By: Douveri Henao
The past couple of days, we’ve seen politicians and commentators rushing to the public to remind us that they made these predictions years ago the economy was tanking. They read the signs, saw the writing on the wall and as prophets of old, we did not respond. All true. But the people of Papua New Guinea don’t want reminders, they want solutions and this is the disappointment for the past couple of days.
The only agreed consensus is kick out the current government and all will be well. Lets entertain the notion, but then what? How do you improve the economy? How do you turn the tide around?
I’m of the view that any new leadership will be constraint by 2 factors to make meaningful change in the state of the economy in which all governments of PNG suffered. These are the inability for political institutions to reform the age-old patrimonial system and the lack of diversity in political ideology.
PATRIMONIAL SYSTEM REFORM
Respected thought leader in political science, Francis Fukuyama, makes the observation that patrimonial systems or in our case, wantok system, continues to undermine the ability for political institutions to grow into efficient organizations. Whereby meritocracy permits the best and brightest to formulate and execute public policy to the best of their abilities.
The fiscal strategy of the current government has been underpin by the need to finance the patrimony. Over 12 billion kina has been given to sub national governments with limited capacity to absorb its use. While Waigani correctly claims its systems are able to deliver and execute projects of significance, no other government tier has the skills and resources. Therefore, this resource has largely fed the patrimony in an assortment of various schemes that have little impact to the constituency.
There is also the bulging public service that is unsustainable and at most times, unproductive. It has cost the country 10 billion kina in this session of parliament. Public institutions have become villagers where CEOs have become chiefs and officers from there liking have become nobles and enemies have become commoners. So the nobles and the chief thrive on this healthy state bill to build there kingdoms and along the way, execute meaningful public policy.
This Prime Minister and those before him have publically spoke of the rot that they have inherited in the public service. They have used various systems to mitigate patrimony and while some have been successful, many have not and its persistency undermines the fact that we need a different strategy.
The key position is for the new leadership to work towards transitioning the current patrimonial political system to a robust merit based system not in the public service, but in the political system. Its ok to use wantoks, but use wantoks that know their stuff. Instill benchmarks to push productivity and inculcate a climate of vigorous science in building policy. This in turn can assist the public institutions to deliver the desired vision.
THE NEED FOR DIVERSITY IN POLITICAL IDEOLOGY
Every Prime Minister and current MPs as well as most political parties have subscribed for a strong socialist left leaning political platform. Big governments to bring social programmes to the masses, big governments to drive commerce, big governments to protect the community and big governments to bring jobs.
While there is justification in this messianic approach due to market failures that undermine investment beyond Waigani and provincial capitals, it undermines other important players to participate in development. The efficiencies of the private sector and the enthusiasm of the civil society need to coexist and where possible, thrive.
The new leadership needs to facilitate rather then participate and monopolize development. There are something’s that the public service and political systems isn’t built for and that limitation needs to be recognized.
We need political systems to be less emotional and more juiced up on the smarts. We need political systems to be more facilitative and less monopolistic.