WOMEN WANT HONEST ANSWERS FROM PNG GOVERNMENT ON PRIVATIZATION

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 24, 2001 - The Independent/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea's National Council of Women is calling on the government to give truthful answers to questions on privatization addressed in a just-launched brochure.

The women claim that the brochure does little to answer honestly questions that many women, youths and minimum wage earners are asking about the government’s privatization program.

This came on the eve of the Privatization Commission’s initial tour of the major regional centers to hold public awareness campaigns to educate the public on the program. The tour, which started yesterday in Mount Hagen, is understood to herald a national tour, which will be visiting provincial capitals later on this year.

The National Council of Women claims that questions raised in the privatization brochure titled "Privatization - Your Questions Answered" and the answers given are "half-hearted and beating around the bush."

In illustrating that, the government could not show how ordinary village people would benefit from privatization, the council said:

"Our village people and those under the minimum wage will not be able to benefit. Privatization means that our people will have to pay more for the services offered by the private sector. We know that private sector services are not affordable by average Papua New Guineans. We see this clearly under the user pay policy of the government. Parents have to pay school fees before children are able to go to school and health services are not free. Privatization will mean increased fees to such services."

On whether privatization would make a difference to the living standards, the National Council of Women questioned how privatization would increase employment opportunities for unemployed youth and reformed criminals.

"Without appropriate skills required by the private sector, unskilled youth has no hope of being included in the privatization plan. How can the policy assist our women in the informal sector who sell their produce at the markets or at public places only to find that NCDC authorities have outlawed street vending?" they questioned.

They also asked what guarantee was in place to ensure that leaders were not going to use public funds to buy shares or use their positions to influence decision making to benefit from the sale of shares. "There must be a public declaration of our leaders buying shares, how much and where that money is coming from," they said.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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