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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 12, 1999 – Post Courier)---Opposition Leader Bill Skate has taken offence at Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta's description of the mini-budget as "our last chance."

He said this meant that Sir Mekere was the only one who could save the country from collapse.

"This country does not need Sir Mekere or Bill Skate to save it. Only the people of Papua New Guinea can set the date with destiny and not the mini-budget,'' he said.

He said the budget was deceitful in that it heavily taxed the business sector to support a bloated public service, and would borrow as much as possible to fund the public servants' salaries.

"This mini-budget is full of rhetoric and motherhood statements and fancy but empty language. It not only fails to provide any alternatives, but also it kills every hope for the majority of our people that better times are ahead for them for a change, rather than for the elite in Port Moresby.’’

Skate said Sir Mekere had been the head of the consultative implementation monitoring council and was responsible for ensuring that the 1999 Budget reflected the country's and the people's priorities.

Skate said more than half of the current cabinet ministers had been in his government, and were part and parcel of the budget his government had prepared and there was no need to pass the buck to others.

Skate claimed that the revised budget was designed to serve the politics of the People's Democratic Movement.

"This mini budget presents a set back for the social and economic sectors in favor of general services, where the rate of return to government spending is very low,'' he said.

Skate cautioned the governors against accepting a K21 million (US$ 7.8 million) cut to their provincial allocations.

Skate said the 1999 budget allocation of K15 million (US$ 5.6 million) for targeted community development projects in the rural areas had been cut back from K15 million to a mere K1 million (US$ 373,830).

And K24.6 million (US$ 9.2 million) was cut from programs such as rural health improvement, secondary schools, and general maintenance. He said the rural development program initiated by his government had worked successfully and urged the government to continue the program.

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

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