Sunday, 12 March 2017

PNG Opposition describe Government's move to push for Australian AID policy shift as 'shame' and 'hogwash'

THROUGH the Honorable Minister for National Planning and Monitoring Charlies Abel, the O'Neill-Dion Government has requested the Australian Government to do away with the AID and opt for trade. 
This means the Australian Government will now fund the Education, Health and Infrastructure directly and not through AID that is injected into the PNG Government Budget annually. 

This request has surprised the vising Australian Foreign Minster Julie Bishop, saying the shift will not escape its tough guideline against corruption.  It also will be a matter for Australian taxpayers interest whether the shift is anything noble or not.    

Meanwhile, PNG Opposition Leader Don Polye has described the government’s request to the Australian government to direct its aid into the Budget as ‘a shame.’

Addressing yet another record crowd at Sirunki in Enga province on Friday (March 10), Mr Polye said the fund was ‘not an income from Porgera Gold Mine or other projects’ in the country.

He added it was from a sovereign nation which PNG does not have a single control over. 

He further said it was justifiable to ask these companies as the government partly owned them.

“Asking a sovereign nation to shift their foreign aid to address the government’s economic mismanagement is a real shame. 

“This is hogwash,” he said this when commenting on a discussion to request Australia to fund PNG’s budget at a ministerial summit in Madang.

Polye has slammed the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his government for mounting pressure irresponsibly on Australia to directly fund health and education programs in the country.

He said something which he referred to as a ‘stupid request’ should not be an excuse to affect the bilateral relationship which both countries enjoyed for a long while. 

He warns that Australia is a major contributor of aid to the country and that the government must negotiate for terms and clauses within the periphery of their agreements of bilateral relationship. 

“Our development budget is only K4 billion. It has been tied down to repaying the K3 billion UBS loan. 

“No wonder, the Prime Minister and his ministers have been so desperate to drag others in to solve self-created economic crisis,” he said. 

Polye said he even warned that PNG’s economy was sinking under PM O’Neill, adding MPs in the government were only obsessed with their DSIPs without doing anything about it.

The Push for Policy Change on AusAID
At the 25th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum in Madang the PNG Government sent signals that by 2020, Australian aid, which is worth more than A$500 million [US$378 million], should be channeled through the PNG budget system.

PNG is the biggest recipient with more than 60 per cent of Australia’s total assistance package for foreign countries.
Currently, Australian aid targets specific programs outside PNG’s development budget and the government has complained about this, saying it does not conform with its development priorities.

National Planning Minister Charles Abel said yesterday that there was now a need to continue to evolve the relationship to one based on a mutually beneficial trading and investment partnership.

Mr Abel said that as the planning minister and head of the aid program, he requested that a significant trade and investment package be included and that all programs continued to be more focused and visible with fewer programs and less focus on technical assistance.
"We want trade not aid. We just want them to come in and support the PNG Government system…they are channeling their aid, which is recognised in our budget, but it’s not really passing through our budget," he said.

"We want you to continue the work, you helping us, but you have to make it more strategic and more visible and thicker, not thinly spread everywhere.
"All we are saying is we have established our government plans, we have our targets and we want you to come in and work through our plans."

Mr Abel said that aid used to be budget support in the 1990s, but Australia moved away from that because there were issues they were not comfortable with.
He said that based on the Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP) 2 and the 2015 PNG Development Cooperation Policy, the PNG Government’s desire is to move the aid program to budget support by 2020.

"The aid can be program-based but must come through PNG’s systems," he said.
Successive MTDPs promote critical development indicators that the PNG Government and its development partners, like the Government of Australia, commit to addressing in a comprehensive, robust and dynamic manner.

Mr Abel said it is important to have a structured approach to aid co-ordination, and the Australian Government and other development partners must recognize and subscribe to the development aspirations of the Government and people.

Part of the crowd in Surunki, Enga Province listening to Opposition leader and Kandep MP Don Polye speaking about the Government's unwise move to request for policy change on the Australian AID. Image: PNG Opposition Media/PR.

1 comment: