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Low wages drive engineers to mining and other projects

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 1, 2008) – Infrastructure projects under the Government’s Medium Term Development Strategy (MTDS) could be hampered as the Department of Works is facing a shortage of engineers.

It is feared if nothing is done immediately to contain the situation, the Government could spend millions unnecessarily on repairing and building infrastructures due to unprofessional advice.

The department revealed this in a media conference in Port Moresby on Saturday.

The department’s roads and bridges division lacks professional engineers, the most critical people it needs to make sure infrastructures such as roads, wharves and bridges are well-built and worth the Government’s money.

The engineers are leaving because of poor remuneration packages (wages and allowances).

But due to the recent boom in the mining industry and other business activities coupled with the up-coming billion-kina LNG project, it is feared more will walk out.

"The core business in Works Department is roads and bridges. But now, when you go into roads and bridges, there is hardly any engineer there," Department of Works Technical Services first assistant secretary Eric Sikam said. "That’s the key to our infrastructure and now when you go there, there is hardly any (engineers) because of the attraction from outside that took a lot of our engineers out," he added.

Mr Sikam, who is also the president of the Institute of Engineers, said it was time the Government seriously consider increasing the remuneration package of senior experienced engineers."If we are serious enough, most remuneration should be given so we contain those senior engineers to maintain our infrastructure according to our specifications. If we don’t keep our standards, we might go into Chinese standards, Japanese standards or whatever you want to call them. We need to keep our own specifications and requirements," Mr Sikam said.

IEPNG chief executive Benedict Mick cautioned that projects under the MTDS may be hampered if nothing is done to contain the situation.

"Now the end result…is that government-driven projects under MTDS, especially in infrastructure development, may be hampered due to lack of skilled man-power. "So what we need to do in partnership with the Government and the industry is to come up with a framework whereby we have very competitive remuneration packages right across the board for both the public and the private sector," he added.

He said the institute together with the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum were trying to put together a better remuneration package to present to the Government. He said: "A lot of very competent, highly skilled Papua New Guinean engineers are now leaving the public service and moving into the private sector."

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