Australia connects Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands

16th November 2017

In a week when same-sex marriage, dual-citizenship and Manus Island dominated the news cycle, Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Peter O’Neill still found time on the sidelines of the APEC summit to strike a deal that should not go overlooked. Turnbull announced that Australia will majority-fund an new undersea high speed telecommunications cable between PNG and Australia, with a similar deal in the works for Solomon Islands. This is a welcome development, and long overdue.

The potential for ICT and internet access to contribute to development is well documented. The ICT sector directly contributes US$465 million to the PNG economy, and is expected to contribute US$2.5 billion by 2040. Almost every major business is reliant in some way on the internet to connect into the global economy, making reliable and affordable internet access no longer a luxury but a basic requirement. Despite its importance, internet access in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands is prohibitively expensive, the most expensive in the Pacific region and indeed the world.

For those that can afford it, the existing infrastructure is also completely unreliable. The current PNG cable can only handle 5% of the bandwidth of a modern one, and could collapse any day. Most telecom providers (all in Solomon Islands) still rely on satellite, so when it rains (and it rains a lot in the Pacific) you lose your connection. A new cable for both PNG and Solomon Islands is a no brainer, and it is something that the private sector has been demanding for some time.

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So why has it taken so long?

The cost of a new cable is not, relatively speaking, prohibitively high. The cable to Solomon Islands was budgeted at US$70 million, and I have seen estimates for the PNG cable at anywhere between US$85 to US$100 million. Australian aid to PNG, by comparison, is $550 million per year and $140 million to Solomon Islands. These are projects the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank (ADB) would eat up, and loans have been in discussion with both organisations for at least the last five years, but have never taken off. The reasons are numerous: sclerotic multilateral processes, changing government priorities (or lack thereof), multiple funding options, and nefarious back-end deals have all no doubt contributed.

All of these factors combined and came to a head in dramatic fashion this year in Solomon Islands. With an ADB loan approved and tendered, the government out of the blue announced that, instead, Chinese company Huawei would be building the cable. The lack of transparency around this deal led the ADB to pull out. It also raised immediate red flags in Canberra’s intelligence community, leading the Australian government to essentially veto any chance of Huawei plugging into Australia’s domestic fibre-optic infrastructure. Huawei is also heavily engaged in PNG, and has committed to constructing a national broadband transition network in the country.

The new national security imperative has clearly jolted Australia into action. In order to short circuit the risks that might come with any future delay in these projects, Australia has offered to pay to get them done. PNG and Solomon Islands will benefit from not having to pay (or repay a loan down the track), and from finally having this much-needed infrastructure actually built. Australia will benefit from protecting our national interest and building goodwill in the region. It’s a rare win-win for anyone not working in Huawei’s Pacific branch.

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The announcement still does raise some interesting questions that will need to be answered before the full benefit can be realised. Is this funding going to be additional to existing aid investments? Carving it out of our existing aid programs will be incredibly disruptive, and could reap more harm than the benefit the cable would bring. Who will own this infrastructure? How will Australia ensure that the savings we are providing by giving this infrastructure to the Pacific will be passed on to the consumer? How will domestic regulation catch up so that the quality of service is also transferred to the consumer? Anyone who has had experience with Australia’s NBN knows that while having the infrastructure is certainly a prerequisite, it is no guarantee of service. For Solomon Islands, how much support will the deal have under its new Prime Minister? Most important of all, how soon will this project get started? Any delay will only open the door for further unpalatable deals, and the private sector will suffer.

None of these lingering questions take away from this being a most welcome win-win for Australia and the region. Now we just need to get it done.

https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/australia-makes-welcome-pacific-connection

 

 

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Manus Regional Processing Centre – A look into its History!

The Manus Regional Processing Centre is one of many offshore Australian immigration detention facilities. The Centre was operated by Broadspectrum (formerly known as Transfield Services) on behalf of the Australian government, until Ferrovial bought out the company and its contract in April 2016. The Centre is located on the PNG Navy Base Lombrum (previously a Royal Australian Navy base called HMAS Tarangau) on Los Negros Island in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea. It was formally closed on 31 October 2017, however hundreds of detainees refused to leave.
The Pacific Solution 

The centre was originally established on 21 October 2001, as one of two Offshore Processing Centres (OPC). The other OPC was the Nauru detention centre. The OPC facilities were part of what became known as the “Pacific Solution”, a policy of the Howard Government in Australia, which was implemented in the wake of the Tampa affair. The policy involved the excision of Australian external territories (Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands and Cocos (Keeling) Island) and other islands in the Pacific Ocean—from the Australian migration zone. Unlawful maritime arrivals (boat people without visas seeking asylum in Australia) who arrived at these excised territories were transferred to the OPC facilities where they would stay while their claims for asylum were processed. The centres were managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM)


Disuse 

The Manus Regional Processing Centre fell into disuse in preference to the Nauru centre. In July 2003, the immigration department announced that the centre would be wound down and the remaining detainees would be granted asylum and resettled in Australia, however the centre would continue to be maintained in case the need for reactivation arose.
Aladdin Sisalem, a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian, fled Kuwait in 2000 and in December 2002 arrived at an island in the Torres Strait where he claimed asylum, and was sent to the Manus centre. For ten months, Sisalem was the sole detainee at the centre, with a small staff of guards and cleaners for company. In May 2004, he was resettled in Melbourne.
2008 closure

With the election of the Rudd Labor Government in 2007, the Manus Regional Processing Centre was formally closed in early 2008,fulfilling an election promise by Rudd to end the offshore processing system.


Regional Resettlement Arrangement 

Main article: PNG solution

In 2012, a significant rise in the number of irregular maritime arrivals saw the “asylum issue” become a political liability for the government. The Gillard Government commissioned Angus Houston, former Chief of the Defence Force, to lead an expert panel to conduct a review of asylum arrangements. Among the 22 recommendations made in the Houston report was one to re-open the OPC facilities on Nauru and at the Manus Regional Processing Centre.
2012 re-opening 

In November 2012, the Manus Regional Processing Centre was re-opened by the Labor government, due to the large volume of irregular maritime arrivals. Then Immigration Minister Chris Bowen stated “At this stage, family groups are best accommodated on Manus Island, as opposed to Nauru”. The British services company G4S was responsible for its operation. In March 2014, the contract with G4S expired, and the Australian government entered into a 20-month contract worth AUD $1.22 billion with Broadspectrum (which operates the facility in Nauru) for facilities management including building maintenance and catering, with security provided by Wilson Security.
Death of Hamid Kehazaei

On 24 August 2014, 24 year old Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei sought medical treatment at the detention centre’s clinic for an infected wound. Kehazaei’s condition worsened and he could not be treated on the island. Medical staff sought his immediate evacuation, but permission was not granted until 26 August. Kehazaei was declared brain dead in a Brisbane hospital on 2 September 2016. With his family’s permission, his life-support was switched off on 5 September 2016. An inquest into Kehazaei’s death began in the Coroner’s Court in Brisbane on 28 November 2016. The article “The day my friend Hamid Kehazaei died”, written by Behrouz Boochani, tells the story of Kehazaei’s death.
Declared illegal 

On 26 April 2016, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea found that the Centre breached the PNG constitution’s right to personal liberty, and was thus illegal.[10] It said:

“ Both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments shall forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on Manus Island …” ”

Late on 27 April 2016, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced that the processing centre would be closed, saying his government “will immediately ask the Australian Government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers” and that “we did not anticipate the asylum seekers to be kept as long as they have been at the Manus Centre”. He said that Papua New Guinea was proud to play an important role in stopping the loss of life due to people smuggling. O’Neill said negotiations with Australia would focus on the timeframe for the closure and for the settlement of legitimate refugees interested in staying in Papua New Guinea.
US resettlement deal

In November 2016 it was announced that a deal had been made with the United States to resettle people in detention on Manus (and Nauru) Islands.
Alleged Defence Force attack

On 14 April 2017, asylum seekers and centre staff alleged they had been shot at by locals. Ray Numa, Chief of Staff of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, confirmed that staff at Lombrum Naval Base were investigating the involvement of PNG defence personnel in the attacks, stressing that misuse of weapons was a serious breach of military discipline, and that the police would prosecute any members breaching civil laws.
A class action suit on behalf of persons detained on Manus Island from 21 November 2012 until 19 December 2014, and 21 November 2012 until 12 May 2016 was brought by lead plaintiff Majid Karami Kamasaee against the Commonwealth of Australia, G4S Australia and Broadspectrum. The claim was in negligence and false imprisonment. Kamasaee was represented by law firm Slater and Gordon.[16]

Slater and Gordon reached a settlement with the Commonwealth of Australia, G4S Australia and Broadspectrum on 14 June 2017 for $70 million plus costs (estimated at $20 million), with no admission of liability. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the settlement was not an admission of liability and the Commonwealth strongly refuted and denied the claims brought in the class action.


2017 closure

The Centre was formally closed on 31 October 2017. However, nearly 600 men refused to leave the centre claiming “.., to fear for their safety…”, according to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. A notice posted during the night by PNG Immigration authorities said “The Manus RPC will close at 5 pm today” (31 October), and that all power, water and food supply would cease. The PNG military is to retake control of the area. Alternative accommodation has been provided at the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre and West Lorengau Haus.

From Wikipedia 

DETERIORATION OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATIONIN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

VIEWS OF EMINENT PUBLIC SERVANTS

By: Lynn Pieper

INTRODUCTION

 

This article presents the personal views of eminent former or long-standing Papua New Guinean senior public servants on the deterioration of public administration in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Whilst there is a wealth of reports on this topic produced by academics or consultants, there is limited information documented on the views of Papua New Guinea’s own experts in this area. Yet it is now well recognised that, without a high degree of sustained local commitment and ownership, most externally-driven initiatives to reform public administration in PNG have limited impact. This paper is an initial step in helping Australia develop a deeper understanding of what Papua New Guineans themselves consider to be the key issues influencing public sector performance and the priority areas needing reform.

 

In-depth, one-on-one interviews were held with a number of eminent former or long-standing PNG senior public servants during March 2004, which allowed for free-ranging discussion of issues they themselves believed to be of most importance. Interview questions were deliberately broad, focused on obtaining their views on the quality of public administration in PNG through the years since independence, the degree of deterioration and prospects for redressing current problems, main causes of deterioration of public administration, key decisions or actions needed to restore effective public administration, and the role of donors (either in contributing to the problems or assisting with solutions). This report attempts to synthesise the views and ideas of those interviewed, without interpretive comment.

THE GOOD YEARS – WHAT MADE THEM SO?

 

There was consensus amongst all those interviewed that public administration in PNG was excellent until the early 1980s.

 

Everyone shared a common agenda. People were energised, prepared, and completely focused on doing what was right for the country. There was a strong nationalistic drive in PNG to be independent of colonial powers and to run its own affairs as a country.

 

There was robust and frequent debate amongst and between senior public servants, Politicians, political advisers and senior public servants disagreed on many things, but shared the common goal of building a strong country, so there was openness to debate, and debate was frequent, robust and constructive. Also, because politicians and bureaucrats worked closely together, Ministers and departmental heads always presented a consensus view publicly, so there was no confusion in the community.

 

There was strong, centralised control of monetary and fiscal policy. Sector budgets were closely coordinated, and institutional, budgeting and public administrative systems all functioned well.

 

Senior public servants were generally better educated than politicians. This meant politicians, most of whom were young, relied on the advice of public servants, and did not interfere in decision-making relating to public sector management. The onus on public servants to brief their ministers well was strong.

 

“Teamwork was the name of the game” amongst senior public servants, within and across departments, and through to provincial administrations. This strengthened the ability of the public service to process policies through to implementation. It also established institutional knowledge amongst senior managers, not only of their own organisation but of the entire system of government administration through to the community level. The benefits of consultation for cohesive policy were visible.

 

The public service was independent and professional. Public servants had job security and personnel were unaffected by politics. There were proper checks and balances in the system, and they were adhered to. In relation to performance management, for instance, the challenge of trying to be better than or equal to work colleagues meant people worked hard and strove to improve. Promotions were merit-based. On the flip side, penalties such as demotion, pay cuts, or dismissal were applied when staff did not meet expectations. The Public Services Commission (PSC) was powerful (the commissioners were known as “the three gods”), independent of politics, and fundamental to the charter of the public service.

 

Public servants were well trained, dedicated and closely in touch with basic service needs in provinces. Although transport facilities were far more limited than today, public servants got out of Port Moresby far more frequently, and worked closely with counterparts in provincial and local level government departments. At a central level too, departments worked much more closely with each other. Public servants had a strong sense of community service obligation which generally promoted community participation in development activities in local communities (as opposed to the handout mentality that is prevalent these days).

 

There was a dynamic team of young and committed expatriates, who were not in PNG for financial reasons, but for the challenge of helping an emerging nation.

 

Sir John Crawford at the time (1977) commented that PNG was running the country so well on all fronts that he could see nowhere it could go except down.


CHANGING DYNAMICS

Even during the early post-independence period, interviewees point to certain dynamics which, over time, contributed to increasing politicisation and gradual weakening of both the management and operations of the public sector in PNG. From the mid-1980s, the dynamics in favour of poor administration took much stronger hold.

 

There was a move away from traditional bureaucratic procedures. The move, post-independence, to “de-neutralise” public servants was an attempt to hasten change, as required by the independent constitutional review. The ethos and modus operandi of the Australian model for public administration were thought to be too heavily rules and procedures driven and not commensurate with PNG’s needs for public administration at the time.

 

A cadre of political advisers was put in place to provide alternative advice to that being given by the “old guard” of Australian-trained public servants. At the time, there were many highly competent people around, and this was seen as a desirable move – both to strengthen the competency of political leaders and to promote contestability. But over time it led to “all sorts of pseudo advisers coming out of the woodwork to influence Ministers” – one interviewee referred to these as “UFOs”.

 

The lines between politics and administration began to blur. There was an increasing feeling amongst politicians that the bureaucracy was too powerful and independent, and not astute to political needs. Although most politicians had little or no experience in public policy or organisation management, by the mid-1980s they were generally much better educated, and a belief grew that they “knew it all” and did not need to rely on the advice of public servants. Public resources increasingly became controlled by politics rather than public policy, and politicians began involving themselves in administration, project management, and senior appointments.

 

Within the public service itself, professionalism and ethics were eroded over time. Young and highly qualified graduates also felt they “knew it all”, wanting to be at the top without learning about the procedures and systems. The localisation program allowed this; it was easy to be promoted without sufficient skill levels during the 1980s. Later in senior management positions these people were ill-equipped to guide professional practices. Today, many public servants have had no exposure at all to “the old work ethic”, and believe current flawed practices – be they corrupt, inefficient, or unprofessional – to be the norm. Some are playing politics for personal gain; some for survival; and others because they know no different.

 

“Why do people criss-cross? Self interest drives much of it.” When combined with the continuing long-standing pressures of PNG’s wantok system, the trends toward cronyism and political interference in public administration meant newer breeds of politician or public servant were quickly absorbed into a “Me first, country second” approach to their roles, a trend which has yet to be arrested.

 

Expatriate personnel were in contracted, line positions, subject to normal lines of command, discipline, and public service ethics. The shift to off-line, advisory support during the 1980s, whilst a well-intentioned part of the localisation process, “was a step backwards” in the opinion of interviewees. Apart from being much more expensive, it has created a feeling of condescension between ‘advisers’ and their ‘counterparts’; reduced sustainability prospects by separating the work done by advisers from the ‘normal’ work of departments; created a dependency by Departmental Heads on using advisers to fix problems rather than training nationals to learn the job by doing it; destroyed the collegiate sense that previously existed (“we used to work and socialise together”); and eroded any sense of pride in achievements – counterparts do not have any sense of ownership of results, and advisers today “are not long term stayers”.


SOME PIVOTAL DECISIONS

 There were also certain key policy decisions, taken in good faith at the time, which eroded the checks and balances in PNG’s public administration system and opened the door to corruption. Interestingly, all those interviewed point to the same decisions and events as having been pivotal.

 

Control of sectoral budgets. By the early 1980s, certain line agencies (eg: education) were very well managed and obviously competent to control their own budgets. A sense of resentment over the tight central control and coordination of financial matters was developing in these agencies, a view with which the central controllers – the “Gang of Four” – had some sympathy. Plans were underway to give a greater degree of control to those agencies able to manage their sectoral budgets, and “sector funds” were being trialled. At this time, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport argued that the transport sector budget was his to control. He axed the National Public Expenditure Plan, and took over decision making on allocations within the infrastructure budget. Agriculture then followed. This was the first real move to political control of public sector management, and to using public funds as slush funds. It was also the first step towards bad public administration.

 

Control of senior public service positions. By the mid-late 1980s, it became fashionable to introduce private sector culture into public services. In PNG, this trend coincided with the growing desire of politicians to control public resources. The powers of the PSC were reduced dramatically, senior public service positions became contract rather than permanent appointments, and departmental head appointments were made by Cabinet, rather than the PSC. In theory, the intention was to strengthen the role of departmental heads. In practice, the result has been that Secretaries (and often other senior personnel) change whenever a new Minister is appointed. This has seriously undermined the professionalism of the public service, causing departmental heads to focus only on the short-term, and to play political games in their own attempts at survival. It has also enabled politicians to get too close to operational areas within the public service.

 

Decentralisation – the 1995 Organic Law. Interviewees consider PNG’s three-tier system of government is not functioning as intended. Although intended to clarify the system, the 1995 revisions to the Organic Law added to the problems. PNG is now “over-governed”, and the system itself is hampering effective service delivery. All layers – of government, public sector institutions, and decision-making – are disaggregated and unfocused. Provincial governments have been unable to meet the expectations of them, and local governments have not been empowered. The end result is that significant funds are tied up in administration rather than development, services are not being delivered, and the gap between government and people is widening, not closing. Further, priority setting differs at national and provincial levels, so priorities cannot be reflected in a unitary way.

 

Adding to these complexities, resource needs calculated for provincial and local level governments in 1998 were never honoured by the national government. According to interviewees, the major problem was that the funding formula under the Organic Law reflected political expediency rather than economic reality. Grants were calculated on the basis on population and land mass; provinces had not been paid the full grants since 1995 when the Organic law was passed.

 

Demand for government services increased and the public service machinery could not effectively deliver. Politicians, being concerned with survival, had to devise other delivery systems by taking greater control of the funding allocation to provinces. Thereafter, development grants were added to the funds of members of parliament, who now determine what funding goes where, and this may or may not match district priorities. In any case, interviewees argue that PNG’s systems cannot support this many layers and institutions. PNG is now “over-democratised” and its problems have become multi-faceted.

 

The pace of localisation removed the foundation that had underpinned effective public administration in PNG. Significant expertise was lost from critical positions and, over time, as less experienced people took over key positions, productivity declined, inefficiencies took root, and the demand for service delivery forced the public service to grow in size – more people were needed to do the same jobs that had previously been done by a few. Nobody looked at the affordability of rapid recruitment at the time. Five to ten years later, it became clear that the rate of growth of the public service had outstripped PNG’s economic capacity.

 

Embracing globalisation added to the pressures confronting PNG at about this time.  PNG had to adhere to international commitments on various global issues such as the environment, trade, commerce, and economic performance, which not only placed additional pressure on the Government and the public service to meet those obligations, but at times also diverted attention from core domestic problems.  


EARLY OPPORTUNITIES TO ARREST THE DECLINE?

One interviewee suggested it is wrong for critics to be too severe in their indictment of PNG’s performance. At the time (through the 1980s), nobody said “hold on, we are heading in the wrong direction”. Whilst there had been some clear examples of deliberate mismanagement or poor decision making, he felt much of the country’s current situation could be attributed to missed opportunities, unforseen disasters, and voluminous resource flows.

 

The Leadership Code II was an attempt to focus political leaders on sound management of the country. Prior to this, politicians had been required to declare any personal business interests; the new code required them to sell off those interests. It was disagreement over this new Code that led to the first major break in the Somare/Chan coalition in the early 1980s.

 

The degree of instability in tenure since the early 1990s (for both politicians and senior public servants) has made finding solutions to PNG’s problems more difficult, even where they were recognised early. Although leaders under the Leadership Code II must forfeit any business interests, the likelihood that they will last more than 18 months (if elected at all given the proliferation of parties) makes many potential leaders reluctant to leave the private sector. Likewise, the shift to politically-controlled, contract appointment of departmental heads from the late 1980s has seriously limited the capacity to arrest deterioration of public administration. Since then, Secretaries have reportedly served on average only 12-18 months before losing their positions. Since they must be the champions of change within the public service, and cultural/attitudinal change takes time, even the best of them have been able to achieve little. According to one interviewee, this degree of instability now means PNG will never attract good public servants back from the private sector, even though such mobility may be desirable.




THE ROLE OF DONORS

 According to interviewees, the demise of public administration in PNG was largely self-inflicted. On the justifiable assumption that the sovereign government did concern itself with development, donors supported government priorities, whether rightly or wrongly. In PNG however, one can see with hindsight that, whilst government concerned itself with development in social sectors to some extent, little attention was paid to managing economic growth. At the time Australian budget support ceased, despite the fact that it was phased out over several years, PNG was not adequately prepared to be able to finance the gap, and lost the flexibility to fund priority programs. Budget support had allowed PNG to adopt a sense of complacency about the affordability of public sector salaries and programs and, by the time it ceased, the problem was already too large.

 

PNG did not reprioritise development expenditures, continuing to spend as it always had, and introducing “band-aid solutions” whenever problems emerged. Strategic development planning was never considered as a critical vehicle to guide long-term development and, as a consequence, the main focus was on annual planning, because this provided the means for political expediency. Then, from 1998, in response to World Bank reluctance to approve a second structural adjustment loan to finance PNG’s budget shortfall unless certain conflicts of interest were first addressed, PNG instead sought to find commercial loans and tried to launch an international bond float. “Forced” to borrow from the Central Bank, PNG further increased its excessive debt burden.

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION IN PNG TODAY

 As one interviewee put it, the failure to arrest deterioration of public administration has been “a matter of momentum”. The public service today is characterised by “muted frustration”. Its independence and professionalism have been eroded. Politics has usurped and devalued the fundamental role of public administrators – providing good technical advice to Ministers. The blurring of roles between politics and bureaucracy has derailed national and sectoral policies, led to gross inefficiencies, and left a demoralised and insecure public service. People do not see it being in their interest to change the nature of PNG politics, and the bureaucracy feels powerless. As one interviewee put it, “being a departmental head in this country is a nightmare”.

 

Within departments, lines of authority and discipline have collapsed, due to frequent changes in leadership, lack of direction on priorities, and an increasing lack of accountability and transparency in the public administration system. As these systems have broken down, service delivery has been adversely affected, and qualities such as honesty, trust, dedication, and the spirit of working together industriously have disappeared. The ethics of public service are no longer upheld. Another consequence has been a breaking down of nationalistic commitment within the public service. Personnel tend to be consider their province first, and region second.


WHERE TO NOW?

 Although “the constitution needs a major overhaul” to address both political and policy dilemmas, most interviewees believe the failure to address these seriously to date is to some extent a resource problem rather than a lack of will. In their view, government interventions/initiatives introduced by the 2002 Somare Government and preceding Morauta Government are starting to have impact, but it is too early to see visible results as yet. The emphasis on fire-fighting means there are pockets of impact, but there is still no integrated focus to the reform efforts. The key for PNG lies in assuring the integrity of key institutions, maintaining consistency, and working to approved plans. Most of the legislation, policies and systems already in place are good. But they are only as good as the people who work the systems. PNG’s problems are more to do with implementation than with policy. At the same time, before more effective approaches can be put in place and implemented, decision-makers need to reach consensus on what they want to achieve. In essence, the decision to be made is whether they want what is best for the country in the long term or what is best for individuals in the short term. Following are the issues that interviewees feel are of highest priority for PNG looking forward.

 

Reform PNG’s political system to reduce the constant political changes. “PNG is a funny place and will always have coalition governments”. Nevertheless, some greater degree of stability could be achieved, for instance by reducing the frequency of allowable no-confidence motions in parliament and by supporting political parties to maintain some degree of coherence.

 

Re-establish clear and independent roles of politics and the public service. To a large extent, this simply involves abiding by existing legal and constitutional requirements. But inappropriate practices are now so deeply ingrained that the issue is far from simple. First and foremost, strong direction is needed from Executive Government that the role of politicians is as legislated. Thereafter, administrative bodies must enforce rules, procedures and discipline, requiring compliance and not allowing or tolerating shortcuts. Whilst at first glance this may sound somewhat rigid, the increased role clarity and administrative efficiency would be expected to help instil a more positive work ethic throughout the public administration system in PNG. For instance, if people were assured of being paid, they may see some point to turning up at work. If they knew promotions were truly merit-based, they may have an incentive to perform. There is no short-term solution, because much depends on changing peoples’ attitudes and, in PNG now, the “smorgasbord of cultural, work, and political values” makes it difficult to get back to a clear focus on service delivery. The solution lies in strong leadership. Leaders must not only give clear directions, but must drive the process to ensure action follows – and they must resource the administration appropriately to ensure it can.

 

In the first instance, PNG needs to “go back to the old PSC model”. Management of the entire public service should be housed with the PSC, including appointments, transfers, dismissals, selection and performance criteria, and discipline. Departmental heads should revert to being permanent appointments, ideally with no selections referred to Cabinet for approval. If this is unrealistic, then providing a transparent shortlist of three candidates to Cabinet may be adequate. Recent changes aimed at empowering the PSC are a good step, but further reform is needed before true independence can be re-established. For instance, the PSC and DPM should be combined as one, independent constitutional office, as in the past, so that all personnel management matters can be protected from political interference. Also, the tendency for political suspension of departmental heads needs to be addressed.

 

As part of its reform program, the government is undertaking a major public service reform program with the intention of refocusing the government on its core functions and re-establishing accountable, transparent governance systems and processes. The program is still fragile and, while this government has put its weight behind it, the test will be to back it with real sustained support. Donors can play an effective supporting role in re-establishing systems and processes.

 

Put communities first. Both government and donors need to pay more attention to ensuring their programs actually mesh with local community priorities and capacity. These will vary from one community to the next, and a one-size-fits-all approach leads to “big white elephants” with unforseen ongoing costs within communities. Funding should only be provided for priorities identified in local community development plans. Programs must be tailored to local capacity, and accountability requirements must appreciate local conditions. A requirement for three quotes from local contractors for a small community project on an isolated island, for example, “is sheer madness”.

 

Seriously address decentralisation (aspirations and current flaws) in the context of affordability and responsible public expenditure management. As one interviewee pointed out, lack of resources is not the issue. PNG has enough money; it is simply not spending in the right areas. The policy may be about decentralisation, but the reality is that more and more is centralised. “Waigani has ballooned.” Similarly, the mismatch between district priorities and the priorities of the members of parliament who control development funding needs to be addressed. The solution depends on political reform as much as on financial and administrative reforms. Between 1975 and 1995, various working groups looked at the technical and administrative issues associated with decentralisation; reports were debated; and a bipartisan committee of the National Parliament was formed. Yet today, with funding tight, PNG again finds itself at a crossroad – it cannot resource provincial and local governments properly.

 

Strengthen PNG’s accountability institutions (Attorney General, Auditor General, Ombudsman, Judiciary, etc) so that they can and do “investigate and charge leaders”. These institutions are well respected in the community, having by and large withstood political pressures over the years, but they need to be supported.

 

Address and resolve fiscal problems. According to one interviewee, this first requires examining the actual performance of political leaders, the administration, and other agencies of the State (where and why performance has deteriorated, and strategies for improving it), at all levels of government. This will determine how resources are being spent, identify the real cost of services, and indicate areas that could be cut. In other words, the question of affordability should be considered after performance has been addressed.

 

Strengthen central agencies and the Central Agencies Coordinating Committee (CACC). “National coordinating agencies have become defunct.” Some are highly politicised now; others simply won’t deal with each other, and do not feel compelled to. Political control of appointment and dismissal of senior public servants has devalued incentives related to effective public administration, instead rewarding individual political profile and competition amongst central agencies for political favour. “If you coordinate, your own effect is blunted; you can’t score points with politicians as easily or as quickly. Making the choice to share power is a part of the ethics of good management and leadership”. The CACC, established during Morauta’s term, was intended as a means of reactivating the old Budget Priorities Committee, which had assured the integrity and coordination of departmental proposals. Most interviewees remain optimistic about the CACC’s potential to coordinate (or force) a shift back to responsible public administration, but they all agree that this initiative is only half working at this point in time. The CACC at present must make a separate submission to Cabinet on departmental proposals, and it has too many sector interests represented, which influence and skew budget decisions. It is also under-resourced, with little time to “ponder big issues”. Other central agencies, such as Treasury/Finance, DPM, PSC and the Auditor General’s Office also need to be resourced adequately to allow them to monitor and strengthen public sector performance agreements, strategic plans, financial management, budget planning, and so forth. Weak coordinating agencies leave line agencies exposed to direct political interference.

 

Establish a clear working relationship with donors. Interviewees feel strongly that donors continue to have an important role to play in PNG’s development, but that the ball is in PNG’s court to give donors a clear mandate on where they can help. As they see it, “donors are not there to solve our problems. They are there to help us solve our problems. If we don’t have our house in order, donors become hesitant to support us.” There is “a culture of denial” amongst some in PNG politics. They do not believe there is a problem and, in any case, do not want foreigners involved at all. All those interviewed, however, feel it is critical for PNG to “take advice from anyone, treat donors as resources, and stop denying ourselves access to advice.” They argue PNG does not have the capacity or the resources to fix the system themselves, and must accept help.

 

Reinstate a structured and targeted public service training program. Until the mid-1980s, a coherent program of training for public servants was provided by the Administrative College (ADCOL), later the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). This coherence was lost over time, initially when IPA sought to reinvent itself as an academic institution and was opened up to offer training to the private as well as public sector (“its relevance fizzled”), and then when a user pays system was introduced and departments were given the freedom to source training from anywhere. Today, there is no institutionalised or enforced system for induction courses, middle management or senior executive training programs, or other administrative skills training requirements which must be completed prior to obtaining promotions. As a result, public servants are no longer fitted into an organisational culture from the outset, they have little or no exposure to public service ethics, and they learn in an ad hoc way as they go.

 

Efforts to revitalise the public service through training in the past have focused on the wrong things, such as scholarships and IPA infrastructure. Future support must target skills development at a working level, through on-the-job training and mentoring rather than expensive formal courses. The strategy of sending people to complete Masters degrees, for example, needs rethinking. There are many Masters degree-qualified public servants today, yet productivity, efficiency and management ability continue to decline. Even the best-qualified people cannot effect change in a system so broken. The focus now needs to be on developing strong leadership and management skills so that the system as a whole can be improved.


THE FUTURE FOCUS OF AID

Restructure donor support to focus on a few clear priorities. Australia in particular is at risk of trying to do too much, thus diluting the results it achieves.  When results are not tangible, claims of ‘boomerang aid’ can surface. According to interviewees, donors need to focus on building goodwill by delivering results. They encourage donor partners to maintain their focus on helping PNG improve governance, in particular rehabilitation of the public service, as this is fundamental to effective delivery of basic services. Interviewees argue that structural adjustment is necessary, but will only succeed if PNG itself controls the process, resources it, and manages any donor support. The volume of donor funding available to PNG in the past has meant people did not need to look within for solutions. Thus they have never had any imperative to prioritise effectively.

 

Donor assistance also needs to be restructured to focus on really rebuilding the capacity of the public service. At present, “There are pockets of brilliance but the engine is not humming.” Key precursors for achieving impact from capacity building support need to be reinstituted, notably:

 

▪ Clear definition of the roles of management; and

▪ Ensuring the whole public administration system is integrated.

 

Another commonly held view amongst interviewees is that donor programs should not be put in place on top of existing government programs. Initiatives such as the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) for example, need to integrate advisers within existing systems, both psychologically and in terms of their work programs. Other consultant support too, needs rethinking. In most cases, the areas of focus are correct, but implementation approaches are ineffective. More often than not, consultants leave nothing behind, either because they have been unable to encourage local commitment to following through, or because there is no consistency in the models, plans and approaches introduced. All interviewees describe advisers from earlier years being much more closely integrated and collegiate in their approach.


VIEWS ON PNG’S OUTLOOK

All those interviewed remain positive about PNG’s prospects for effective public administration over the long term. They believe that, if PNG starts now and really focuses on the key issues, it can achieve this over one generation. “Things are happening now that can set the foundation, but it needs constant shoulders to the wheel.” In spite of its problems, they identify a number of strengths that they believe give PNG a firm foundation on which to build:

 

▪ Strength of constitutional offices;

▪ Flexibility of governments of the day to amend the constitution when necessary;

▪ Rural-based nature of the population – which assures a basic standard of living (access to basic housing, food and other necessities);

▪ Resource base for economic growth;

▪ Traditional land system – which provides people with a certain level of security even if all else fails; and

▪ A new, increasing demand from communities for performance from government.

 

Interviewees all recognise that the community’s tolerance of government’s problems (to date) has been because it can sustain itself; but impatience with the failure of service delivery is growing.

 

As they see it, attitude is the crux of the issue. PNG needs to develop confidence and a positive attitude to building a nation. It must learn to appreciate its own huge potential, embrace its ability to harness that potential, build a sense of community, and recognise the need to do things for itself. People need to think as Papua New Guineans first and foremost, respecting all others regardless of tribal group.

 

Is the 100 Days – 25 Point Plan Practical and Achievable ?

By Francis Hualupmomi



It appears that the government has admitted that there has to be a macroeconomic discipline in rescuing the current economic situation. And it has put forward a 100-Days 25-Point Plan economic rescue package for the country based on the Alotau Accord II. But is this package realistic and achievable? Therefore, this article seeks to respond to this question.
The Current Economic Situation

Source: ADB 2017 Outlook https://www.adb.org/countries/papua-new-guinea/economy



According to the Asian Development Bank Economic Outlook (2017), the PNG economy has slowed down to 2.0 percent compared to the last four years (see the figure above). But it is predicted to pick up again at 2.5 percent by 2017 driven by mining and agriculture. The slowdown in the economy has been attributed to low commodity prices. This has increased inflation and unemployment, decreased foreign reserves, and affected the national budget.

Macroeconomic Landscape
It appears that the economic approach undertaken by the government over the last four has been one of an Expansionary. At the fiscal policy level, it has been driving the economy with high spending and borrowing at the backdrop of a decade long economic growth. The rationale is simple – utilise the surplus to expand the economy through infrastructure development which will, in turn, stimulate the economy. As a result of this approach, the economy has experienced an infrastructure boom in the economy as has been so far.
At the monetary level, it has been responding to the fiscal policy to ensure that the economy remains stabilised. It is important to note that in a country like PNG, monetary policy approach responds to fiscal policy to ensure stability. In so doing, it controls exchange rate and interest rates which tend to influence inflationary (inflation) behaviour.
Unfortunately, this macroeconomic policy has been affected by an unfavourable condition. There are two related factors, apart from others, that affect this behaviour. First, is that our commodities have been hit hard by low prices in the global market, which we have no control over. As a result of this price fluctuation, the revenue sources have been affected to sustain the fiscal capacity (budget). Because PNG is a resource-dependent economy that relies heavily on mineral and petroleum sectors, a price fluctuation in the global market will directly affect the economy in terms of growth and development. That is one of the reasons why the budget has been cut in certain social and economic sectors.
The second factor is that while the expansionary approach has been good it has not been managed at a sustainable level. What it means is that as the commodity prices slowly began to pick up again there has been a steady increase in the spending and borrowing. The reason is that there is an expectation that price will pick up again as in normal business cycle and sustain the expansionary approach. The downside of it is that it is quite difficult to predict the price fluctuation due to the complex interaction of market forces. As a result of this fiscal behaviour, the budget spending and borrowing has increased the deficit. However, the budget deficit can be improved and incrementally restored to normalcy through a sustainable macroeconomic policy package. Therefore, the next part will discuss this.

The Viability of the New Macroeconomic Rescue Package
The new Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Hon Charles Able, has realised the downside of the expansionary macroeconomic approach. And he has proposed a 100-Days economic package to rescue the economy from further sinking. In essence, this is a 25-Point Plan which has been widely consulted with the private sector and led by some of the senior ministers and economic advisors. While this package may seem unrealistic to some critical commentators, in my view, it is a workable and achievable one.
The 100-Days 25-Point Plan intervention is based on these key strategic economic priority areas:


• Maintain Fiscal Discipline and Boost Foreign Exchange; Growing Our Revenues;
• Strengthening Our Economic Base;
• Improving Our Governance Record, and;
• Acting Strategically
.
First, maintaining fiscal discipline and boost foreign through the growing of revenues. Given the issue of the fiscal problem, practically maintaining a fiscal discipline in a prudent manner will help boost the foreign exchange in many ways. That means controlling and spending behaviour as compared to previous years. And this must be balanced with growing revenues through multiple sources. Incoming revenues must be prudently managed in a sustainable way. What is collected should be spent on strategic priority areas that can bring in higher returns.
In addition, the tax cut will be a balanced strategy. This is because no new taxes will be imposed on ordinary people despite declining revenues. However, this can be recovered through those who avoid or and evade tax. The country has been missing out on the billion dollar extractive industries through tax. For instance, a lot of companies in the mining, petroleum and logging industries have been avoiding or exempted from tax. As result of this, billions of Kina have been going out of the country. These lost revenues could be recovered and help support the budget.
Secondly, strengthening of the economic base is an innovative plan to invest in economic areas that have been ignored. This implies that the economic base must be diversified to boost the economy by way of revenues sources and invested in a lot of baskets to cushion economic surprises. Apparently, the focus on agriculture is pragmatic going forward. It has been a neglected billion dollar sector. Therefore, it is hoped that this will incrementally support and sustain the budget. 
Moreover, while the plan sounds practical, the governance aspect of it is fundamentally critical. The government has been widely criticised by the public for governance issues. And this approach is a noble plan to improve its credibility and international standing. In so doing, it will help its approach in prudently governing and managing the economy. Because investor confidence attracts investment and helps build the economy. Political governance is the strategic driver of economic growth and development at this time and in the long run.
Finally, these plans must be pursued in a strategic way. Every decision requires calculated available options to maximise optimal outcome. The government has chosen the best strategy therefore, it is Directionally Correct.



In conclusion, the economy has been affected due to the changing economic conditions and governing approach. And this has been evident in the current economic situation the country is facing. But this can be arrested through a sustainable macroeconomic approach. Therefore, the 100-days 25-point plan package is a practical one and needs to be incrementally governed and managed in a strategic way.

Francis Hualupmomi is a PhD Student in Public Policy in the School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington. He is a Political Scientist in the area of political economy of energy security, geopolitics of resources, international security, and strategic policy. Views expressed here are his own. francishualupmomi270@gmail.com 

Election of PNG Prime Minister

By: PNG Political Commentary FB Page

There has been a lot of confusion and also a lack of understanding in regards to the election of the PNG Prime Minister. Therefore I’m here to give an explanation on the election of the Prime Minister to clear the polluted air. And that’s right the Prime Minister is elected! Not appointed! That’s one thing you all have to understand. Who elects the Prime Minister? All 111 members of Parliament take part in the election of the Prime Minister.

Now let’s get down to basics. First of all it is the law that regulates or outlines the Prime Minister’s election process. The PNG Constitution, Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties (OLIPP), and the Parliamentary Standing Orders (PSO) are important laws to take note of.

 

Invitation to Form Government

• It all starts with an “Invitation to Form Government” (Section 63(1) OLIPP). Under this particular provision the Electoral Commission, on the date of the return of the writs, is mandatorily obliged to advise the Head of Stead (Governor General) of the political party which has endorsed the greatest number of candidates declared elected.

• After receiving the advice from Electoral Commission, the Governor General then, in accordance with the advice of the Electoral Commission, invites that particular political party to form government.

• Note that the Governor General cannot act on his own accord but only on the advice of the Electoral Commission. Also the Governor General is not at this point appointing a political party to form government but rather inviting it to form Government. Like for instance, someone sends you an invitation to go to a birthday Party. If you receive the invitation it doesn’t mean you’re already at the party, you may go or you may not go.

At this time according to the latest reports, it is evident that People’s National Congress Party (PNC) has the greatest numbers of candidates that have been duly declared as elected in 2017. Therefore there’s no doubt that PNC would be invited by the Governor General to form Government.

parliament

Election of Prime Minister under PSO section 7

This is the stage where things become technical but I’ll try to be as layman as possible.

• The Prime Minister is elected by members of Parliament normally during Parliament’s second meeting. The first Parliament meeting is convened after the due date of the return of the writs and is usually for swearing in of members, the election of the Speaker, and other official business (s142(3) PNG Constitution, see also case of Haiveta v Wingti & others [1994] PNGLR 197) .

• By virtue of section 63(4) of the OLIPP and section 7 of the PSO, the political party that has received the invitation to form government from the Governor General has the privilege of nominating a member of parliament to become Prime Minister. Parliament would then vote after the nomination and the nominated candidate would have to muster a simple majority in order to be elected and declared Prime Minister.

• If the candidate nominated by the invited political party does not receive a simple majority than Parliament would have to resort to section 7A of the PSO for the election of a Prime Minister.

• Take note that the procedure under section 7A of the PSO is only followed if the candidate nominated by the invited political party fails to secure a simple majority of votes to become the elected and declared Prime Minister.

• Simple majority should be around 50% of the total members of parliament. So 50% x 111= 55.5 round it up you get 56.

Election of Prime Minister under Section 7A PSO

• The Speaker of Parliament calls for nominations.

• At this stage the floor is open to all members of Parliament to make nominations.

• Under this process the privilege of nominating a candidate
for the Prime Minister’s seat is not only given to the party invited to form government but also other political parties.

• Members of Parliament can nominate more than one candidate for the Prime Minister’s seat under this process.

• A preferred nominated candidate for Prime Minister does not need to reach a simple majority of votes from members of parliament. The preferred nominated candidate only needs to receive a majority of votes in order for him to be declared as the duly elected Prime Minister (PSO section 7A(11) ).

If PNC and its coalition partners increases to 56 or more, most likely we’ll see PNC’s Party Leader retain his seat as Prime Minister and the formation of a PNC coalition government. On the other hand if the Eastern Alliance Camp increases we might see a change of government. Remember this is Papua New Guinea, so expect the unexpected…

Immediate Priorities to Prepare for 2017 Elections 

By: Solomon Kantha 
Recommended to Electoral Commissioner in 2015

IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES TO PREPARE FOR 2017 ELECTIONS 

 

a) Improvement of Electoral Roll 
The electoral roll will be the key priority and will obviously require a proper, thorough and effective updating. The Electoral Commission will need to work closely with political parties, candidates, elected leaders, civil society and voters to get the buy-in to ensure a clean and updated electoral roll. It has to do more than just administering elections. Roll management needs to be configured so that any re-enrolment, updating and verification is conducted with centralized oversight, auditing and controls. More importantly, a dedicated roll management unit within the Electoral Commission headquarters must be set up and supported by the government as a specific program. There would also need to be transparent recruitment and performance management and regular auditing of province, district, and ward-based level staff.

 

Reasonably low-cost technology can compile (in the field) a digital Voters’ Roll that includes both photograph and fingerprints. Consideration will be given to requesting this technology and to trialling it in priority areas.  

 

b) Introduction of Voter Identification Card 
A voter ID card must be implemented for the 2017 elections and is the single most important device that can transform the election in the polling process by eliminating double/multiple voting, voting using ghost names, under-aged voting, impersonation and other aspects of electoral fraud. A basic voter ID card can be introduced with a photograph and finger print basic security feature and issued to every eligible registered voter. I have observed the use of a voter ID card in elections in other countries in the region and it has tremendously facilitated a successful election. The voter ID will have the basic particulars of a person such as an ID number, full name, sex, date of birth, province, district, electorate/constituency, and village. The voter will therefore vote in the electorate that appears on his/her voter ID. Apart from its use once every five years, the ID card can also serve the purpose of other identification for ordinary citizens to access banking, travel, pension, business and other services. The voter ID card will be reissued only if the person changes electorate or changes name in the case of a married female voter.  

 

A Voter ID Unit will be established to work on the voter ID card system and kick start the process for 2017 elections. A bid process can be advertised with the contract awarded to a consultant company to set up the IT infrastructure for the Electoral Commission to administer, register and process all voter ID cards. The process of the production of voter ID cards will be owned by the Electoral Commission. Once an eligible voter is registered the particulars of the individual will be automatically transmitted to the central system in the headquarters to process the person’s voter ID card.  

 

c) Improvement of Polling Process 
The polling process can be improved with the use of a voter ID card. An eligible voter will be required to produce their voter ID card to a polling official before casting their vote. In the event that a person presents their voter ID card but their name is not on the electoral roll, the person can still vote given the validity, authenticity and authority of the voter ID card. If the person for some reason does not have a voter ID card but their name is on the roll, the person can still vote provided that the person provides a valid and genuine form of identification such as a driver’s license or PNG passport. If the person’s does not have a voter ID card and their name is not on the roll, the person cannot vote. The use of the voter ID card against the roll will help to significantly reduce the number of eligible voters not voting if their names for some reason are not on the common roll as seen in the recent election.  

 

The process by which the indelible ink is used to mark the finger of a person after voting will also be changed. A person will have to dip their finger at least half-way into the ink instead of just a line on the finger tip. An appropriate ink for that purpose will be used and can last up to a month on the finger. This process will eliminate the practice of removing the indelible ink by using acidic fruits, bleach or other chemicals. 

 

d) Improvement of Counting Process 
Given the recent experience with the significant mistrust in the counting processes in the last election that led to a lot of delays, a regional/provincial rotational system of counting officials will be developed whereby counting officials from one region (e.g. New Guinea Islands) will be moved to another region (e.g. Momase region) to take charge of counting. All counting will be undertaken by officials not originally from the province so that the integrity of the process is respected by all parties/candidates of the particular electorate which the counting is taking place. A volunteer registration system can also be developed to recruit individuals in the provinces to be involved in the rotational system of the counting process, provided that these individuals have a neutral standing in the community. These are options that can be considered to improve and instill trust in the counting process.  

 

e) Promoting Minority Rights and Rights of Vulnerable Groups 
An awareness raising campaign would be conducted to promote the political rights of minority groups (women, people living with HIV/AIDS and disables), vulnerable communities (those affected by climate change, natural disaster or ethnic conflicts) including PNG citizens living/working abroad to participate effectively in the elections. The rights of minority and vulnerable groups will be reflected in legislation and/or policy. For the elections to be a truly democratic process, these groups of citizens need to be empowered to participate in the election process. To promote the rights of these groups a Goodwill Envoy who may be a popular international, regional or local musician/band or artist can be selected and sponsored for various awareness events leading up to the elections. 

 

 

MID TO LONG-TERM PRIORITIES 

 

f) Legislative Review 
The Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections is outdated and needs a thorough review to embrace the changes in society, evolving political culture and the needs and issues of this present time. The review will allow the Electoral Commission to effectively administer elections. A legislative review should consider issues such as: (a) political rights of citizens abroad, and minority and vulnerable groups in society; (b) introduction of a biometric and/or basic voter ID Card system; (c) the procedures of postal voting to allow citizens outside of country and those absent during election period from their electorate; (d) clearly defined roles of Returning officers, Assistant Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and Scrutineers; (e) a swift and inexpensive process of decision-making by Courts on election disputes and petitions; (f) enhancing powers of the Electoral Commission and; (g) setting reasonable limits to campaign expenditure. These are few of the major issues but there is a critical need to review the entire legislation so that it reflects the changes in the social, economic and political dynamics of the PNG. The review may also embrace some of the points discussed below in this proposal. 

 

g) Counting and Declaration of Election Results 
This process is proposed to be reflected in the legislative review where after the counting of all ballot boxes the provisional election results will be immediately provided by the Returning Officer to all candidates and political parties in an electorate. The candidates/parties will be given 72 hours to make a claim or appeal against the provisional results. If there are any claims/appeal against the winning candidate or provisional results, a special court much like the Court of Disputed Returns in each province will convene immediately to make a final decision within 7 days subject to evidence provided. After the Court’s decision the final results of the election will be officially tabulated and announced. This process will take not more than a week and the court’s decision is final.  

 

This process will significantly reduce the waste of resources, time, money and effort incurred by the State, aggrieved and declared candidates through the Court of Disputed Returns and allow the winning candidates to assume their mandates and immediately move on with the responsibilities in their electorate, province and at the national level.   

 

h) Out of Country and Postal Voting 
The Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections allow for the use of postal voting by PNG citizens living/working abroad however this process has never been implemented since 1964. Postal voting for citizens living abroad will be piloted in at least two countries (Australia and New Zealand) where there are a significant number of PNG citizens residing. Particular Diplomatic Missions of the country abroad can also be identified as regional postal voting locations (e.g. Brussels in Europe, Singapore in Asia, Washington DC in Americas and Canberra in the Pacific) whereby votes of citizens in that region can be sent to these Missions to forward on to the Electoral Commission. The Organic Law on Elections will be reviewed to have specific provisions on the eligibility of citizens abroad, the required proof of citizenship and the electorate by which they will vote for to allow citizens abroad to exercise their democratic and political rights. Electoral Commission will be working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and PNG Immigration & Citizenship Service Authority to implement this initiative.  

 

Postal voting will be conducted and postal ballots received by the Electoral Commission a week prior to the nation-wide polling schedules. An electoral officer will be seconded to PNG consular offices overseas in the period of postal voting and will be responsible for administering the process. The process of postal voting will also be implemented for those citizens that may be traveling during the election period, those that will be engaged in providing security (e.g. Police and Defence personnel) during elections and those that are sick, disabled or unable to vote in person for reasons beyond their control.    

 

i) Defining the role of election officials 
The Returning Officers, Assistant Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and Scrutineers play a very important role particularly in the counting process and their roles need to be clearly defined in legislation if not in policy. Experience in previous elections as well as the last election has shown that the counting process can be easily hijacked if the roles of these officers and their powers are not clearly defined and demarcated. While scrutineers in particular play a vital role in ensuring that ballot papers are clearly allocated and votes counted they should never overpower the Returning Officers and disrupt continuity of counting process especially in light of timeframes that are set for the declaration of results and return of writs. Nevertheless, clear processes and procedures must be in place for the grievances of scrutineers to be effectively taken into consideration. The legislation and/or policy would be revised to improve a clear coordination and understanding of roles and responsibilities between these officials.  

 

j) Enhancing the enforcement powers of the Electoral Commission 
The legislative review will also take in account and enhance the powers of the Electoral Commissioner to suspend elections or polling and counting processes if there is a critical security risk and widespread violence that affects or prevents citizens from freely, fairly and safely participating in the election process. The people must learn to respect democratic election processes and until they respect that process they will not have a representative in Parliament. The Electoral Commissioner must have the powers to put on hold the election process in an electorate or province indefinitely in the case of widespread violence and electoral fraud until the people come to a compromise to guarantee a free, fair and safe election.  

 

In the elections conducted over the years the Electoral Commission has never taken a strong stance in prosecuting cases of electoral fraud and abuse. Candidates can sign up to the rules of “fair play” and to provide speedy and effective processes for dealing with breaches of electoral laws. Accepting the need for independent scrutiny by the Courts, the Electoral Commission should be able to act as Plaintiff, not just as Defendant, in enforcing electoral law. Consideration will be given to establishing a special “Election Tribunal” with election and legal expertise to consider breaches of the electoral laws during elections. If the Electoral Commission had reliable evidence of a person breaching the campaign laws (for example, bribery) it should apply to remove the Candidate from that election. If the vote had already taken place, the first preference would be removed just as if that candidate had been eliminated, and other preferences re-allocated. The new message needs to be: breaching electoral rules is not to your advantage. The old message effectively was: anything that improved the chances of winning was acceptable. 

  

k) Limits on campaign expenditure 
To prevent domination by only the wealthiest in elections, many countries have reasonably effective limits to campaign expenditure. Without clear rules spelling out acceptable expenditure and banning “traditional gifts”, such limits would be completely unviable in PNG. All politicians and indeed their communities should share an interest in setting effective limits on campaign expenditure. I accept, however, that enforcement is a major problem. But legislation can empower the Electoral Commission to establish such limits by Regulation, when it deems that reasonable enforcement possibilities exist. 

 

l) Candidates to declare assets 
It makes little sense to clean up elections without linkage to corresponding sanctions in public office to stop the cycle of corruption. Obviously there are existing processes in place in this regard, but consideration could be given to requiring all Candidates (not just elected MPs) to submit declarations of assets to the Ombudsman as part of the nomination process, and to provisions which would mean that any false declaration rendered the person ineligible to stand for a defined period. The purpose of the recommendation is firstly educative (in reminding candidates that they embark on a process where their overall integrity is on the line) and secondly to lay the basis for possible later investigation if relevant. Playing by the rules should not be just one option in a game of winning at all costs – it should be a condition for being a candidate or holder of public office. 

 

m) Abolishing by-elections 
The legislation will be reviewed to as much as possible allow the abolishment of by-elections. Consideration will be given to abolishing by-elections under certain conditions. Under First Past the Post (FPP), “winning” candidates routinely received less than 10% of the overall vote. With three votes under LPV, there is solid evidence that a far wider democratic mandate would have been won by even losing candidates than was often secured under FPP. It would, in my view, be perfectly legitimate to consider requiring the Electoral Commission to complete the count in a manner that would allow the reallocation of votes in the event that a person lost his or her seat. Careful attention to detail would be necessary, including possibly requiring a by-election in the event of the death of an MP or under extraordinary circumstances the voluntary resignation of an MP. Other factors would include situations where a person was removed because of, say, mass multiple voting that threatened the integrity of the ballot, that person’s entire vote would be excluded, including all three preferences (because of the fraud). But in principle, it should be possible to allow the reallocation of votes of a person who lost her or his seat, to establish a successor with the next highest mandate. This alone, would save millions of Kina and allow the Electoral Commission to concentrate on the Roll between elections.

New Fiber will drop Internet Costs

By: Jonny Andrews
Papua New Guinea felt the pinch of congestion when Telikom Fiber in Madang went down again for the 2nd time in just many months on Saturday.
The PPC-1 link from Madang to Guam has 10Gbps capacity however, that link has been impossible to get to from Port Moresby.
From Tiare gateway, you would be routed on a microwave link to Mt Hagen, from Mt Hagen you will then go down to Lae and from Lae to Madang. That HCP Microwave link in itself has shown signs of being unreliable and that put furthur stress on existing Fiber link APNG2.
Since the break in PPC-1 Fiber in Madang, all international traffic are routed to APNG2. This has caused congestion and slow internet everywhere on Telikom Network.
Just before the break, DataCO and Telikom announced a new working relationship. This relationship is being investigated by ICCC.
One wonders why DataCO have for so long shied away from putting in a New Fiber Optic between Port Moresby and Australia. This would have solved the bottle-neck issue for Papua New Guinea and will significantly drop internet costs for users.
Acquiring of the New Fiber Optic Cable is no longer a must…it is now a NEED and all efforts must be made to make this possible.
PNGDataCo
———————————————————————
New Fiber Optic Cables pursued for PNG
 
Post-Courier – Thursday, June 8, 2017
BY MELISHA YAFOI
 
PNG Data Co is now firming up on one of its two options to connect PNG to the world using a new submarine cable to be built.
 
Managing director Paul Komboi said that the government has now reviewed previously preferred options including ICN-2 and have now tasked DataCo to provide two options that will be able to connect PNG from Port Moresby to Australia.
 
Mr Komboi said they are now pursuing a new cable option from Port Moresby down to Sydney, Australia.
 
“We currently do have an optical fibre submarine connection called the “APNG-2” submarine cable from Port Moresby to Sydney, but it’s very limited in capacity, expensive and very unreliable so that’s the problem and we need to fix that problem.”
 
“Our APNG-2 Submarine cable down to Sydney will reach its end of life very soon I think another two years or so is left for its operation and service. We need to replace this APNG-2 submarine cable before the cable stops operating. I think basically, it’s a requirement for PNG to have a new optical fibre submarine cable with modernized and futuristic technology and capability given the dynamic nature of the ICT sector and industry.
 
“It’s a necessity now for the country to have a cable connecting us to the the worldwide information network to allow for accessibility to information, markets and knowledge. Reliable, a lot of capacity; that is what we need,” he said.
 
By building this new optical fibre submarine cable, we will introduce modernized communication technology, which will enable us to lower the pricing of data services, provide super high capacity and speed, as well as proven reliability and better service quality to meet the country’s current and future demand.”
 
He added that it is an important infrastructure like electicity and water, and the government’s plans and decision to invest in this high-capital modernized infrastructure is not being ambitious but rather necessary”.
 
“It is a necessity for the government to invest in such infrastructure and so, all we need to do now is manage them effectively and efficiently for the benefit of our people and the whole latest restructure e is about better managing those high-cpatial modernized infrastructure assets of the state and people..
 
“We have firmed up on one of our options. We are going into details discussions, negotiations and plans now such as the arrangements for who will be the actual vendor to supply and install the cable and also firming up on pre-sales of the capacity on who will be using the new fibre optic submarine cable. We are expecting by mid-June to end of June to be able to make some joint announcements with our partners to be able to launch this project officially,” he said.
 
Mr Komboi affirms that there’s also been positive response from Australia to assist them with the lending arrangements, adding that the appetite to have a new optical fibre submarine cable between Port Moresby and Sydney is there but they are looking at who they should partner with and under what structure and terms.
 
“There are some things we are still discussing and negotiating at the moment at the background, and we are not yet at the liberty to share unless every party has agreed to the terms and conditions.
 
We are yet to give a name to this new project and will announce it once all the requirements are met and parties are in principle satisfied,” he said.
 

Moody’s downgrades Papua New Guinea’s rating to B2 with stable outlook

Global Credit Research – 25 Apr 2016

Singapore, April 25, 2016 — Moody’s Investors Service has today downgraded the Government of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) foreign currency and local currency issuer ratings to B2 from B1. The outlook on these ratings is stable. This concludes the review for downgrade initiated on 25 February 2016.

The key drivers of the downgrade are:

• Strains on foreign currency reserve adequacy due to heightened balance of payments pressures that will continue over the next two years; and

• The persistence of unfavorable domestic funding conditions for the government that have increased refinancing risks and eroded debt affordability.

The stable outlook is based on Moody’s view that PNG’s medium-term economic growth prospects remain robust, although lower commodity prices and the consequent fiscal and economic adjustment will weigh on growth outcomes in 2016 and 2017. In addition, a reduction in fiscal deficits has helped to slow the rise in government debt, which remains low among similarly-rated countries.

While the review was prompted in part by the impact of structurally weaker prices of oil and related commodities on PNG’s economy and fiscal accounts, we have determined that the continuation of the pressures on government and external liquidity first flagged when we assigned a negative outlook in 2015 were more relevant.

 

RATINGS RATIONALE

DOWNGRADE TO B2

First driver: Continued deterioration in foreign currency reserve adequacy

PNG’s gross foreign currency reserves have fallen sharply to $1.69 billion at end-2015, down from a peak of $4.26 billion at end-2011, reflecting the continuation of the balance of payments pressures that prompted our assignment of a negative outlook on PNG’s rating last year. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) production drove the large rise in exports and the restoration of the current account surplus since 2014. However, this has failed to stem the deterioration in PNG’s external payments position as cross-border debt servicing and other demands for foreign currency as represented by the large financial account outflows have overwhelmed the supply of hard currency available to the central bank, the Bank of Papua New Guinea (BankPNG).

BankPNG has intervened to stem a disorderly adjustment of the exchange rate, and placed the costs of this intervention at $828.5 million in 2015 alone. It also introduced exchange controls last year that effectively rationed foreign currency.

Although production at the country’s largest gold and copper mine resumed in March 2016, associated export receipts will only mitigate, not eliminate, the ongoing balance of payments pressures. Reserve adequacy has weakened accordingly, with our estimate of short-term external debt repayments rising to over 140% of the stock of foreign currency reserves as compared to 83.7% in 2014. Moreover, the challenging environment for external liquidity has fed back to the real economy through weaker sentiment, which is already suffering from the decline in global prices for PNG’s commodity exports.

Second driver: Pressures on the government’s liquidity position due to unfavorable funding conditions

Declining fiscal revenue and constrained domestic financing conditions have weakened the government’s liquidity position. Although commencement of LNG production supported economic activity in 2015, it has not benefited revenue to the same degree, because of lower LNG prices which track oil price trends with a lag of a few months. We estimate revenue as a share of GDP fell to 17.1% in 2015, the lowest level in at least a decade, and project a further decline in this ratio this year.

Wide deficits in recent years have led to higher interest rates for government securities, as domestic investors have lowered their exposure to sovereign risk by either shortening duration or limiting their holdings of government debt. Refinancing risks have thus risen as the proportion of domestic market debt comprised of short-term obligations has increased, and debt affordability has deteriorated rapidly on account of the higher interest rates demanded in primary auctions. Short-term debt now accounts for 48.1% of total domestic market debt as of end-2015, while interest payments as a share of revenue—our preferred measure of debt affordability—has nearly doubled to 9.8% in 2015 from 5.3% in 2013.

Central bank absorption has offset somewhat the decreased local appetite for government bonds—BankPNG held 21.0% of domestic market debt as of September 2015, up from 7.1% two years earlier. Nevertheless, poor funding conditions have led the government to curtail spending, further weighing on economic growth.

 

STABLE OUTLOOK

The stable outlook balances the weak near term growth outlook against more robust economic prospects over the longer-term. In particular, the successful implementation of the PNG LNG Project has demonstrated operational efficiencies, profitability, and a relatively low cost structure, which enhance PNG’s competitive advantage in extractive industries, and bolster the prospects of similarly large projects, even against the backdrop of structurally lower commodity prices. Such projects include a potential expansion of the preexisting PNG LNG Project, an entirely new development called the Papua LNG Project, and the Wafi-Golpu gold mine. While we do not expect material progress on the implementation of these projects until late 2017, the resulting upturn and stabilization in growth will, in our view, alleviate external and fiscal pressures from escalating. In the interim, however, Moody’s expects the government’s fiscal consolidation efforts to maintain low government debt levels compared to similarly rated peers, while funding conditions and external liquidity will remain tight. An upturn and stabilization in growth and exports will, in our view, keep external and fiscal pressures from escalating. In addition, Moody’s expects the government’s fiscal consolidation efforts to keep government debt levels low as compared to similarly rated peers.

 

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP

Moody’s would consider upgrading the rating if increased non-debt creating external inflows lead to a material build-up in foreign currency reserves and improve reserve adequacy. A sustained improvement in the government’s fiscal and liquidity position accompanied by the restoration of the trend in debt consolidation would also be credit positive. Over the longer term, enhancements to potential growth and government revenue through the development of large projects, such as potentially significant additions to LNG and gold production, would also lead to upward pressure on the rating.

 

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING DOWN

Triggers for a further negative rating action include: (1) a reemergence of wide fiscal deficits that lead to a rapid rise in government debt; (2) a worsening of growth prospects that could ultimately weigh on fiscal and debt sustainability; (3) a further decline in foreign currency reserves.

 

COUNTRY CEILINGS

Moody’s has lowered Papua New Guinea’s long-term foreign currency (FC) bond ceiling to B1 from Ba3 as well as its long-term FC deposit ceiling to B3 from B2. PNG’s short-term FC bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged at “Not Prime.” These ceilings act as a cap on the ratings that can be assigned to the FC obligations of other entities domiciled in the country.

  • PNG’s local currency bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged at Ba2.
  • GDP per capita (PPP basis, US$): 2,470 (2014 Actual) (also known as Per Capita Income)
  • Real GDP growth (% change): 9.9% (2015 Actual) (also known as GDP Growth)
  • Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): 6.4% (2015 Actual)
  • Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -3.9% (2015 Actual) (also known as Fiscal Balance)
  • Current Account Balance/GDP: 20.9% (2015 Estimate) (also known as External Balance)
  • External debt/GDP: 69.2% (2015 Estimate)
  • Level of economic development: Low level of economic resilience

Default history: No default events (on bonds or loans) have been recorded since 1983.

On 20 April 2016, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating of the Papua New Guinea, Government of. The main points raised during the discussion were: The issuer’s economic fundamentals, including its economic strength, have not materially changed. The issuer’s fiscal or financial strength, including its debt profile, has not materially changed. The issuer has become increasingly susceptible to event risks. An analysis of this issuer, relative to its peers, indicates that a repositioning of its rating would be appropriate. Government and external liquidity risk have increased. Other views raised included: The issuer’s institutional strength/ framework, have not materially changed.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereign Bond Ratings published in December 2015. Please see the Ratings Methodologies page on http://www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

The weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used in this credit rating action, if applicable.

 

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody’s rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider’s credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on http://www.moodys.com.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Please see http://www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody’s legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on http://www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

 

Christian de Guzman
VP – Senior Credit Officer
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody’s Investors Service Singapore Pte. Ltd.
50 Raffles Place #23-06
Singapore Land Tower
Singapore 48623
Singapore
JOURNALISTS: (852) 3758 -1350
SUBSCRIBERS: (852) 3551-3077

Less Money, Less Vote Buying

By: Political Observer

Reports received from 2017 NGE candidates across the country is that they are running out of money for their campaign. It seems most are wishing and hoping that June 24th arrived so ends the campaigning.

We still have 5 weeks to go and most Political Parties and Candidates have run dry.

Kerengu Kua stated to ABC that this has several implications for PNG democracy.

However, the alternative viewpoints also is that, this will see a test of candidates who heavy rely on “Vote Buying” to change their strategy and start using “development policies” to win votes.

Most candidates dont have a practical Political Platform and the lack of money in spending will put “Spot lights” on alternatives which they can offer rather than “vote buying” and big ceremonies.

Strong Political Platforms will be the Big Winner this election..


Papua New Guinea’s cash crunch saps colour from election campaigns

 

Tough economic times are affecting Papua New Guinea’s normally colourful election campaign.

Candidates and parties are crying poor, and that has meant the normally feverish campaign is more subdued than expected.

The leader of the PNG National Party, Kerenga Kua, said that has implications for PNG’s democracy.

Kua
It’s election season in Papua New Guinea, which means it’s time for colourful campaigns, rallies and outlandish promises by candidates.
“There is less colour, less movement, and that’s not good, because you need to have some level of activity for educational purposes,” he said.

“The messages from candidates need to go out for the people. To do that, they need money and they don’t have money.”
Voters usually expect campaigns to be a period of uncharacteristic generosity from their incumbent politicians and intending candidates.

In the past, many have received inducements to support particular candidates, such as money, food or alcohol.

“They think the candidates will give them money, they will take the money as something they always wanted and they use the money and they cast their votes,” she said.
“They’re not thinking about the future of how they will enjoy the benefits of the government doing some good things for them, because they need money now.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-22/pngs-cash-crunch-saps-colour-from-election-campaigns/8544274?pfmredir=sm

 

 

DEVELOPMENT IS ACCORDED TO POPULATION SIZE – O’NEILL

9th May 2017

Mr O’Neill said when his government came into office in 2012, one of his first meetings was with Governor Powes Parkop who put forward many of NCD’s expansion plans that were never implemented by the previous government.

Mr O’Neill said the previous government had so many expansion plans for city roads including basic services for its city residents, which never eventuated into tangible results.

However, everything changed due to the hosting of the SP Games in 2015, which became a game changer.

STH1
O’Neill cuts the ribbon to Officially Open the Sir Ruben Taureka Highway

Mr O’Neill PM described the project at the time to be three years behind schedule that had ailing infrastructure and could not even host an international event in the country. He said his government took a bold step and made a decision that was against all advice in cancelling the event.

He said it was an opportunity for the national government to deliver the infrastructure for a growing city like Port Moresby, which needed world-class facilities which overtime became a reality.

“Today you have stadiums you can be proud of that is comparable to stadiums anywhere in the world. You simply forget when you go and watch a rugby league match at PRL and forget where we came from. And you take it for granted that these some of the infrastructure weren’t even there a few years back. You forgot the hard decisions and hard ships we had to take in order for everyone to enjoy the facilities. Even our roads now are built to world class standards,” he said.

Mr O’Neill said people were complaining about the government spending too much money in Port Moresby and reminded everyone it was the government’s prerogative to plan and spend money that will bring much needed services to people, which was based on the size of the population in any given location.

“There is no other formula when you have a population like one million people living in Port Moresby city, offcourse you need to upgrade its infrastructure. I want to build a four – lane road in Pangia District but we only have 120,000 population there, so it does not make economic sense to build a four-lane highway there,” he said.

The Prime Minister said developments throughout the country concentrated on areas with the largest populations such as Lae, Mt Hagen and Kokopo.

“We fixed Lae city from a pot hole city to a cement city. We built a four-lane highway from Lae City to Nadzab. We are also building a four-lane highway from Kagamuga to Mt Hagen and onto Koltiga. We are also upgrading all the roads in Kokopo, its because of large portion of Papua New Guineans go and get services there.” he said.