The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 7) - Failed state?

We never thought so, and yesterday's news analyzing the Bank of Papua New Guinea's latest report helps re-affirm our belief in PNG's future.

The best job growth in more than 10 years.

A big comeback performance by the coffee industry.

Nearly 8% more jobs available in the agriculture sector, compared with the previous year.

And, most important of all, the Somare Government's determination to spread opportunities throughout the country via agriculture, and create an export-led recovery, is beginning to show real signs of success.

The National Capital District has recorded a loss of available jobs.

But that has not been reflected in other regions.

Mamose, the Highlands and the Islands regions all reflected good growth employment figures - a strong 40% in Mamose, more than 11% in the Islands region, and just over 12% in the Highlands, recovering from a disastrous decline in employment of more than 21% in the previous year.

Tuna fishing, vanilla production, and the return of coffee as a major agricultural export all contributed to the improved results.

So did the timber and construction industries, with the latter recording a rise of nearly 17% in employment, a gain of some 15% over the preceding year.

Even manufacturing, long one of PNG's hardest hit employment sectors showed a modest rise.

We recognize that some of these figures are seasonal - for example, the employment of casual labor in the coffee season - and there has been a boost to construction from a significant number of road projects that have reached the implementation stage.

But only an observer determined to put the worst possible face on the present economic situation could fail to be cheered by these encouraging figures.

Legislation seeking the extension of the present Government's mandate by a constitutional amendment relating to votes of no-confidence will shortly be reintroduced into Parliament.

The figures referred to here can only provide real comfort for the Government, indicating as they do that the economy is beginning to turn.

No observer would deny that a very long road lies ahead before PNG can once again breathe a little more easily and put this economic nightmare to rest, hopefully for good.

But we start 2004 with a sense that we have at least found the road, and if we continue in the present direction, avoiding glitzy detours that invariably turn out to be dead-ends, then we will finally reach our goal.

Given that sense of a new beginning that at least momentarily pervades the nation, the Somare Government appears to have considerably strengthened its hand in the forthcoming debate.

The Chief can rightly say that his approach to the unenviable situation he inherited has so far been proven right.

He might well add that many others have had plenty of opportunities to test their own solutions, and little that could be seen as positive has resulted.

Under these circumstances, it seems more appropriate than ever that the Government should seek to extend its time in office.

If these early positive indicators of the Somare way of handling the nation's affairs continue, then we will all have reason to be grateful to the present Government.

And as we have repeatedly pointed out, it is impossible to turn a country around overnight.

Plans and projects move slowly towards fruition in our laid-back society.

That is all the more reason why the extension Sir Michael and his government have sought should be granted by Parliament. 

For if the plans and strategies so far implemented are now beginning to show constructive results, it would seem more than foolhardy to disturb or remove the Government that is bringing them about.

There can be little doubt that Parliament's constant changing of government horses in midstream has led to nothing but a myriad of drowned plans, becalmed projects, and sunken progress.

Generally the reasons advanced for past votes of no-confidence have amounted to little more than a thinly disguised affirmation that a group of loosely allied "leaders" can no longer restrain their gluttony for power, even if restraint is clearly in the public interest. 

We commend the Somare Government for adhering to its policies for recovery, and note that they appear to be returning early dividends.

January 7, 2004

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