IAN LING-STUCKEY CMG MP
| Shadow Minister for Treasury & Finance
PORT MORESBY - On the occasion of our 43rd anniversary of independence from Australia on 16 September 1975, it is timely to reflect on how our great country has been going over the last twelve months.
On balance there is a pretty mixed report card, with some good achievements and some clear problems.
Our 43rd year started in a thrilling way with our wonderful PNG Hunters team winning the Queensland rugby union grand final by defeating Sunshine Coast 12-10.
This was important for lifting national pride and also making clear to our friends in Australia that PNG is a force to be reckoned with as the win was achieved in only the fourth year of competition.
Another positive is the recent assessment that doing business in PNG is getting easier. This reflects some legislation coming into force that makes it easier for a small business to borrow by allowing loan security against private assets, as well as being easier to register a small business.
Of course, there remain major challenges such as the shortage of foreign exchange and the lack of sales reflecting poor economic performance.
On the negative side, there are three specific facts that cause me great concern for our 43rd year.
First, polio has returned to PNG – a reflection on our deteriorating health system. In 2018, the countries with polio are only Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. This is not good company, and we must do better.
Second, PNG has been confirmed as being a ‘fragile situation’ state by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The only other middle-income countries with this rating are Zimbabwe and Timor-Leste. This is a national embarrassment.
The cause for PNG’s downgrading is because of deteriorating economic management – not a fall in oil prices but the poor way that we have managed such external factors.
Third, PNG has been downgraded by the international community in terms of our credit rating. The downward shifts by independent external assessors, Moody’s and S&P, are the worst in our history.
There is not much confidence in our economic management, and this is undermining investment and job creation. These considered views of international experts confirm my strong belief that there is a need for more transparency and less fake revenues and fiscal games in our economic management.
So our 43rd year has had a mixed report card.
Of course, there is APEC in November. This should be a wonderful opportunity to promote our country. There is more action required in freeing up access to the skills and abilities of our people, avoiding recent inward-looking protectionist policies, and getting our economic house in order. Only by making further changes can we really tap into the potential of our 44th year.
Overall, my greatest concern when I visit villages in my electorate is that, once again, another year has gone by and not enough has changed.
Many of the great dreams of independence have not translated into better lives for the vast majority of our people.
It is time for politicians from all parties to commit to getting better outcomes for our people in coming years. I can guarantee that this is a commitment from the National Alliance members of parliament.