BOUGAINVILLE A TOP PNG SPENDING PRIORITY

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By Clifford Faiparik

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 4) – The Autonomous Bougainville Government has become the recipient of the biggest development fund grants and Public Investment Programme (PIP) projects in Papua New Guinea, amounting to more than PGK900,000 [US$321,000], Bougainville Affairs and Health Minister Sir Peter Barter said.

"Funds to meet the ABG’s recurrent costs are also among the highest in the country. In terms of kina per head of population, they are very much bigger than similar grants to any provincial government."

Sir Peter said yesterday: "These grants, totalling PGK946,380, are additional to increased allocations for direct expenditures by National Government departments and agencies engaged in restoring and developing their capacity to meet ongoing responsibilities in and for Bougainville."

"Many challenges remain. But, as I have said, 2007 begins on a very promising note. This is the third calendar year since the ABG’s creation. The National Government has shown that we mean what we say when we describe Bougainville as a national priority. In this regard, I appeal to Bougainville leaders and officials to keep their eyes firmly on our shared goal of promoting restoration and development, and the early, complete return of all aspects of normalcy in Bougainville."

Sir Peter also called on Bougainville leaders, officials and communities to keep working closely with the National Government to maintain a cordial and co-operative atmosphere which will ensure continued bipartisan and national commitment at the political level and public support for peace-building in Bougainville.

He said that "a major issue left outstanding from the previous conflict – the claims for allowances by former members of the Bougainville Resistance Forces (BRF) – was finally resolved a few days before Christmas.

"Cabinet provided PGK10 million [US$3.5 million] for the purpose. Former BRF leaders drew up the list of eligible claimants. Cheques were distributed on an agreed basis. The matter is now closed.

"As I have repeatedly stated, it is vital that the ‘culture of claims’ is brought to an end, and that everyone focuses on the challenges ahead. In this regard, the 2007 national and supplementary budgets provide the resources required to support continuing efforts to build a sound platform of capacity, infrastructure, and services for future peace-building, including the continued development of Bougainville autonomy."

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