By ADRIAN MATHIAS
Western is considered one of the least developed provinces in the country.
But it is not going to remain so under the current political leadership as it is already making some progress with much clearer development priorities and strategies.
The country’s largest province is therefore certain about where it wants to be and how it would get there.
This comes after a development forum held in Kiunga where a clear set of priority areas as well as development strategies has been set for implementation.
There are four key target areas that include education, health, agribusiness and enabling infrastructure, mainly roads.
They were the ultimate outcomes of the four-day development forum entitled New Way Forward for Western. It was held at the New Century Hotel in Kiunga from April 18 to 21.
The purpose of the forum was to engage key government and development partners to collectively set the destination and direction for the province.
As an engagement forum, several key government departments and line agencies as well as development partners and non-governmental organisations were invited and contributed to the outcome of the summit.
A simple reason for the gathering was that Western’s new MPs led by Governor Taboi Awi Yoto wanted a new direction for development in the province.
This was to ensure the best utilisation of the province’s resources including funding in the areas that not only matter most but would create greater impact on the lives of the people. Put simply, to spend on the areas that would lay the foundation for the province to advance in all aspects of growth and development.
Certainly the country’s largest region by area with a landmass of about more than 98,000 square kilometres, has realised the mistakes of the past and is eager to correct its past wrongs.
It is good news, if not the best news ever, for the people of Western.
It may be only the beginning but at least a step in the right direction has been taken with the charting of a new way forward for the resource-rich province.
With clear plans the province would be able to pool its resources together and implement projects in the key priority areas it had come up with during the forum.
It is indeed an action of to save itself because Western has been sitting on a time-bomb and rendered itself a victim of double-tragedy of corruption both at the hands of a few individuals and fraudsters at Waigani and back in the province where lack of leadership and administrative inability had been monotonous due to years of infighting over the top positions.
Ok Tedi Mine’s managing director and chief executive officer Peter Graham said the mine had generated a total income of K10 billion in dividends and royalties for the people of Western including the Fly River Provincial Government since it commenced production in 1984.
Yoto noted that of K10 billion the province only received K3-4 billion while the balance of K6 billion got siphoned in the “swamps of Waigani.”
The governor lamented that had only the responsible people in Waigani been honest those funds would have been used for the development of the province.
North Fly MP James Donald shared similar sentiments and said though his district hosted the Ok Tedi Mine it remained one of the least developed in the country.
Donald said lack of development in his district was partly due to lack of ownership of the development plans and misapplication of funds earmarked for projects.
“I am very certain that my government together with the public service machinery will consolidate our development efforts with our partners to deliver the services to our people. After all our people’s tomorrow is determined very much by what we do today,” the North Fly MP said.
- Adrian Mathias is a freelance journalist.