP is becoming subjected to the interest of Australia.
It is also observed that there is a problem of synchronisation by the National Strategic Plan and a 20-year plan by the Department and Ministry of Planning.
It seems that the Department, the Ministry of Planning and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister do not see eye-to-eye.
Consequently, there is no input from the Planning Department into the National Strategic Plan.
It is worth noting that the members of the National Strategic Plan task force, most of whom have gone past their use-by dates, have done nothing more than a “cut-and-paste” job.
And this basically contributes to the confusion about who should take the lead role in planning for the country and coordinating of donors’ input.
The situation is further exacerbated by the creation of new entities such as the one to coordinate private-public partnerships under the Treasury Department as currently mooted by Department of Planning.
All this has resulted in donors running parallel programmes, causing further confusion.
Papua New Guineans working for donor agencies are unashamedly conducting their masters’ errands, tearing up this country with all sorts of sporadic programmes to destabilise the GoPNG attempts to bring services to the rural areas of the country.
Hence, the decision now rest with the acting Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenouc to take charge of the public service machinery and rationalise their tasks and responsibilities.
He must  ensure that basic services and goods reach all the people in the country.


* The writer describes himself as a person “passionate about development issues”.