Query of the Week

By Paul Oates

In last night’s local news there was an expose from the Queensland
government on how much the health services currently being provided to PNGians travelling to Australian facilities in the Torres Strait are costing the Queensland government. The estimated cost was in the many millions of dollars. The Commonwealth government is now being asked to help with funding.

Now why isn’t this assistance being funded by AusAID? Afterall, it is
overseas aid and directly being applied to our immediate neighbours. At least the expenditure of these funds could be accountable under the Queensland government and not under a very fluid and extremely murky PNG government program as revealed by the recent PNG Commission of Inquiry (COI), into government finances. Only five PNG authorities were exonerated by the COI from the many other government bodies expending funds.

But what might happen if PNG people from all over the country start travelling to Australian facilities in the Torres Strait for treatment?

What happens if the trickle becomes a flood? Would these people then be shipped off to Christmas Island to be ultimately accepted as permanent residents? Many PNG people would welcome the opportunity.

Some might also say that PNG people have an equal or better claim to Australian citizenship than others from elsewhere.

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22 thoughts on “Query of the Week

  1. Hi Paul,
    This has got me pondering, why is there such a thing like AUSAID??? Maybe Australia should stop giving PNG AUSAID, we don’t need it and besides it not put to good use.

    After all what is Australia’s purpose of aid funds, esp to PNG?

    1. What if AUSAID funded just our education system? Nothing more, nothing less, no consultants, no capacity building agencies but plain education of our teachers, housing of teachers, and free education for our children.

      If AUSAID must exist in PNG, then give us the tools to help ourselves. Imagine a PNG with 100% literacy through to high school?

  2. AUSAID doesn’t fund projects in isolation, but in partnership with PNG Government agencies as prioritized and directed by them. PNG has asked for AUSAID to help with projects designed to meet the MDG. In fact the whole program is called the PNG-Australia Partnership for Development. The five priorities are…

    * Improved transport infrastructure by supporting the implementation of PNG’s National Transport Development Plan to improve priority national roads, regional airports and ports

    * Faster progress towards universal basic education by supporting the implementation of PNG’s National Education Plan, targeting increasing primary and elementary school enrolment rates, with a particular focus on increasing the percentage of female students. Activities will aim to raise the net enrolment rate in PNG primary schools to 70 per cent by 2015

    * Improving health outcomes by providing assistance for PNG to implement the National Health Strategy to meet targets on triple antigen and measles vaccinations, reducing malaria and tuberculosis rates and increasing the percentage of deliveries supervised by skilled staff

    * Strengthening the public service by improving public administration at national, provincial and district levels, including public financial management

    * Improving statistical data by developing and implementing a national statistics roadmap, consisting of household surveys, census and data collection by Government agencies. Consistent and coordinated data collection will enable development policy and program formulation to be based on sound statistics and performance reporting.

    The reason there is an AUSAID program for PNG (and for many other Pacific and Asian countries) is that in general richer countries feel they have an obligation to help nearby developing countries improve the standard of living for their populations. Also in the post-colonial and post-war context I believe many Australians genuinely want to help PNG people. There is also some self-interest (understandably) as an unstable and volatile PNG is a threat to Australia – see the recent Senate report which was all about this.

    Sure aid money can be better spent and more efficiently managed,
    but can you really find fault with the motives behind it?

    1. Peter we simply could not function without all AUSAID has done. I’m perhaps being a bit too simplistic in my comments.

      I just detest the way our government looks at it as a supplement instead of a temporary solution. For example I once had a chat with a health agency and they said that they could do more directly at the hospitals but the problem would be that the government would then see it as an area they no longer had to fund.

      As Sir J once said ‘Beggers Can’t Be Choosers’
      Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Digicel Pacific

  3. Thanks Peter,
    I understand that AUSAID is of great help to PNG. Every elite person will agree how much we appreciate the funding arrangement.

    I am more in the line of thinking with Emmanuel. Put the money to where it will fully be utilised to achieve its purpose.

    What I hate about AUSAID is the fact that people (both Australians & PNGians) seem to see it as “up for grabs” opportunity. Something like money channeled from Australia, flashed around in PNG and much of it re-routed back to Australia, what many in PNG refer to as “boomerang aid”.

    Then the stupid PNGians in high places also add fuel to fire by giving a hiding to the full value of AUSAID funds. AUSAID seems to be a “newspaper only” funding. I can agree that PNG does see out of the five priorities, only one: Improved transport infrastructure where AUSAID is at least put to good use up the highlands highways. The rest is put into sink holes ending up in places one can only guess!!!

    1. Right On Kafu, a case in point what do we need a private jet for?

      I was in Samoa for the EPLD and Deputy PM and Sir Arnold Amet although being two of the better politicians came over in their jet.

      It was embarrasing for me trying to explain to people from the rest of the Pacific why we have such a low standard of living while our politicians flew around in a jet for themselves.

  4. Emmanuel’s got it spot on.

    The real problem with AusAID, and indeed all foreign aid, is how Papua New Guinea views it as opposed to how the donors intend it: a bottomless well.

    Australia is partly to blame for the confusion. Its biggest mistake is that it trusted us too much too soon. The negative aid culture bred from those early years when Australians trusted us so much they simply gave us their hard earned dollars as budget supplements without tying them down to particular outcomes as they do now. This is where this illusion of a bottomless well came from.

    To correct this, I suggest Australia only looks at assisting us in the areas of health, education and key infrastructure maintenance only. And let us do the rest ourselves. Give us an option to sink or swim and let’s see which one PNG will take.

  5. Here is the quote of the week from AusAID courtesy of the National today 6 April 10

    Australia committed to support PNG

    I REFER to your report “Zibe cries foul over AusAID funds” (March 31).
    In agreement with the PNG Government, Australia is focusing its health
    efforts on the Millennium Development Goals, including child health,
    maternal health, HIV, malaria and other diseases.
    Australia continues to support health patrols, drug distribution,
    operational costs for aid posts and health centres, HIV prevention and
    treatment, anti-malaria programmes and child immunisation.
    For example, Australia has helped PNG to immunise up to one million Papua
    New Guinean children against common childhood illnesses.
    We have also funded construction of 20 sexually transmitted disease clinics
    across PNG over the past decade.
    This support is ongoing with 18 more clinics planned for the future.
    In addition, Australia funds the World Health Organisation in PNG, which
    plays a key role in disease control, including cholera and tuberculosis.
    Recently, Australia supplied PNG with 700,000 H1N1 vaccines, to immunise
    health workers and vulnerable groups, including pregnant mothers, against
    the virus.
    Decisions about what the Australian aid programme supports in PNG are made
    jointly with the PNG Government.
    In the health sector, there is a very specific agreement in place agreed in
    June 2009 between ministers at the Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum.
    An important part of this agreement is Australia’s commitment to support PNG’s
    vision, as outlined in PNG’s own National Health Plan, to ensure Papua New
    Guineans have access to basic health services.
    Finally, it needs to be emphasised that there is not one Australian-funded
    adviser position in Papua New Guinea that has not been requested, or at
    least agreed, by the PNG Government.
    Indeed, because the aid budget is finite, the number of such advisers is
    actually much lower than the number requested by the PNG authorities.

    Roger Wheatley
    Public affairs manager
    AusAID
    _______________________

    In my time with government agencies I must say I’ve seen better attempts than this one as a classic Public Service ‘snow job’. You could drive the proverbial tank through the holes in this statement.

    The real problem here is entrenched positions and those in them trying to justify their incomes. This applies on both sides of the Torres Strait. Why wouldn’t the PNG government ‘AGREE’ to the Australian funded advisors when its part of the whole package that’s available for diverting into the ‘black holes’ that the millions seem to currently disappear into.

    The suggestion that AusAID should fund just the Education budget entirely has a degree of merit. At least the funds would only be used for PNG salaries and allowances or would they? How can anything be guaranteed without responsibility and accountability being ensured?

    The rot always starts at the top. I’ll lay a bet that Mr Wheatley was directed to prepare this ‘whitewash’ so his superiors can settle back into their nice, overstuffed chairs with a good view out their windows and ring their PNG mates and tell them ‘Don’t worry, its business as usual’.

  6. Paul,
    I read your comments with interest. It has become a disease already in this country. In medical terms, this disease could be diagnosed as “CORRUPTION”; additional description would be ” money laundering & bribery” of clean monies. Its what others refer to as “Donor Syndrome”.

    I say put the AUSAID to where PNG can see good returns. Otherwise, stop it because “it will be business” as usual.

    Something that bothers me many times is if PNG had little money, maybe we will start pulling our hairs to appease the hardships faced by the majority populace. As Emmanuel posted on ELDP here:https://masalai.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/epld-report-1-a-brief-overview-and-some-thoughts-on-identity/; a country like New Caledonia can depend on only 1 single source of mining income, man PNG has about 10 big operational mining plus other income generating industries. What the fuck is the problem!!!

    1. Kafu, to be fair New Cal only has a population of 250,000. However they have their heads in the right place, which no doubt comes from the fact that the French Govt directly funds their public service. They are still a territory of France.

      Now to their resources, they are only now building their second Nickel mine in the Northern Province. They have only 3 Provinces. The Southern Prov is the most developed. So what is interesting about their attitude to sharing is that the govt has said that the proceeds of the Northern Prov mine will stay in that Province so as to ‘Re-balance’ the country’s economy.

      What’s more, the Northern Prov has a 51% share in that Mining project through their MRDC equivalent called SMSP. Now it gets even better because SMSP has bought their own Nickel processing plant in Korea. This means that all their Nickel from their mine will only be sold after they have processed it themselves at their own plant based in Korea.

      So every part of the project has been maximised for their ultimate benefit.

      I’d be more than happy to escort any landowners to New Cal to see for yourself how it is all setup.

      1. Emmanuel,

        Interesting to hear about their Northern Province having majority ownership of that mine in New Caledonia. Are you able to tell us which other companies/entities own the remaining shares? I am particularly interested because it works the exact opposite for us here in PNG.

        In terms of down stream processing and value adding, maybe the Koreans are more receptive to the Kanaks than to some mutinational mining giant like we have here.

      2. Hi David,

        Xstrata owns the other shares. In terms of Korea, its just a place where they can process Nickel cheaply, but they own that company.

      3. Thanks Emmanuel for the interesting insights.

        Xstrata is a name that sounds familiar to PNG. So if they are is willing to go in as a minority in New Cal, then they may well be prepared for a similar deal here in PNG too.

        What are the New Cals doing in this space that PNG are not doing?

      4. Well it goes back to their political history. They have a government system based on ‘Consensus’ which essentially means that nothing can happen without everyone agreeing. Even the government has to consult a body called the ‘Customary Senate’ and again nothing can happen if the ‘Customary Senate’ does not agree. (The Customary Senate is made up of village Chiefs).

        So in this way no one person or political group can push any agendas. It can be a slow and frustrating exercise but it ensures that everyone is catered for. The concept of ‘Consensus’ was implemented by the French Government after their Civil War in the 1980’s when it was agreed upon and signed by the Kanaks and France in the ‘Noumea Accord’. So I noticed from all my visits that the language of the government always used words like ‘Consensus’, ‘Sharing’ and ‘Re-balancing’

        Again New Cal is a territory of France, which means that that France directly funds their public service, military, police, justice system and higher education. So a tight control and guidance has been in place for the last 20 or so years. Also the Kanaks are not the majority in their own country, they are about 50% of the population.

        (They are looking at Independance before 2018, but thats another issue)

      5. So where does this put New Caledonia in relation to the current PNG political situation? Further down the line or not yet at that point?

        If they get Independence in 2018, will they go the same way as did PNG by trying to use Melanesian customs and promoting a traditional chief system or ‘big men’ who then assume they have the right to whatever spoils are on offer?

        If France grants New Caledonia Independence, will the island have enough resources to continue to pay for the Public Service or will France continue to fund these services? Maybe they could learn from PNG and not go down the AusAID type direct grant to the central government where the funds just disappear into non accountable trust funds etc.

        Maybe PNG could teach the New Caledonians how to do things?

      6. I don’t think New Cal will or could get to our stage. The population is almost 50% Kanak and 50% Franch descent so the culture in the country is totally different.

        In terms of Independence it is not up to France it is up to the New Cals. They have to decide and right now that is their big dilemma, how can they become more a part of the Pacific and how can they be independent from France financially. Other issues such as their identity is also being discussed now.

        Right now, they have enough Nickel for the next 400 years. And because they have a GDP higher than NZ, they can afford to import everything else at the moment.

        But I definitely see how we can learn allot from each other.

  7. Hi Emmanuel,

    You got me thinking about what you have seen.

    Did you get a clear view of how the New Caledonia people in the Northern Provence were able to obtain control (51%) over the new mine? Was it through local initiatives or metropolitan (i.e. French Central government) direction? I.e. Why do the Koreans appear more receptive to local concerns than say the Chinese in Ramu? I have had experience with some Korean business people in PNG and they didn’t seem to be any different to any others operating in PNG. Could this just be because they accept what the local conditions are in the country they choose to operate in?

    Also, how will any returns from the Northern nickel mine be distributed and what controls have been set in place to ensure there is full accountability and transparency of where the proceeds are spent? What happens if there is a dispute as to who gets what share of the proceeds? Shades on BCP come to mind?

    My understanding is that the Southern Provence has the majority of Francophone residents while the Northern Provence is mainly of Kanak descent. Is this correct? If so, were all New Caledonia residents canvassed about the arrangements prior to them being set in place?

    Sorry to raise so many queries but your report is very interesting in terms of PNG’s own mining experiences.

    1. Paul, they were able to get 51% through their stake in an MRDC like body called SMSP. SMSP went out and sourced the financing for them to be able to become a partner with Xstrata.

      This was an initiative of the Government and supported by the Government so that they could ‘Re-Balance’ their economy because the Southern Province was the most developed Province.

      In terms of proceeds to the people, they do not get direct payments instead they are given services from housing, health, education, utilities, business grants, etc. They have a strong and well respected government system so their attitudes to government are different to ours. They are more willing to let government deliver everything for them in exchange for their resources. So the issues of transparency do not arise or are even a concern for them. This goes back to the consensus issue that I described below.

      In many respects, its almost a sociallist type setup. So if any disputes arise, its back to the consensus discussions again.

      In regards to ethnic make up of New Cal, yes the Southern Province is mainly Francophone but there are Kanaks in government representing the SOuthern Province and almost half of all elected leaders are female. But to your question of residents being canvassed about the arrangements, its goes back again to my points on their system of ‘Consensus’.

  8. Thanks guys for the wonderful discussions. In relation to AUSAID, a similar thing is happening for N. Cal where French Gov is funding their public service, military, police, justice system and higher education. The only classic difference concluded is N.Cal has a better governance mechanism for it to work thus far at a successful rate. This means people respect the systems and procedures in carrying out their duties etc, while in PNG its the opposite. Their government system works for them, it guides them unlike PNG.

    Another thing comes to view is French is somewhat still colonising them for over 20 yrs now. I think they are better equipped with the right knowledge and vision to now attain Independence in 2018. Taking a guess, its probably less than 20 yrs of proper colonisation of PNG before independence, Germans colonising German New Guinea and Australia colonising Papuan Territory. I mean proper colonisation, because a large part of PNG was still primitive when Independence was obtained.

    Anyway, someone should put a proposal for AUSAID to be put into education, if education can be fully funded by the PNG Gov. That will be truly rewarding for the country, a 85% PNG populace in the next twenty years will surely bring about changes. Not me, not my generation but my childrens’ and onwards, (siiiigghh)!!!

  9. Thanks guys for the wonderful discussions. In relation to AUSAID, a similar thing is happening for N. Cal where French Gov is funding their public service, military, police, justice system and higher education. The only classic difference concluded is N.Cal has a better governance mechanism for it to work thus far at a successful rate. This means people respect the systems and procedures in carrying out their duties etc, while in PNG its the opposite. Their government system works for them, it guides them unlike PNG.

    Another thing comes to view is French is somewhat still colonising them for over 20 yrs now. I think they are better equipped with the right knowledge and vision to now attain Independence in 2018. Taking a guess, its probably less than 20 yrs of proper colonisation of PNG before independence, Germans colonising German New Guinea and Australia colonising Papuan Territory. I mean proper colonisation, because a large part of PNG was still primitive when Independence was obtained.

    Anyway, someone should put a proposal for AUSAID to be put into education, if education can be fully funded by the PNG Gov. That will be truly rewarding for the country, a 85% PNG populace in the next twenty years will surely bring about changes. Not me, not my generation but my childrens’ and onwards, (siiiigghh)!!!

    1. Kafu just a slight correction, the French have been in New Cal for nearly 200 years. The Noumea Accord signed in the 80’s was just to formalise the rcognition of Kanak culture.
      Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Digicel Pacific

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