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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 21 2002 – Post-Courier)---Economic hardship of unprecedented dimensions, corruption, unemployment, huge tax burdens and increasing law and order problems are the challenges facing the Somare-led government.

Governor General Sir Silas Atopare said this when setting the scene for the government while officially opening the seventh Parliament yesterday.

His speech was a departure from tradition where the government puts forward its policy initiatives for the next five years through the Governor General’s opening address.

Sir Silas said Papua New Guinea was facing many social, political and economic challenges and hoped the House would address these "with dignity and passion" and lead by example and shed the corruption tag on leaders.

"Our country faces an economic hardship of unprecedented dimensions. We suffer from prolonged and unmanageable level of inflation. It distorts our economic decisions. It penalizes growth. It disadvantages the already struggling families, young and old alike," said Sir Silas.

He said unemployment and for the employed, the denial of a "fair return" to them by the tax system "penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity."

"But as great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For years, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of a few," Sir Silas said.

He said that the poor state of public infrastructure evidenced in poor road conditions continued to affect the economy, businesses and people. "It is the same for health and education facilities in our country," he said.

"The primary sector, which is the mainstay of our country’s economy, remains stagnant today. The production level of the key cash crops such as coffee, copra and cocoa have declined, and further, no new investments have been made in the sector."

Sir Silas blamed this on a combination of law and order problems, lack of incentives and the poor state of transport infrastructure inflicted by the actions and inaction of leaders and governments over the years.

He said: "An important priority for the new government is to help improve and revitalize the competitiveness of the country’s primary sector. A strong, vibrant primary sector will not only create jobs and earn valuable export income but will also help revitalize many rural and regional communities across Papua New Guinea."

He said PNG’s rapid development so far has been triggered by the exploitation of natural resources like timber, gold, copper, oil and gas but warned, "We should be wary of the manner in which our resources have been extracted."

Citing PNG’s No.132 ranking in human development out of 174 countries by the UN, he said: "It is sad indeed, that our standard of living is not reflective of the vast natural wealth our country has."

He said it was the people’s dream to have an improved and higher standard of living and they should be allowed to achieve that.



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 21 2002 – Post-Courier)--- Governor General Sir Silas Atopare told Parliament yesterday that the new government faces a more daunting task than any government in the past.

When officially opening the seventh National Parliament, Sir Silas said there is no room for complacency or uncertainties of the many challenges ahead. And he attributed the troubles the country is facing to leaders and their decisions.

"I can talk about here, and continue talking about all the problems of our country, but I know that all of us here today are aware that the sufferings of our people have been inflicted by the actions and inactions of leaders," Sir Silas said.

Sir Silas told the members to act now to begin the process of addressing these uncertainties and challenges.

"The mandate of the people to the new government is undeniably clear and uncontested; the mandate is to lead them in the pursuits of their aspirations and dreams," he said.

Sir Silas said the Somare government’s priorities should be based on an acknowledgement that must set in place the foundation for national success well beyond the life of a single Parliament.

He offered the challenge that the main goal of any government must be to improve the lives of all citizens, wherever they may live and whatever their own aspirations may be.

Sir Silas said: " Let us not abandon our people. We can fulfill their dreams by taking the right actions and doing the right things to restore our country to prosperity."

He called on the government to begin the recovery process "today" and let it go down in history.

He said the Parliament must seek to defend all that is best within our society today while initiating the bold reform necessary for a prosperous and secure future.

To achieve this, Sir Silas said we would have to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds and to believe that together with God’s help, we can resolve the problems, which confront us.

Meanwhile, the country demonstrated its pride and statehood yesterday in glamour and color and parliamentary tradition. The Judiciary in full attire paraded outside the Parliament and later took seats in the Parliament with the permission of the Parliament, which represents the other two arms of Government, the Legislature and the Executive.

The official opening started with a parade by PNGDF soldiers to the tune of a combined Police and Correctional Services band and later provided the guard of honor and gave a general salute to Speaker Bill Skate, Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, Chief Justice Sir Arnold Amet and a Royal salute to the Governor General.

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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