Use research to formulate policies

Editorial, Normal

The National

THE collaboration between the National Economic and Fiscal Commission, the National Research Institute and the Constitutional Law Reform Commission is excellent news.
More resources in funds and manpower ought to be given to efforts of this nature to help the Government do wholesome researches and reviews and propose policy, legislative and structural changes across the entire structure of Government.
Collaboration of this nature also paves the way for more thorough finishes than if one organisation were to undertake projects on its own, perhaps out of professional jealousy or due to lack of interest by other parties.
Under the present scenario, both the National Economic and Fiscal Commission and the National Research Institute have been taking a deep interest in the relationship between the three tiers of Government in the country and their often confusing roles and responsibilities.
The NEFC, for instance, has been reviewing and developing reforms to the intergovernmental financing system that will improve basic service delivery.
Its ground breaking work, which has brought its team to meet with every provincial administration in the country in all four regions, has led to the development of laws on sources of revenue, distribution of such revenue and gaps between revenue and expenditure for provincial government and local level governments.
Its own website states as much: “The review of provincial revenues 2004-07 helps us understand for, the first time, the types of revenues each provincial government, the National Capital District Commission and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville collects, which of these governments collects more revenue than others and why, and where revenues have been increasing or decreasing over time. That is truly significant.
“The analysis also offers provincial governments information about how they can improve revenue collection and devote more money to ensuring better service delivery for the people.
“The report also offers some practical tips to provincial governments about addressing budgeting and revenue management issues such as the accurate recording of revenue information and ways to better forecast revenue.”
Legislation is about to be presented in Parliament and implementation with partner agencies and provincial and local level governments will follow shortly. In anticipation of this, NEFC is putting together a team of enthusiastic and experienced professionals to drive the implementation of these significant and far-reaching reforms.
While that has been going on, the National Research Institute has been reviewing the provincial and local government structure over the years.
Needless to say, the Constitutional Law Reform Commission has been looking at the legal arrangements.
Again, note that there is no duplication of functions between the three organisations because of the level of communication and collaboration between them.
Such scrutiny will obviously lead to wholesale strategies, legislative and policy changes that will make an impact because they are based on actual research carried out by trained professionals.
Such scrutiny has led, for instance, to the conclusion by the CLRC released this week at the Research update of sub-national seminar that the two government systems are duplicating functions, that there are confusing signals to civil servants at provincial and district levels and that the end result is that services are not being delivered to the people.
The much-publicised district services improvement programme has not delivered much to the districts because the provincial administrator takes his directions from the governor and the provincial assembly while his officer in the districts, the district administrator, is answering to the Open Member. This is a serious anomaly and needs correction but that topic we will discuss closely in another editorial.
For a long time now, our universities and various research institutions have been underfunded and if we were to put the question to them today, they will all answer that they still are underfunded. That was bad enough but what was worse was the futility of their efforts.
With limited resources, they would produce researches and studies but these were never taken seriously by the Government. Few academicians from PNG institutions were used, although each ministry would, at great cost, hire a consultant academic from abroad.