ELECTIONS HIT BUSINESSES IN THE PNG HIGHLANDS REGION

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By Zachery Per

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 7, 2002 – The National)---All business activities in the Highlands region have been badly affected by troubles during the recent elections and the deteriorating state of the Highlands Highway, according to the president of the Goroka Chamber of Commerce, Paul Frame.

Mr. Frame said businesses in the community had almost ground to a halt in the past three months.

"The VAT (value added tax), income tax and export tax will be markedly affected by the election and this will be an indirect consequence of the election," said Mr. Frame.

He said attention has been diverted from critical issues like the Highlands Highway, which is totally impassable by small vehicles.

"With the highway’s impassability, it has almost brought at least half of PNG economy to its knees," he added.

Mr. Frame stressed that the highway was the only economic link for the entire Highlands region and required urgent maintenance.

Former Eastern Highlands premier Walter Nombe joined the Chamber of Commerce in calling on the new Somare government to increase funding for the Highlands Highway.

Mr. Nombe, who is one of the national executives of the National Alliance Party, yesterday congratulated Sir Michael Somare on his election as Prime Minister.

Both men urged the new government to immediately start planning to correct the election process for the next election. The 2007 election will be conducted using the Preferential Voting system.

"This election has been the worst since independence and has undoubtedly lost PNG dearly in terms of much needed revenue," said Mr. Frame.

They also congratulated Eastern Highlands governor-elect Malcom Smith-Kela and all the newly elected MPs’ for the eight EHP seats and called on the new leaders to put their political differences aside and work together to develop the province.

Mr. Frame said urgent attention was needed to upgrade all deteriorating Goroka town roads, town sewerage system and market upgrading.

Likewise, Mr. Nombe also urged the leaders to work together to restore the credibility of Goroka, which has faded over the years.

"The once peaceful Goroka Town has lost its face and we need a concerted effort to restore it to ifs former glory," Mr. Nombe 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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