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By Neville Choi and Raymond Palangat

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 4, 1999 – The Independent)---The Privatization Act of August 1999 provides no safety net for workers and the government has been urged to comprehensively review the Act to prevent any social disruption and financial corruption.

President of the Public Employees Association (PEA) Napoleon Liosi made the remark during the opening of a special seminar on corporatization privatization organized by Public Services International and the PEA in Port Moresby yesterday.

The seminar, which comes under the theme "The Impact of Corporatization on the Workers and Their Future," ends tomorrow.

Mr. Liosi said that the Sir Mekere Morauta and John Pundari government had to be extra cautious to ensure that the urgent ‘Privatization Act of August 1999’ was comprehensively reviewed after more professional consultation to ensure that it prevents social disruption and financial corruption, which normally accompanies the privatization process.

He said a mishandled and improperly guided Corporatization and Privatization concept often results in low morale, instability, and loss of corporate focus, inefficiency and unproductivity.

He said that the new Privatization Act of August 1999 provides no safety net for the workers and evidence of this is often manifested against the workers in the following ways:

"PNG does need corporate or public statutory enterprises. They just need to be rationalized, given the right professional people and insulated from political influences and, more importantly, be allowed to commercially operate under their non-political boards," said Mr. Liosi.

He said if there is to be privatization the government should privatize those functions or assets which continue to be liabilities, except water resources, public transport in cities and towns.

"Corporatization and privatization are both relatively new in PNG. The concepts are complex also because they involve multiple disciplines ranging from ‘commercial viability’ to industrial and cultural and because of these, there has been resistance, cultural shocks, confusion, misunderstanding," said Mr. Liosi.

He said in PNG the promotion of privatization often is aggressively encouraged through slogans such as "private sector is efficient and therefore does better" coupled with negative comments against the public service.

"One may ask, given PNG’s experience, whether the private sector truly does it better," he added.

Earlier this week, Trade Union Congress General Secretary John Paska also called on the government to widen the debate on privatization and to involve as many groups as possible.

"We cannot restrict the debate on privatization as an issue that limits itself only to domestic debt deduction. Privatization means more than just debt reduction, said Mr. Paska.

He said that people should not be fooled by the offer of shares in these entities in order to agree to privatization. He said this was a cheap sales pitch from the government because people know that buying shares does not always translate to handsome returns.

He appealed to the media to enhance greater public debate on the issue. "The government has been featured prominently on the issue and we believe in order for a balance on the debate and to achieve a better outcome that all groups are encouraged to participate meaningfully."

In stating the stance of the PNGTUC, he said that it would consider supporting privatization only where it could be conclusively shown that:

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

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