PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 18, 2009) – While Waigani fiddles, like Nero in ancient Rome, the rest of our nation is collapsing around us.

All the grandiose plans, the medium term policies, the trust accounts set up to better manage spending and similar verbosities, do not cover up the picture of a nation’s infrastructure crumbling and being washed away or eaten up by insects.

Schools are falling apart or being chewed up by termites, roads and bridges are collapsing or being eroded, health centres and aid posts are either run down or empty of medicine. Universities are scrambling to find rooms and beds off campus to house the overflow of students.

These are the basics: schools, medicine and roads and bridges.

A lot of the money for these vital ingredients of life comes from overseas donors. What has happened to such funds? Has our national carelessness about routine maintenance resulted in such a dreadful state of disrepair nationwide? Is it that current and past governments have not, as critics say, paid enough attention and funding to year in, year out maintenance to keep things in reasonable shape? Whatever the excuses, our people are crying out for concerted, co-ordinated and sensible programs of rebuilding and recovery of schools, roads and bridges, and health centres and aid posts. If it was a shortcoming with a handful of terribly remote schools or aid posts, we would not be so worried. But we are seeing dreadful "basket-cases’’ in the most obvious places, where bureaucrats and politicians can hardly fail to notice them.

Hagara Primary School, for example. The termites have reduced this school, two minutes drive from Government House, to a riddled mass of timbers. With the heavy rains, the school had to send all 2000 students home yesterday because the leaks in the buildings result in flooding.

We are getting reports from all over the country about disgraceful conditions in schools. We are again embarrassed and ashamed that the major lifeline to 40 per cent of our people, the Highlands Highway, is closed often as land succumbs to the force of nature and, in some cases, to the interference of locals with diverted creeks.

What has happened to the plans of previous years to strengthen the highway and keep it open? It was never this bad in the past. Can the Works Department get men and machines back on the road and fixing things as they happen?

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

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