PNG PRIME MINISTER DEFENDS ECONOMIC PROGRESS

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Dispute oppositions criticism

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 14, 2009) – The country’s economic growth is better off today than it was at Independence.

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare yesterday hit back at the Opposition for continuously criticising the Government using unrealistic social indicators over lack of development.

"The Opposition uses the current methods of quantifying poverty in our country that was neither here nor there.

"Often our villages were equated to our urban settlements which do great injustice to us as a developing economy," Sir Michael said.

"Poverty might exist in our urban areas but our rural people, who make up the majority of our population and might lack material wealth, were certainly not starving."

He said with today’s democracy, it was difficult for any government to change cultures in bureaucracy overnight.

"It is an ongoing process and this Government would continue to address it.

"At Independence, I had a budget of about K250 million; today Southern Highlands province alone has a budget of around K300 million; our annual budget today is around K8 billion compared to the deficit in 2001 and 2002 when we took office," Sir Michael added.

He said the Government was mindful of the world recession and would also support the growth that was taking place in the economy.

"It is important that we acknowledge the progress that we have made in the last few years and be grateful for our fortunate situation today."

He said while many economies were suffering, PNG continued to see developments taking place in all its major towns.

"When I brought this country to Independence, there were very few locals running businesses.

"In all our major towns, our colonial administrators lived in areas such as Touaguba Hill, Wewak Hill, Namanula Hill, Rabaul and Top Town in Lae.

"Papua New Guineans 40 years ago lived in settlements and compounds in our major towns.

"Today, wealthy and middle-class Papua New Guineans had moved into all these areas," Sir Michael said.

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