I AM pleased to announce the signing of an overarching memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the ABG and the PNG national government on the drawdown of powers in accordance with the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
This is an historic moment and an important step in formalising autonomy arrangements for the people of Bougainville.
The signing of the memorandum of understanding has been a long time coming and it is an important step in giving effect to the very clear intent of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
The MOU will act as a guiding document. It puts in place the systems, processes and financial mechanisms to enable the ABG to assume legal responsibility for its own affairs. This, in tum, provides the foundation upon which full autonomy will be achieved.
The MOU will see the establishment of a Joint Technical Working Group to guide the drawdown of powers process. As Vice President, I see the role of the Joint Working Group as being to ensure that the implementation of processes for the transfer of power and functions are conducted in a coordinated manner, consistent with the Bougainville Peace Agreement and Constitutional and Organic Law requirements.
Whilst the signing of the MOU is a great achievement, we must still proceed with caution. The Joint Working Group will need to think strategically about how, and in what ways, to draw down powers to ensure the best benefit for Bougainville and her people.
The Working Group must act responsibly, drawing down powers in a systemic way that ensures we have the administrative, operational and financial capacity to take on roles. At the same time, the ABG must work with the national government to ensure that those powers that are drawn down are appropriately funded, both in the year of transfer and in all future years.
An issue that the Joint Working Group and the ABG in particular will need to consider is longer term financial implications. As Bougainville grows and demands increase on services, we must ensure that we have the financial means to fund those functions that are drawn down.
While recurrent national funding will help us to achieve this, there is a risk that in the longer term base funding will not keep pace with demand, necessitating the need for the ABG to draw on its own internal revenue sources to fund services.
In that context, as a Government, we must continue to consider our revenue raising and taxation capacity and think strategically about how we can fund services in the longer term.
As Vice President, I look forward to seeing the practical benefits that this MOU will provide. Bougainville offers enormous opportunity and I strongly believe that this MOU will cement the autonomy process, placing us firmly on the path to long term success and prosperity.