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PNG BUDGET ‘WILL BE PASSED’: PM O’NEILL Somare’s side continues to stay away from Parliament

By Peter Korugl PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 21, 2011) – Parliament-elect Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last night gave his assurance that the 2012 National Budget will be passed by Parliament today.

"The people’s budget will be passed tomorrow, I can give you that assurance," Mr. O’Neill told the Post-Courier.

The K10.5 billion [US$4.8 billion] budget brought down by the O’Neill Government on December 6 focuses on the social sector, with emphasis on education, law and order and infrastructure.

Mr. O’Neill said: "For the first time, this budget is a balanced and fair budget, all provinces and districts are given their fair share of the money, and we are putting more money into the pockets of our people.

"The budget is aimed at lowering the cost of living for the people and improving their welfare. We are giving income tax relief to people by lifting the tax-free threshold from K7,000 to K10,000 [US$3,208 to $4,584]. This means all who earn up to K10,000 will not pay any tax to the government.

"Our free education policy will also put more money into the pockets of our people. With more money to spend, we anticipate that people will use that to improve their lives."

He said the Opposition should be in Parliament to debate this important document but this was not possible because they did not have anything positive to contribute.

Mr. O’Neill said the Somare regime had been in office for nine long years that it had forgotten how to act like an Opposition.

[PIR editor’s note: O’Neill has solidified his claim to office with recognition from the Governor-General, Speaker of Parliament, and Police Commissioner, all of whom were under scrutiny earlier in the week while certain government offices were doubled while O’Neill and Somare dispute legitimacies. Parliament has begun to pass legislation under O’Neill, although the new reserve seats for women representatives failed to gain a majority vote in at a weak sitting of Parliament.]

However, at a press conference yesterday, Madang MP, Sir Arnold Amet said the Somare group could not go to Parliament because of the seating arrangement.

Sir Arnold said they can only go if Mr. O’Neill was to give way for Sir Michael Somare to resume his seat as Prime Minister.

Sir Michael yesterday maintained that he was still Prime Minister and informed the media that his group would proceed court challenge against the swearing in of the O’Neill Government. While Sir Michael and his team were having their press conference at Ela Beach Hotel, across town, the Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio was swearing in the last of the O’Neill cabinet ministers.

Minister for Environment and Conservation, Thompson Harokaqve concluded the swearing in of the cabinet. He was away at Durban, South Africa, attending the Climate Change conference and was not present for the swearing in. At Waigani, it was business as usual as the public servants went to work, following the pledges by their bosses to work with the O’Neill Government.

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