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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 30) – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has announced PGK50 million [US$17 million] funding for Lae City roads.

[PIR editor’s note: Lae is the second largest city in Papua New Guinea following the national capital of Port Moresby. It is located on the north central coast of the mainland peninsula and is the provincial capital of Morobe province.]

The announcement during the launching of the Government’s National Agriculture Development Plan at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium last Friday, came as a pleasant surprise for Morobe Governor Luther Wenge.

It was also an off-hand thing aimed to sway voters the National Alliance way, as Sir Michael rose from his chair, grabbed the microphone and told more than 2,000 people gathered that PGK50 million [US$17 million] will be given to the Morobe Provincial Government to fix the city roads, some of which are in a state of near collapse.

"I will give PGK50 million [US$17 million] to fix the roads in Lae City. I was driven here and felt that my back-side ached so much because there were so many potholes," Sir Michael said to loud cheering. However, Sir Michael’s announcement was decried an hour later by People’s Progress Party leader and former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, who was in Lae to announce the party’s candidates at another gathering held about 100 meters away, also at the stadium.

Sir Julius, whose party is teaming up with Tru Morobe Group to endorse 10 candidates to contest seats in Morobe, said the "gift is a stupid policy by a stupid government."

Sir Julius said the announcement was "hot talk" especially with the elections just weeks away. "All this Government is doing is just giving out money without planning. This PGK50 million [US$17 million] is just a talk by a stupid government," Sir Julius said.

But Forest Minister Patrick Pruaitch later supported the announcement by Sir Michael at another political gathering at Yalu village, where National Alliance candidates for Morobe and Madang were endorsed.

Mr. Pruaitch said the Government would give the money announced by Sir Michael to fix the roads in the city.

"We have about PGK1.2 billion [US$419 million] in surplus and we can just get it out and do the job," Mr. Pruaitch said.

He said the money would be used to fix roads within the city as well as part of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Nadzab.

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