Subsidiarity: The Other Flavour in Decentralisaon by Emmanuel Narokobi

Without a doubt, Decentralisation has a conflicting taste in our mouths today. Institutionally and legally we already have decentralisation, with examples like the District Development Authorities (DDA's). Yet we are anything but decentralised in decision making, and principally in how budgets and government finances are operated.

Within the flavours of Decentralisation I wanted to expand a little on the concept of 𝗦𝘂𝗯𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗶𝗮𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 which is touched on at 01:06:00 of the video.

Any large organisation needs control to make it run efficiently. In today's world, there is absolutely no reason why organisations cannot be decentralised because of the technologies we have today. The overwhelming majority of Papua New Guineans have a mobile phone now so there is no excuse. On a global scale the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin exemplifies the spirit and practical application of decentralised systems where control of the whole is placed at the tips of the network. In other words, many individuals operate in their own interests but with a common belief in the value of the network that serves everyone.

But Decentralisation is still a human system and the discipline to practice it to extract value out of an organisation is still evident with or without modern ICT. How else did the British East India Company rule and operate in India for 300 years? How else did the Catholic Church become the world's first multi-national?

In fact, Subsidiarity is a management concept that was developed by the Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931. The concept, however, has broader philosophical roots in the idea that matters should be handled by the smallest, least centralised competent authority, like a Parish Priest. Meaning that higher levels of authority like the Arch Diocese should only intervene when issues cannot be effectively managed at a more local level.

Subsidiarity therefore promotes decentralisation by advocating that decisions be made as close to the affected individuals or communities as possible to empower lower levels of society—such as individuals, families, and local communities—by allowing them to address their own needs and problems, thereby fostering greater engagement, responsiveness, and efficiency in governance and organizational management.

As a concept in Government, Subsidiarity aims to strike a balance between autonomy and support, ensuring that local governing authorities can operate independently while receiving necessary assistance from higher authorities when required. This approach not only respects local capabilities and knowledge but also prevents unnecessary centralisation, encouraging a more participatory and effective governance structure. One particular aspect that I like personally about it is that it promotes local communities to do as much as they can themselves until they absolutely need assistance from higher authorities.

Now to be clear, Decentralisation involves the redistribution of authority and resources, including government budgets, from central to local levels to improve efficiency and governance through structural reforms. Subsidiarity, on the other hand, is a principle stating that decisions, including budgetary ones, should be made at the lowest competent level, with higher authorities intervening only when necessary. So while decentralisation focuses on the broader transfer of power and financial resources, subsidiarity emphasises the appropriateness of the decision-making level to enhance local autonomy and participation.

You may then ask, well what does it actually look like in practice? Well, let's take for example our beloved Con-Act PNG program spending billions for roadworks. How do we spend public funds in a way that builds local capacity at all levels of government, that maximises the use of our money and minimises corruption?

I'll explain in this way assuming that Allan Bird's "Block Grants" have been fairly and efficiently delivered to each Province already.

Local Level

A village community identifies that their local roads are deteriorating, affecting daily life and access to essential services. The local government, understanding the immediate and specific needs of the village, allocates part of its budget to repair and maintain these local roads. They employ local workers and use local resources, ensuring that the project is managed efficiently and in a way that suits the community's specific requirements.

District Level

For more substantial road projects, such as connecting multiple villages or improving major local routes, the district government steps in. Recognizing that such projects require more resources and technical expertise, the district government allocates funds and oversees the project. They coordinate with local governments to ensure the needs of each community are met and manage the logistics and technical aspects of the project.

National Level

When it comes to large-scale infrastructure projects, such as building highways that connect different regions of the country, the national government takes responsibility. These projects require significant funding, advanced technology, and comprehensive planning that goes beyond the capacity of local and district authorities. The national government ensures these projects align with broader economic and development goals, providing the necessary resources and expertise.

Example in Action

In the Highlands region, a local village council uses its budget to repair local roads damaged by seasonal rains, employing local labour and materials. For a larger project to pave and expand a road connecting several villages, the district government intervenes, providing additional funding and technical support. For the construction of a new highway connecting the Highlands to the coastal cities, the national government takes charge, coordinating efforts, securing funding, and employing advanced construction firms.

What we see here is that if the funding by Government isn't hoarded and controlled in Waigani and fair budget distributions as the proposed "Block Grants" are given to each Province, then the concept of Subsidiarity will ensure that roadworks are handled at the most appropriate level, promoting efficiency, local engagement, and effective use of resources.
PNG has all the money, laws and institutions to finally provide equal participation and benefits to everyone. It's obvious that our current centralised decision-making is glaringly flawed, yet we still love the taste of failure whilst a few in power continue to benefit from the sweetness of corruption.

Disclaimer: The article and accompanying video presented herein have been republished by PNG Insight for the benefit of our readership. The original article, authored by Immanuel Narokobi, and the video, produced by Ganjiki D Wayne for his Tokaut Tokstret Podcast, offer insights of such significance that we believe it is imperative for the current and future generations of this nation to be aware of them. Please note that all credit for the original content goes to the respective author and producer.

Vote of No Confidence in Papua New Guinea's May Parliamentary Session

Papua New Guinea's (PNG) politics is lighting up with a whirlwind of activity leading up to May 2024. The Opposition, under the leadership of Douglas Tomuriesa, has declared its intention to table a fresh motion of no confidence against the incumbent Prime Minister, James Marape, in the parliamentary session scheduled for May 28. 

This is not the first time such a motion has been tabled, with previous attempts providing valuable context for this latest development.

vote of no confidence in png 2024

The Power of the Vote of No Confidence (VONC)

The VONC is a potent instrument at the disposal of the opposition, enabling them to question the authority of the current Prime Minister. The forthcoming motion on May 28 marks the fourth such notice lodged by the PNG Opposition. But, this time, the nomination of East Sepik Governor Allan Bird as the potential Prime Minister is NOT made clear. 

The Acting Speaker, Koni Iguan, has been instrumental in this process. He has guided Tomuriesa to present a new motion, signifying that the opposition has the Speaker's approval to proceed with the vote. This counsel aligns with the parliamentary protocol, which mandates that the Private Business Committee (PBC) convenes on Wednesday 29th May 2024 to review all motion notices.

2024 Vote of No Confidence in Marape Govt Papua New Guinea

The Importance of Timing

The timing of the submission is pivotal. If the VONC notice is lodged on May 28, a Tuesday, the PBC is likely to deliberate on it the next day, May 29. Conversely, if the notice is submitted on May 29, the PBC would probably discuss it on the subsequent Wednesday, June 5. Once the committee approves the notice, it will be handed over to the clerk for presentation to the parliament. 

PNG's political climate is volatile and subject to rapid changes. The opposition's move to table a new motion of no confidence could further unsettle the country's political stability. This development coincides with a period of uncertainty for Marape's leadership, as government MPs anticipate the resolution of internal issues within the ruling Pangu Party. 

The potential consequences of this ongoing political instability, such as impacts on the economy and, infrastructure and social programs, are significant and warrant close attention.

Is Pangu Pati Intact?

Despite denials from prominent political figures, Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso and Finance Minister Rainbo Paita have categorically refuted any internal discord, dismissing such allegations as the handiwork of "fake social media spin doctors". 

They asserted that the Pangu Party is not up for grabs and challenged critics to wait until 2027 if they wished to question the party's authority. They also encouraged the opposition to propose alternative national policies. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Justin Tkatchenko recently reinforced the party's position, asserting that the government remains robust under Marape's leadership. However, there are dissenting voices within the Pangu Party, suggesting potential cracks in its facade. 


The impending VONC in PNG's May Parliamentary session is a crucial event in the nation's political landscape. It underscores the dynamic and fluid nature of PNG politics, where power dynamics can shift swiftly, and leadership roles are frequently contested. 

As the VONC date draws near, all eyes are on the PNG Parliament, keenly observing the unfolding political manoeuvres. 

The question on everyone's mind is: "Will the current Prime Minister, James Marape, defy the odds and overcome the looming Vote of No-Confidence against him and his government?" Only time will tell.



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