PRIME Minister O’Neill has undermined his own calls for honesty in the election when describing the national budget, according to Post-Courier report and and on his website (http://www.pm.gov.pg).
In describing the K13 billion national budget to an election crowd in Popondetta, O’Neill appears to have deliberately covered up the third largest item of government expenditure – escalating debt interest payments.
These payments of K1.5 billion now account for more than a tenth of the entire budget.
The prime minister hid this by overstating education expenditure by K500 million, health expenditure by K500 million and public service machinery by K500 million (see table comparing actual budget with O'Neill's 'sweet talk' version here).
Comparing the 2013 budget to the 2017 budget (both K13 billion in nominal terms), the biggest change is that debt interest costs have gone up by K1 billion and transport funding has been slashed from K2 billion to K1 billion.
Free (K20m) healthcare was only ever provided 3% of the health budget– nowhere near enough to cover the real costs of free health. And even this has been cut by 20% in real terms since its announcement.
And ‘tuition fee free’ education support has been cut in real terms by 30% between 2013 and 2017.
As the prime minister says, the people should “not be fooled by desperate candidates misleading them with sweet talk”.
Source: Keith Jackson's PNG Attitude blog (PNG Economics)