Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has told minsters, provincial governors and heads of departments at a Port Moresby leader’s summit that failure is not an option in the implementation of the 2014 budget.
Speaking in Port Moresby, O’Neill said the patience and tolerance of Papua New Guineans might eventually be exhausted if the government fails to deliver. The summit follows on from a budget strategy meeting which was held at about the same time last year.
The Prime Minister’s presence at the meeting was meant to affirm the importance of the task ahead. The government has just 10 months left to implement a record 15 billion kina budget passed in November last year.
While there have been some improvement in statistics, in the last 12 months, there are major challenges ahead. Speaking this morning after the Prime Minister, Finance Minister James Marape, said school enrollment percentages had risen from a little over 60 percent to 75 percent.
But critics of the government point to the stark reality that the classrooms have become overcrowded with a disturbing ratio of one teacher for every 60 students.
Steven Mesa, a parent and board member of the Lae Secondary school in Morobe says it is affecting education standards.
“For a science class of 50 to 60 students in a 40 minute period, students get less that a minute of the teacher’s attention.”
The last 12 months have also been a period of learning for the government. Policy makers learned that districts and local level governments lack the capacity to use the large amounts of funding being injected to the districts. The government also learned the hard lesson of being overly dependent on mineral revenue after a drop in gold prices caused revenue projections to drop and put many mine workers out of their jobs.
The Prime Minister stressed the importance of having a diversified economy - an economy that is not heavily dependent on mining and petroleum.
In many respects, PM was echoing sentiments shared by commentators and critics of the former Somare government, who said Papua New Guinea should build its agriculture and manufacturing sectors and create economies of scale.
The Prime Minister is allowing no room implementation failure. But much of the implementation hinges of the civil service – the government’s implementation mechanism which has not always worked in the past.