PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 27) – Here is a revolutionary thought.

Each time a National budget is brought down in Parliament, the community goes out of its way to find fault with some or all of the major provisions it contains.

Which leads to our startling proposal.

For once, Papua New Guinea could and should view the 2004 Budget without illusions, and more importantly, without that cynicism that has greeted most of our nation's recent money plans.

It is a curious factor of PNG life that our national memory is both short and faulty.

We forget just what a mess this nation was in at the end of the 20th century.

Our credibility had reached an all-time low.

Our foreign reserves were virtually non-existent.

Our people were demoralised.

Crime was rampant, and the litany of white collar crime seemed to have no end.

The people were reeling.

Trust had gone to the stake, along with respect for leaders, and belief in the inherent goodness of many whom we had told ourselves were upright and honest citizens.

Scams of every kind proliferated.

Fast money schemes decimated the savings of many ordinary Papua New Guineans. Even churches were involved in investing congregational tithes into these schemes.

Beggars appeared more frequently on the streets.

Settlements burgeoned, and became the favourite target of those desperately seeking a credible explanation for soaring violence.

As the patience of our overseas friends diminished, our investments plummeted, and the cost of living reached unbelievable levels.

Health services shrivelled. The delivery of goods and services under the provincial reforms proved inadequate. Public servants were accused of sloth, and even of actively working to negate the will of Parliament.

Then came the government of Sir Mekere Morauta.

The arrival of a trained economist upon the political scene, and a man who drew upon a reservoir of public goodwill, appeared to grant PNG at the very least a breathing space.

The new government identified the problems, and came forward with what it saw as necessary solutions.

But in retrospect it was a government that was fatally flawed from within.

Dissension was never far beneath the surface, and the government combined all manner of members in an uneasy amalgam of personal agendas, ambitions, and long-held animosities.

It came not to matter that Sir Mekere was trying to rescue the nation from near oblivion, because the people's attention was distracted by the many changes of ministries and the revolving door that had become the public service.

It is never easy to bring down a budget under such circumstances.

People are looking for relief, and in this country, sophisticated explanations relating to foreign debts and market prices, or to political instability as a detractor to investments are likely to be ignored or undervalued.

And so to the current budget, brought down by Treasurer Bart Philemon.

It was never going to please everybody, nor was it going to please anyone completely.

Very few budgets ever do.

But on balance it appears to offer at least a tenuous lifeline for this country to grasp, a means for us to haul ourselves further out of the inherited mess from which we have been struggling to break free.

Given the grim reality of PNG 2003, we suggest few if any governments could have done better in framing a money plan for the coming year.

There was precious little room for the framers of Budget 2004 to move, and certainly none for dramatic vote-winning gestures.

It is now the responsibility of our citizens to firstly take the trouble to understand the provisions of the Budget, and the effects it is calculated to have on our economy and our social structure. 

We need to remind ourselves that it is in the Government's own interests to make the budget work.

And we should bury our cynicism, our personal animosities, and our unfortunate capacity to believe each and every rumour we hear.

This Budget deserves our full and whole-hearted support, if for no other reason than it is the only way it can possibly be made to work.

And that is our revolutionary thought.

It is time we supported our elected Government, and its plans for our country's future.

November 28, 2003

The National:


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