The National, Thursday, May 19, 2011
By ISAAC NICHOLAS
THE national government will seriously look at re-introducing fortnightly allowance and subsidising school fees at tertiary institutions in the country, Treasury and Finance Minister Peter O’Neill said yesterday.
O’Neill made the commitment to more than 30 final-year University of Papua New Guinea students visiting parliament yesterday.
The session, organised by law lecturer Sumasy Singin, was held at the parliament poolside where O’Neill was invited to talk to them on the state of the economy, next year’s general election and the government’s key intervention programmes.
O’Neill said education was a priority for government with 20% of the 2011 budget going into that sector.
“Our economy is growing at 8% and we need quality human resources to put this economic growth into reality,” he said.
“The quality of education is very important and the AusAID assistance will focus on making higher education reach international standards for you students to work anywhere in the world.”
When asked by students about the high fees for education and why the K13 fortnight allowance was dropped, O’Neill said he was surprised that the allowance was no longer paid.
“We have a lot of money now and, as long as I am treasurer, I will ensure, together with the Office of Higher Education, revisiting allowances for tertiary students.”
He promised the students that the government would revisit the subsidy system to assist students with rising school fees.
He said the recently passed Australian budget had appropriated K150 million aid for Papua New Guinea and most of that would target the education sector.
“I see no reason why, with such money, we cannot give back fortnightly allowance and subsidise school fee for students in tertiary institutions.”
O’Neill briefed the students about PNG’s rise from a broke country in 2002 to a thriving economy today.
He said that had enabled the government to put in place interventions to deliver goods to the rural majority.
He said the district support improvement programme was a deliberate intervention by government to put funding right into the hearts of the people at the district level.
O’Neill said the country was going into an era where the founding fathers of the nation like Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, Sir Julius Chan and Sir Mekere Morauta would be bowing out of politics and, “in the 2012 elections, it is crucial that people elect quality leaders”.
He urged the university students to take part fully in next year’s elections and to be vocal on issues for the good of the nation.