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By Isaac Nicholas and Neville Togarewa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 4, 1998)---The K25 (US$ 10.63) fortnightly pay increase for public servants will come from within the country and not from foreign donor disaster fund contributions, Provincial and Local Level Government Minister Simon Kaumi told Parliament yesterday.

Mr. Kaumi’s statement on the public service bonus announced by Prime Minister Bill Skate contradicted Public Service Minister Ian Ling-Stuckey’s statement earlier during question time that the money would come from foreign donations.

"The K8 million (US$ 3.4 million) will not be taken out of foreign aid money," Mr. Kaumi said. "It will come out of projects. Money will not come from donors but from within the country." Mr. Kaumi was answering questions from Opposition leader Bernard Narokobi on the bonus.

Mr. Narokobi’s questions followed earlier questions directed to Mr. Ling-Stuckey on the same subject. Mr. Narokobi asked Mr. Kaumi to clarify if the K8 million (US$ 3.4 million) bonus would be paid from donor contributions to aid drought and frost disaster victims or aid given for projects.

He said many people around the country needed hardship pay and asked what criteria were used to make the choice between public servants and others like magistrates, councilors, or soldiers.

"What actually is the nature of the give away, how is it going to be administered, and why one group?" Mr. Narokobi asked.

Mr. Kaumi said that the government was in control of two disaster funds - one for the drought and frost disaster and the other for the Aitape tsunami disaster. He said the Australian Government had committed K30 million (US$ 12.75 million) for the drought and frost disaster while the government had contributed K24 million (US$ 10. 2 million).

He said there was no such thing as free money and the Government will account for the money.

Earlier, Markham MP Andrew Baing asked Mr. Ling-Stuckey why the K8 million (US$ 3.4 million) from the disaster fund was used to pay the bonus.

Mr. Baing also wanted to know why the bonus was being paid only to public servants. He said the K25 (US$ 10.63) increase was not budgeted for in 1998, and the use of money from donors would give a wrong impression to the world.

Mr. Ling-Stuckey said the Public Employees Association had been consulted over the proposal and it had given its support. He said the bonus would be paid to public servants earning less than K12,000 (US$ 5,100) per annum and the money would come from the aid fund for the 1998 fiscal year.

Bulolo MP Samson Napo interjected saying that public servants’ wage increases had to be determined by the Public Services Arbitration Tribunal and not by the Prime Minister

Mr. Ling-Stuckey said the bonus was aimed at ensuring that the bulk of the public service received some form of assistance in these difficult times.

Lae MP Bart Philemon said the government’s decision was unfair, adding that similar bonus also should be paid to copra and cocoa growers who sweated to make K50 (US$ 21.25) a fortnight.

Mr. Ling Stuckey said that while the government was sympathetic, there would a budget blow-out if it decided to pay everybody.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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