2014 Provincial Budget Disappoints Manus Governor

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Benjamin says other provinces benefiting from asylum projects

By Malum Nalu

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Feb. 3, 2014) – Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin has described his province’s 2014 budget of K79.845 million [US$30.53 million] as "very disappointing" after all the hype made by Australian and Papua New Guinea governments when the asylum seeker deal was signed.

He said last Thursday when handing over the budget to Treasurer Don Polye for approval that it was also disappointing that other centres such as Lae and Madang were benefitting from spinoffs from the asylum seekers’ project, but not Manus.

"The Australian government is trying to help, including sealing the road from Lorengau town to Momote, next year," Benjamin told Polye.

"Basically, that is the only thing that I know of Australia helping in the package for Manus.

"I’m very disappointed that while the PNG government seems to be getting something, Manus has actually been missed out."

Benjamin said Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last year committed K18.5 million [US$7.07 million] for Manus.

"It was actually taken away from our provincial infrastructure. It really threw our budget into chaos,"

Benjamin said Manus’ smallish budget was in line with the national policy, and that was to bring development to the local level governments and to the wards.

"The budget is formulated along those lines," he said. "The national government is giving us K65,208,700 [US$24.93 million]. Our internal revenue is very disappointing, being only K2,516,600 [US$962,179]. The unspent monies from last year were K12,121,200 [US$4.63 million].

"That happened simply because funding came late and because the Australian government wants us to meet 20% of some of the projects.

"That is in line with the asylum seekers’ thing that is happening in Manus. We just have to hold on to our money and see if we can put in that 20%.

"I’ve asked them, because it’s an assistance thing to Manus, that if we pay 20%, it will be just like an Australian project and no longer an assistance package.

Benjamin said he was given only K5 million [US$1.91 million] as the governor.

"It is a bit embarrassing because my open member will be getting K10 [US$3.82] and I, as the head of the province, will be getting K5 million," he said.

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