PNG RED-FACED OVER MEMBERSHIP DEBTS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 2) – The Papua New Guinea government is on a hunt for money to pay overdue membership fees to several international bodies — or the country would be barred from at least three of them.

This is because no funds were appropriated for the fees in the 2004 Budget.

It is understood Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon raised the question about Papua New Guinea’s annual payment to that body with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare during his two-day visit to the country last week.

Two other bodies — the International Coffee Council and International Cocoa Council — have also caused the PNG government some embarrassment over unpaid annual dues.

The Post-Courier was not able to secure a response from the Coffee Industry Corporation on the fees for the coffee international body but the Cocoa Board said total was about K136,000 (US$42,228).

Treasurer Bart Philemon, asked in general terms yesterday, said that he "fears that some are outstanding".

Mr Philemon later, in a brief doorstop interview, said he did not have the papers nor the figures to authorise payment.

When pressed on the ICCs’ cases, he said: "That’s really important. Obviously depending on what the amount is outstanding, we need to prioritise those urgent, important area and pay them off."

It is understood the Central Agencies Co-ordinating Committee chaired by Chief Secretary Joshua Kalinoe met on Monday and gave directions for the fees to be paid urgently.

"I have not got the figures on what we owe yet. As soon as I get that we should be able to finalize the payments," Philemon said. "Without being members, we can’t have people sitting there. We need to be financial members."

June 3, 2004

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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