You would never have known from today’s Australian media coverage of Sir Michael Somare’s visit to Australia, but in an important major speech in Canberra last night the PNG Prime Minister heralded a major shift in policy on development aid and resource deployment.
A key feature of the new approach is the intention of PNG to direct more resources to employing Australian judges, doctors and teachers throughout the country.
Sir Michael said the time has come for PNG “to assert and accept more responsibility for our national development. We must forge a new relationship of equitable partnership with Australia. We will also be accepting more responsibility with respect to regional initiatives.”
Negotiations are about to begin with Australia on an Aid Exit Strategy to ultimately phase out Australian development aid. Initially, in what can be seen a blow to aid agency AusAID, there will be less consultancies and more money deployed to the private sector.
The Exit Strategy will be conducted so as not to prejudice PNG’s development effort and without destabilising the national budget. There will also be a resource shift from the public service to fund infrastructure development in the transport, health and education sectors.
Sir Michael announced that new consular offices would open in Sydney and Cairns as PNG seeks to strengthen its relationship with Australia.
“PNG and Australia are true friends,” he said. “Our partnership has withstood the test of time. Over the years this partnership has grown and matured. But of particular interest and importance to me is the warmth of the relationship – an aspect very often overshadowed by negative reporting in the media.”
You can find a full transcript of Sir Michael’s speech here.
Upper photo: Sir Michael Somare talks to Orange’s Cr Chris Gryllis and me. For many years, Orange City Council has undertaken much philanthropic work in and around Mt Hagen [Ingrid Jackson]