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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 5) - Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has vowed to push ahead with plans to expand the size of Cabinet despite concerns about its cost to taxpayers.

Information obtained from the Salaries and Remuneration Committee (SRC) secretariat shows that the proposal would cost the state PGK1.7 million [US$604,000] a year in salaries alone for eight new ministers.

The Opposition has described the proposal as an unnecessary expenditure that Papua New Guinea could do without.

But Sir Michael in a statement yesterday said his government would go ahead with the controversial plan "to cater for the increase in PNG’s population as well as the complexities of the Melanesian ways of life".

"We have made mistakes in the past because we kept comparing our development with developed countries like Australia," the Prime Minister said.

According to the SRC Determination 2007, published in July this year, a state minister’s total annual package (excluding electoral allowances) is PGK246,775 or PGK9491.34 a fortnight.

Excluding the prime minister and deputy prime minister, the country’s current 27 State ministers cost taxpayers PGK6.6 million a year. But Sir Michael appeared to be unperturbed about the cost and stressed that PNG could not be compared to a homogeneous society like Australia.

"We have to govern our country on our own terms in consideration to the needs of our people. We will continue to hit obstacles if we do not stop this nonsense of comparing where there are no comparisons. This Government intends to run Papua New Guinea in the interest of our people and not on the terms of others," he said.

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