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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 10, 2000 – The National)---Papua New Guinea is sitting on a time bomb, Communications Minister Peter Waieng told Parliament this week.

He said one of the reasons for this "time bomb" is because "our bank," the Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation, is not "even serving the 'little people'."

Mr. Waieng, who said during grievance debate that he was not speaking as a minister, said the other reason for the "time bomb" is that the education system is churning out many students who cannot be absorbed into the economy.

He said last Friday 638 students graduated from the University of PNG, after having achieved what they have aimed for and are looking forward to the future where they can earn money.

Mr. Waieng said: "These 638 graduates are from one institution. When you look at the number of graduating students, totaling 70,000, passing out from Grade 10 every year, it becomes a problem."

He said of the 70,000 students, only 20,000 either continue their studies in tertiary institutions or engage in formal or informal employment.

The other 50,000, Mr. Waieng said, have nowhere to go. They either end up back in the village or in the cities and become potential law and order problems.

He said: "If the university students are finding it difficult to find jobs, I tell you that the Grade 10 students will not find a job."

Mr. Waieng said in countries like Japan and the U.S., the private sector is the biggest single employer while in Papua New Guinea, the Government is still the biggest employer of new graduates.

As for "bank bilong yumi" PNGBC and other banks like WestPac, Bank South Pacific and Maybank, he asked, "When will they give a K 100 (US$ 39.90) loan to a woman who is selling betelnut at the Tokarara market?"

Mr. Waieng asked: "If one man or a business can get a K 500,000 (US$ 199,500) loan and there is a system in place for him to repay at least K 100 or K 50 (US$ 39.90 or 19.95) a fortnight, can the bank officers devise a system where they can cater for a woman betelnut seller?"

"Can they devise a system where a simple betelnut seller can borrow up to K 100, if that is too much, maybe K 50, and she can repay within two weeks?

"What's the point in writing off K 1 million (US$ 399,000) from big businesses and individuals while a simple betelnut seller's loan of K 199 (US$ 79.40) cannot be written off?" he demanded.

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

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