PNG PM SKATE'S VISIT TO U.S. FAILURE: NAROKOBI

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By Peter Kasia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 28, 1998 - The National)---Opposition leader Bernard Narokobi last night described Prime Minister Bill Skate's visit to the United States as a failure.

Mr. Narokobi's comment came following revelation yesterday that the Prime Minister's delegation had sought a K 192 million (US$ 84.481 million) loan from the European Kredit Bank in London to help prop up the budget.

"Nobody will lend PNG any money, not even Taiwan will listen to Mr. Skate because his style of managing the nation's economy speaks for itself," said Mr. Narokobi.

"Mr. Skate has now turned the PNG into a real beggar, looking for money from the USA to London to Taiwan. Where else does he want to turn?

"Why should anyone give money to PNG when its top executive is a total disaster. Let me give Mr. Skate one advice. He should improve the internal revenue collections, improve and give incentives to resource developers, and simply encourage the people to produce and export more."

East Sepik Governor Sir Michael Somare urged Mr. Skate to call for the resignation of his chief economic advisor, Dr. Pirouz Hamidian-Rad. He said that was also in Dr. Hamidian-Rad's best interest and professional integrity so that PNG could be fairly represented and considered by the international financing institutions.

The Opposition spokesman on public service, Samson Napo, said Mr. Skate was trying to sidetrack the real issue of his K 7 million (US$ 3.08 million) man, Dr. Hamidian-Rad, by looking at other contracts which were important to the State.

"Some of the consultancy contracts with the State are with people who are engaged in other sectors like health, fisheries, agriculture, and many more for the benefit of the country," said Mr. Napo.

"His K7 million man knows nothing about agriculture and fisheries, yet Mr. Skate is entertaining him with a lucrative contract."

Central Governor Ted Diro urged Mr. Skate to "make good" his suggestion of cooperation with the Opposition and the provinces to overcome the nation's financial crisis.

Mr. Diro said he had been offering to cooperate with Waigani to overcome the crisis facing the budget and the economy for months, yet nothing had happened.

"A starting point to cooperation must be some long overdue honesty about the true state of the economy, and the 1998 budget," he said.

"As an example, we are told that interest rates have been slashed, yet one of the nation's biggest companies yesterday forecast disaster for the private sector because interest rates are currently at horrendous levels up to 26 percent for bank loans, even higher for vehicle, and other leasing," he said.

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

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