Only 3 Months of Grace Period | Why O’Neill Must Keep His Friends Close, But His Enemies Closer

Since Alotau Accord, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea has enjoyed an unprecedented support from government Members. This is cemented by allocation of funds and privileges enjoyed by MPs supporting the government.

Lately, EMTV report cited that 10 MPs are planning a move to opposition boosting its numbers from 8 to 18. This is short of the original 25 opposition members. Most of them – 22 altogether – have moved to join Government when they knew they would not receive their District Service Improvement Funds if they had remained with the Opposition.

Many thought that these MPs have compromised their ability to think and act as leaders when they were lured by money. Three men remained standing: Belden Namah, Sam Basil and Allan Marat. They did not trade their leadership status and their people for money.

On the other hand, politicians have their rights to practise what they perceived to be in the best interest of their people. Who are we to judge?

It has been twenty seven months of smooth-sailing for Peter O’Neill when compared to previous governments, where power struggles and government instability were major issues. But, lots of things have happened during O’Neill-Dion rule, both good and bad: loans from Exim Bank and UBS, Infrastructure developments, completion of PNGLNG project, sacking of Attorney General and Treasurer, Task Force Sweep Warrant of Arrest on Peter O’Neill, his latest referral to a Leadership Tribunal and many more.

It is important to note that the prime minister in the 9th parliament has his work cut out to remain for full 30 months. Signing of Alotau Accord and extension of grace period from 18 to 30 months has made it possible. Unless this period is tested and proven to be illegal by the Courts, Peter O’Neill will remain prime minister whether one likes it or not.

So, how long can PNC and its coalition partners enjoy the grace period? Sadly not long. O’Neill-Dion government has only 3 months before a vote-of-no-confidence it called. That means that a motion of vote-of-no-confidence on Peter O’Neill is likely to happen in February or March next year, 2015.

The government is not concerned at the moment as it is enjoying stability from within PNC and coalition partners. This remains to be seen in just 3 months.Meanwhile, Peter O’Neill may have to keep his friends close, but his enemies closer.

K8.6 Billion Debt Vs K16 Billion Budget - Why PNG Treasury Runs Dry and Impact On 2015 Budget

Two letters were released on two important political developments on the same day, Friday the 14th of November. The first was the 'unexpected' referral of the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, to Leadership Tribunal. Second is a letter from the Chief Secretary of Government seeking cooperation from department heads to minimise pressure on 2014 Budget. 

The PM and Minister for Treasury indicated that 2015 Budget was on course. Their intentions were to showcase to every citizen and overseas friend that all is under control. As long as there are no confirmed data to support the Budget presentation, no one will believe them.

Government circular No. 05/2014 indicated that all is not too well. Chief Secretary to the Government circular implied that treasury could run dry before the end of the financial year. Every financial year ends in March. Does it mean that department heads have not followed tight monetary policy over the last 8 months? Why this letter is 'urgent'? 

The reasons why the heads should take cost-cutting measures detailed in Circular Instruction No. 05/2014 are indicative. This means that those reasons are used as smokescreen to divert attention from nonconformity to 'strict fiscal conditions set in 2014 Budget'.

The reality is obvious. Take a look at the facts associated with commodity prices, overspending and Government Debt.

1. Decline in tax revenues due to falls in some key commodity prices

Gold and silver prices have fallen after the financial crises, but oil and gas prices are at record high due to high demand from South East Asian Countries like Japan and Taiwan. Coffee price is at its peak, including other agricultural commodities.

The problem is that government has neglected Agricultural commodities, instead it places value on Gold, Silver and Oil and Gas. 

2. Increased costs associated with the completion of facilities for the 2015 South Pacific Games

Preparation of the SPG has put a lot of strain on 2014 Budget. The games committee has overspent  and requested more. The Government initially allocated AU$9 million, about PNG K1.2 billion when Don Polye was the treasurer. The estimated budget for the games is AU$342 million (over PGK760 million)

One only wonders if such an amount would not eat into Government Budget.  

3.  Increased costs on Government debt

Current government treasurer, in his 2015 Budget speech, said budget deficit is at K77 million and not K2.35 billion as expected from 2014 Budget. This is an oversight or deliberate attempt to divert from real debt. The amount does not include PNGK6 billion (about AU$2.7 billion) China's Exim Bank loan. The treasurer did not include the loan from Swiss bank UBS worth almost PNGK2.6 billion (AU$1.2 billion). 

It was reported that public debt service to cover interest payments stands at  K3.7 billion. Does this include both loans? What is the actual deficit brought forward from 2014? All these have to be factored into 2015 Budget and printed for all to see. 

In fact, PNG government has accrued a total debt of more than PNGK8.6 billion (K6b + K2.6b) since the Exim Bank loan. (That does not include other borrowings or repayments. or public debt of K3.7 billion or deficit from 2014 Budget of K2.35 billion). 

The conservative amount of K8.6 billion is factual based on both loans The nation's 2015 budget is around K16 billion. From the outset, one can see that debt level is at half the PNG's Annual Budget

Papua New Guineans and commentators have to see this figures clearly, and as it should be seen. The government has to tell us how much it has paid back. 2015 budget has to reflect all these figures in entirety. 

Apparently, Government of Papua New Guinea is placing all its hope on revenue from PNG LNG project. This is what the Prime Minister said in response to series of questions from the ABC news:

"GARRETT: You've just announced a 6 billion kina loan from China's Exim bank - that's worth almost 2.7 billion dollars. Critics say that is too big for PNG's budget. How do you respond?
O'NEILL: I think they underestimate Papua New Guinea's growth that is happening in the country. We are growing at an average of 8% over the last 10 years. We expect that growth to continue. We expect our economy to double by 2014. Our infrastructure in the country is declining to a state where some infrastructures are not able to cope with the demands of our people and our ecomomy. So when you look at this what solutions do you have? We need to program a massive overhauling and redevelopment of many of these infrastructures, particularly the transport systems in the country, and we are doing that by borrowing large sums of money. It sounds large but the draw down will not be in one single year. We are managing it prudently through our fiscal strategies that we have put in place and the projects are not going to be completed in one single cycle of a budget. So I don't think the stress levels will be that noticeable as the economy continues to grow. So I think our critics that are out there now stating that we are not able to manage such a large loan that has been sought through the Exim Bank of China we say this 'Do you want us to allow our infrastructures to continue declining? Do you want us to allow the economy to slow down and that there is no economic growth in the country? Do you want us to allow the unemployment figures to continue to rise?' Because when the economy does not grow the unemployment increases, all the other social sectors will decline. That is not a responsibility this government is prepared to accept. That is why the onus is on myself and the government to make sure that we rebuild the infrastructure in the country"
The stress level is clearly reflected in Chief Secretary's circular. The good news is that PNG LNG gas revenue will into government coffers starting 2015. 

Above all we must consider that PNG government will make just over K1 billion from its 16.8% stakes in the LNG project next year. Government's 10% stakes (149.4 million shares) in Oil Search contributes just over K70 million in first year of full production which is 2015. So, the anticipated revenue from the LNG project would contribute under K2 billion to Budget 2015.

It is certainly true that the Governments of Sir Michael Somare and Peter O'Neill have erred in using the PNG project as platform for more borrowing. PNG's budget has not doubled this year, not even next year when one takes a closer look at the rate of growth and debt level.

The country is likely to plunge deeper into debt.

PNG LNG | Do You Know ExxonMobil Can Recover Development Cost Under 5 Years

This analysis is based on the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG) response to series of questions from the Opposition. Including latest report from the nation’s television broadcaster EMTV news on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production in the country.

Many Papua New Guineans thought the US$19 billion earmarked for PNGLNG development was a huge investment. The amount actually spent was less.  A report from EMTV revealed that ExxonMobil saved over US$8 billion during construction phase.

To date over 42 shipments have left PNG shores.The Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, when responding to Deputy Opposition leader questions about the shipments of LNG products, said a shipment was valued at US$50, 000, 000 on average. 

Expenditure margin has been reduced when ExxonMobil moved from development to production. Perhaps it is important to consider the savings of US£8 billion - a savings of 30% . Another good news for shareholders is that the company is likely to recover all the development costs – US$11 billion – in just 5 years.

For clarity: if 42 shipments worth on average US$50 000 000 each, ExxonMobile has made US$2.1 billion in six months. Double it to give US$4.2 billion in one year. So, in 5 years if oil price averages at the current rate, the project would have made US$21 billion.

So what does that mean? That means that the every shareholder would enjoy the fruit of their investments. What is not so right is the fact that PNG Government has borrowed heavily to partake in this business.

So, who is going to benefit from PNG LNG project?

Alternative PNG Prime Minister | Will Peter O'Neill Be Forced to Step Down?

L-R: O'Neill, Parkop, Kua, Namah [Google Images]
In light of the recent developments (referral of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill  to the Leadership Tribunal and pending arrest warrant for criminal charges), there may have been internal forces emerging, mounting and drumming up for who should take over the leadership into the 2017 election or until PO is cleared.

The most probable event will be that the PM will not step aside, unless asked to, as documented in his press release. But, his latest referral and pending criminal charges may have already created frictions within his regime resulting in breakdown in the Coalition Partners. 

Signs of disagreements were evident when Mr O'Neill sacked Sinesine-Yongomugl MP Kerenga Kua and Kandep MP Don Polye, two senior members of his cabinet. Other senior members are also not at ease, yet too afraid to  speak up unless opportunity presents itself. Hence, a change of leadership within PNC party or coalition partners is inevitable.

Either way, the government MPs (including those of the ruling PNC party), the middle bench and opposition may have to think strategically if the unexpected happens. They must think about the best way forward if (and when) Peter O’Neill is forced to step aside.

If he is pressurised from within his government or from the masses or by a Leadership Tribunal, most likely he would relinquish the prime ministership to another PNC member. Government MPs who can act sensibly and responsibly can regroup to change the leadership. In the best interest of the nation, a change must be without destabilising economic, political, social or any development. What is important here is stability and good governance.  

The opinion widely held by the public is that there is no one credible person/MP in the ruling PNC party to take over the prime ministership.

The 'would be' candidates may include:

1. Leon Dion – was made a deputy PM under the circumstances and not someone vibrant enough and decisive to lead.

2. Nick Kuman - who is rather soft and out-dated (not vibrant and dynamic),

3. Richard Maru - may be an enterprising state minister but may not master the parliamentary support for leadership.

4. Other PNC members including Marape, Zeming, Pato, etc are all rudimentary and not so prominent and promising candidates for PM.

Other coalition partners:

1. Ben Micah - has the popularity but diluted and disgraced himself on many fronts and further, he is a PPP man,

2. Bire Kimisopa - his leadership is diminished when he has been numb and dumb on issues of national concern and corruptions. He is lately trying to create media attention but he is already written off in the minds of the people,

 3. Don Polye - his party has been fragmented and destroyed. To regroup and re-gather has to be a move from not only his party but has to be supported by majority of the ruling PNC party which is highly unlikely, 

4. Patrick Pruhaitch – his integrity is already tarnished, not a decisive leader.

5. Kerenga Kua – though he is not a party leader, he briefly displayed maturity and confidence. Thereafter he has disappeared from the scene. He is credible but needed to do more to earn the parliamentary support,

6. Former  PMs are all back sitters

7. Powes Parkop - he is enterprising, innovative and serving backed by his vision. PP only problem is his close alignment with PO which he got mud over his face. Secondly, PP’s party in the government is minority. He really needed to persuade the ruling PNC party to back him if he ever needed to become the PM.

Opposition Members

Belden Namah, Sam Basil and Allen Marat are credible and prominent, principle-driven and unwavering. The Opposition Leader is no nonsense, firm, bold and is still a credible material for prime ministership. The only problem here is no government MPs would want to join the opposition.

Potential prime-ministerial candidates to take over from Mr O’Neill  are Powes Parkop, Belden Namah, and Kerenga Kua. 

Within the coalition political parties NCDC Governor Powes Parkop remains to be a better candidate for prime minister leading to 2017. 

- Guest Article, Adapted -

O'Neill Referred | 3 Allegations Of Misconduct By Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea

Peter O'Neill [Google Pics]
Referral of the Prime Minister to a Leadership Tribunal was confirmed. The news was a ‘Breaking News’ on Sharp Talk. It was interesting to note that people close to the prime minister didn’t know.

Yet, this particular referral process has taken three months. Ombudsman Commission (OC) referred Peter O’Neill on Tuesday 12th of August, 2014. 

According to the Public Prosecutor the initial referral did not contain sufficient evidence, credible to request the Chief Justice to appoint a Leadership Tribunal. OC has now provided cogent evidence, convincing to see this judicial process through.

Peter O’Neill referral is based  on 3 allegations reported in the Post Courier on 13th August 2014:

The Prime Minister failed to comply with administrative and financial processes including the normal overseas borrowing process in the approval of the K3 billion loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland AF (Australia Branch);

The leader having made a media release on the sacking of Mr Don Polye as the Minister for Treasury by saying that Mr Don Polye caused instability in the Government, when the actual reason was to do with Mr Polye’s refusal to sign the UBS Loan deal which the Prime Minister had unilaterally approved on March 6, 2014; and

The leader made a misleading statement on EMTV that he had obtained advice from the state agencies including Bank of Papua New Guinea on the UBS loan to purchase Oil Search shares, which was contrary to the evidence received.

Until Friday 14th 2014, no one has thought the Public Prosecutor would have made this bold move. To request Chief Justice to call for a Leadership Tribunal is a step in the right direction. The tribunal will deliberate on the process and transparency surrounding the K3 billion loan from Union Bank of Switzerland, the UBS.

Has the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, complied with due process? Has he sacked Don Polye for the right reason? Has he obtained advise from appropriate institutions before signing off the loan? Those questions will be tested against the OCs evidence. 

Facing the evidence is what Peter O'Neill has dreaded. That's his great phobia. He must subject himself to this referral.  He can only proclaim his innocence by proving to the contrary any evidence provided to a Leadership Tribunal by the OC. 

Sir Peter Barter Calls For Responsible Discussions On Social Media


Sir Peter Barter          Courtesy SMH

Democratic good governance depends on public debate – debate which is based on fact, honestly and openly held views, and willingness to engage with participants who hold quite different positions. The Internet provides fresh – and exciting – opportunities for just such debates on important public issues. Unfortunately, however, it often falls short as some participants make ill-founded claims, or simply resort to labelling those with whom they happen to disagree. In complex and contested environments, such as those experienced at times in some parts of Papua New Guinea, such conduct has the potential to publicize mere assertions, even untruths, or, particularly when labelling is involved, personal abuse. In doing so, it may add or give rise to tensions on the ground.

As Minister for Bougainville Affairs, the challenges I faced included working to build trust not only in government but between ex-combatants on different sides of the previous conflict, and within and between communities around Bougainville. Similar challenges arose when the 2002 elections in Southern Highlands failed. My responsibilities included rebuilding the trust which is basic to peace, democracy and good governance on the ground. 

Anyone who values the free exchanges which are vital to democracy must, surely, appreciate the opportunities that blogs and other sites on the Internet provide. However, the ways in which some participants make unfounded assertions or simply ‘slag off’ at those with whom they disagree must, surely, be cause for concern. In doing so, they do not contribute to informed debate or help build the trust and mutual confidence in government and the wider community which are basic to public order and development. In this regard, contributors to social media would be well advised to bear in the wider – social – context in which they are expressing themselves, and that the role of media is to transmit what they say to a much wider audience which may not be aware of the immediate issues or context in which they are expressing themselves, or have ready access to other sources of information and opinion. In short, freedom of expression should be accompanied by an appropriate sense of responsibility.

Having been privileged to serve as the Minister with primary responsibility for the Bougainville Affairs for eight years, I continue to maintain a keen interest in the progress that is being made in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. In doing so, I remain in personal contact with the President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Hon. Dr John Momis and other Bougainvillean leaders, as well as students at the Divine Word University (where I have the honour of being a Council Member).

Without wishing to dwell on the past, I would like to make it clear that the negotiations which produced and then gave legal effect to the Bougainville Peace Agreement by amending the National Constitution and enacting the Organic Law on Peace-Building in Bougainville involved Bougainvillean leaders on all sides of the previous conflict, support by the United Nations, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, and, most importantly, the active participation of the churches, individuals like the late Theodore Miriung, as well as women and men around Bougainville. These efforts led to the making of the Bougainville Constitution, the formation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), and, now, the work under way to bring about restoration and development on the ground, the transfer of functions and powers to the ABG, and preparations for the guaranteed referendum on Bougainville’s political future (due to be held, when good governance and weapons disposal have been achieved, between 2015 and 2020).

As Minister for Bougainville Affairs, I saw my immediate task to help make and build peace on the ground, and secure the resources required to provide essential services to the people. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the European Union, and other aid donors provided generous support.

Aware of the sensitivities among local communities, in particular, I did not encourage discussion about the future of mining at Panguna. However, I did make public my view that, in order to be truly autonomous, or become independent following the referendum, Bougainville would need to have an economy and become less reliant on donor aid. This is clearly a prime concern of the ABG and the people of Bougainville. They want Bougainville to be autonomous, and, in the event the people vote for independence and the National Parliament agrees, they do not want to be beggars.

Throughout my time as Minister, I had to deal with the sensitivities of the various factions, and endeavour to establish an environment in which the peace process could keep moving ahead - as it has, in fact, done. Though there may be people who disagree, I am confident that significant progress has been made, and that this will continue if we can harness the resources we have available now and in the future.

In addition to my responsibilities as Minister for Bougainville Affairs, I had to deal with the failed elections in the Southern Highlands and, ultimately, the establishment of the Hela and Jiwaka Provinces. I used many of the same processes learnt in Bougainville to help bring back some semblance of law and order and ensure an environment in which elections could take place. An important lesson I learnt is that you cannot wave a magic wand to bring about peace; peace can only occur if everyone wants peace; peace begins in the hearts of those who want peace!

Many of us appreciate the freedom and diversity of the views expressed in social media concerning Bougainville and other important issues and parts of Papua New Guinea. However, in doing so, we cannot help but be concerned at the ways in which some participants behave and express themselves as if they have licence to say whatever they choose, however sarcastically and disrespectfully they seek to express themselves and even to impose their views. 

Errors of fact, exaggerations, deliberate untruths and the application of unwarranted and unwelcome labels to other individuals, groups or organizations may cause offence, even hurt, to those who are targeted, including people who are innocent or, perhaps, unaware of the allegations being made or slurs being cast. 

Truly democratic debate is a matter of honesty, openness and trust in the integrity of other participants and the process as a whole. 

It is accordingly important that participants in blogs and other social media recognize the importance of these values, the role they are playing, and the need to behave in ways which are consistent with – and so help to reinforce – the very democratic values on which they rely.

Like every other country, Papua New Guinea cannot claim to be perfect. Amid our diversity, we have impressive – including some quite unique - national strengths. We also have important national challenges to address and overcome. While criticism can be vital to informed national debate in a democracy, ridicule and abuse are not; they frequently represent an abuse of free speech that would be condemned elsewhere, including the countries from which some of it originates.

Papua New Guinea needs improvements in health, education, employment and other opportunities for youth, which would help to reduce temptations to crime and reduce our reliance on foreign aid. A more self-reliant society and economy are important keys to a sustainable future. While it is not the only way forward, these are precisely the issues being addressed and the reasons why mining is receiving increasing attention in Bougainville. 

It is vital both to democratic good governance and to Bougainville’s future that participants in the discussions in Bougainville are not labelled in derogatory ways, or subjected to abuse or ill-founded accusations. Like participants in other democratic debates, they are entitled to be treated with honesty and respect. While they have the right to freedom of speech, contributors to social media should recognize the responsibilities that participation in the social and media aspects of their activities entail.
Papua New Guinea is an independent country. We have come a long way. Anyone who knows or cares for Papua New Guinea can only be impressed with the development that has taken place, while recognizing that much still needs to be done. 

My comments concerning social media are not directed against any specific person(s) or organization(s). My aim is simply to ensure that Papua New Guinea keeps moving ahead – towards what I believe are shared national objectives of more equitable distribution of wealth, more employment, and sustainable self-reliance based on agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and a responsible approach towards mining and resource development that will bring about improved services to the people of Papua New Guinea.

I, therefore, call on users of social media, both in-country and overseas, to adopt – and on their audiences to encourage - and promote a positive, respectful and optimistic approach when discussing issues in and affecting Papua New Guinea. 

The word ‘optimism’ comes from the Latin word ‘optimus’, meaning "best". An optimistic approach is one which leads one to look for the best in any situation, whether or not it is really welcome. While self-awareness and self-criticism are important, slagging off at our country or particular national actors is unlikely to lead to positive outcomes. The key to a successful future is mutual and self-respect, and an optimistic approach towards the opportunities and challenges we face.

Oct 10, 2014

Educators trained on new curriculum | Too much politics, too much talk, nothing done, Dr Michael Tapo PNG Education Secretary

Post Courier report 12/11/2014 

EDUCATORS attending a week long training on standards-based education in Port Moresby have been told to work with the education hierarchy to implement government policies.

Education Secretary Michael Tapo made this clear when addressing education trainers on Monday

Speaking about a variety of issues within the education sector, the secretary told participants, especially provincial education officers, to work with him to implement policies.

"There is too much talking and nothing done. There is too much politics, too much talk."
He told educators not to blame setbacks on the unavailability of money but blame their own attitude and negligence.

The secretary was among other officers from the Education Department’s curriculum section who spoke to trainers from provinces about the purpose of the training and about their roles and responsibilities of training teachers about standards-based education or curriculum.

Standards-based education is all about improving education standards in schools. These come in the form of teacher preparations and professional development, examinations, inspections, school governance and restructuring of school system and structures. These are just some of the many components that will be improved by a standards-based curriculum.

Despite this training, there are also public concerns that the trainings are late as holidays are approaching and teachers may not have time to be fully-equipped on time for the new curriculum to be implemented in the 2015 academic year, beginning at the elementary level.

The education secretary was adamant that this Government policy would be rolled out with all components for the curriculum now being sent out to schools. There are presentations of curriculum documents to schools and stakeholders.

OBE Vs SBE | Education Policy Change, English-Only Language of Instruction in 3 Months

Many changes are taking place. For the last 22 years, the elementary years are when local languages were mandatory under the  Outcome Based Education (OBE) Policy. This will change beginning 2015.

Standard Based Education (SBE) is now set for the new academic year. This means that English will be the only form of communication starting at elementary school.

There is no clear indication of any structural reform and what could be done to balance the change. It appears, for now, that PNG expects this policy change in such a very short time without any adjustment to embrace the change. Does it mean SBE will be absorbed into OBE structure? Government, education planners and NDoE assume it will work, but how effective can it be? The last thing Papua New Guinea wants is another failed education policy.

One change that stood out was English to replace Tokples at elementary level. This is a welcoming change. But, has it been properly thought through? Here is my response to a discussion on PNG Teachers' Facebook group.

PNG education planners, policy implementers, NDoE officials, teachers and government must not mix structural reform with curriculum changes. 

Teaching English from Elementary Schools up is policy change. This is one change at the crucial stage of learning - the elementary school. It must be done properly. This, I infer, is the subject of this post. Now, to Rebecca's point: to be able to speak, read and write properly - English syllabus  at elementary (the early years) MUST be directed to improving students ability to speak English, Read in English and write in English. 

Emphasis must be placed accordingly starting with speaking the language as this is the best way to learn it. This can be effectively done by reinforcing use of phonics and sound. For example instead of learning to say A, B, C, D......X, Y, Z elementary teachers can start by introducing tthe consonant and vowel sounds: Aaaa, Baaa, Caaa, Daaa, Eeee, .....Xaaa, Yaaa, Zaaa. These sounds MUST be drilled into young kids. This must be followed by irregular/compound sounds like ay, ow, th, st, mo, kn.... and vowel sounds, aaaa, eee, iiii, oooo, uuu ....

So you see, if the policy has to change - regardless of whether the structure changes or not -  it must be both PRACTICAL and REALISTIC! You cannot just say 'okay we'll start teaching English . It is SBE. That is ridiculous. The change-makers must point out how to do it right the first time. 

Every stakeholder has to have a complete understanding of HOW English as a language can be taught from elementary to secondary schools without compromising on basics ideas that matter in early learning. Don't tell me curriculum is already there. What's there is as good as the results we saw. 

The challenge: if PNG education planners, implementers and govt make change it has to be done at the right stage with the right approach. So, what is the approach, any ideas?

Not much can be done to change the syllabi at at primary and secondary schools. English has been the mode of communication. What needed fundamental changes is the structure of elementary schools syllabus.

If it has to change from local languages (TOKPLES) to English, clear pathway has to be set to ensure every elementary school child is fully prepared to speak, read and write in English.

Growth, A Challenge Turned Problem - Why PNG Government Oblivious To The Obvious

To make progress in a changing World, education system has to evolve  and adapt to social, demographic, technological and other modern changes. Reforming the education  system was one way to adapt to this changes.

Papua New Guinea National Education Plan 2005 to 2014 was an important document. It encompassed development phases at elementary, primary, secondary and technical education in detail. It was a 10-year working plan, thoroughly outlined to guide every stakeholder involved in giving and receiving educational services.

The aims and time-frame for achieving each outcome was clearly indicated in a 148-page documentChallenges identified by the working committee have remained the same to this day. Why were those challenges not addressed according to the timeline? What made it so difficult? 

There were (are) 5 main challenges: Growth, Quality, Financing, Maintainable and Management. Lets start with the first challenge. 

The NEP 2005 - 2014 working committee realised that retention of students' population between elementary and secondary schools was challenging. This was recorded in the Situation Analysis report:

….improving retention through the years of basic education; improving delivery of education services in rural and remote areas; strengthening the vocational education and training sector to support appropriate courses and to make better use of partnerships with the private sector and community agencies; and securing adequate government budget support for the reform to manage the enrollment growth. [NEP 2005 – 2014, Situation Analysis pp 21 – 37]. 

By 2005 the Reform would have been implemented for 12 years. There were two retention problems - students pulling out (those leaving school at their own will between elementary and secondary school) and students dropping out (those leaving after examination at Grades 8, 10 and 12). Controlling the the earlier problem was documented. But, the later was not. The WB and and working knew maintaining school attendance was going to be tough. What they didn't foresee was the increase in number of students who would have actually left at the end of Grades 10 and 12.

Any responsible government would have seen the need to prepare universities and colleges to accommodate students at the end of their examination years. That was where successive PNG governments have failed, and continue to fail its young citizens. When is retention likely to improve? Perhaps Papua New Guineans who are supposed to advise successive governments on policy matters failed the people. Maybe the WB could have look at things differently at the biginning of Education Reform.

The fact of the matter is that two decades later, the national education system cannot sustain a growing population passing through. The Education Reform created a bottled neck effect. Though insignificant during early Reform days, this effect has had a big generational impact 22 years later. The strain on the system is shocking when only 1 in 5 Grade 12 student makes it to a tertiary institution. 

It is reasonable to maintain a good flow of students from one stage to another. What happens to 80% of young men and women? Why didn't any development take place at tertiary level?  Apparently, a World Bank [WB] condition restrained any growth at tertiary institutions. This was clearly indicated in a press release from Australian National University

In part it reads “… The World Bank, for example, in the mid-1990s, was prepared to support only development projects that targeted universal basic education and would not entertain forms of assistance at the tertiary level of education.”

PNG government was bowing to WB. Instead of developing the whole system, it created lots of elementary, primary and secondary schools all over the country, without any expansion at the higher level to absorb the output. 

In fact, any chance of growth at higher education was stalled as a direct result of the WB condition given as shown in ANU report.

After 2 decades of the Reform and the result is there for all to see. There are only 4500 spaces at tertiary institutions today. Of the 21430 Grade 12 students, over 16000 will be ejected from a formal tertiary education. This is real, it is frightening. 

I would like to make it clear that this article does not intend to throw egg on the government, or WB or education officials. It simply questions why government ignore a challenge identified in the National Education Plan 2005 to 2014.

?My next article will be about the second challenge identified in 2005 by the NEP planning committee - Quality.

Oh, How I Wish These Days Are Better Than The 1980s

Successive governments have done their best to deliver much needed service to every citizen. From Sir Michael Somare to Peter O’Neill, Papua New Guinea has seen many changes in politics, economics, social, education, health, Law and Justice and many other sectors.

Compared to the mid-1970s, have the changes been better? Children who grew up in the late 1970s and early 1980s would beg to differ in opinion as far as changes are concerned. In fact, the democratically elected governments at the National, Provincial and Local levels have served well. Public servants played their roles by meeting people's demand for service.

Services to communities were effectively administered locally by Aid Post Orderly, primary school teachers, local police men, village court magistrates, peace and good order committee and district administrators.

This was a time when public service took pride in their jobs. I remember our local APO - a good man. He served 4 villages with dignity and humanity. He would walk 3 hours to the nearest health centre to procure get medical supply, every month. He sometimes sent his boys who would take us along with them.

Teaching would commence at day one of academic year. Lesson planning would be evident in delivery of lessons. We learnt to read and write fairly well before reaching Grade 3. By then, our handwriting, memorsing times-table and reading were better than any grade 3 today. At the age of 9, I started writing letters to my dad. Teachers at the village 'community' school taught us well.

I bet this is what many who are attending 'primary' schools could not do today. Why? What went wrong along the way?

My grandpa was village court magistrate. He solved problems and made referrals when (and where) needed to district court. Law and Order existed in the village. Respect for village elders was obvious.

The early years where the best days for a child to grow up in the village. Everything needed was there - security, food, school, family, kids' play and good life. All.

I am sure you will have your story if your childhood was same as mine. Those were the days. Life was good.

Oh, I wish these days are better!

MORE Early 70s/80s Photos of Papua New Guinea CLICK HERE

National Education Plan 2015 - 2019 Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world

As PNG looks forward to another 5-year National Education Plan, NEP 2015 – 2019, over 21000 grade 12 graduates are competing for one of the 4500 places at tertiary institutions nationwide.  Where will 80% of these young men and women go? What is their future? How do we arm them with the 'most powerful weapon' - EDUCATION after grade 12?

NEP 2005 – 2014 clearly outlined specific recommendations (and ways) to achieve its goals. The vision was clear. I will pinpoint certain areas where government and National Department of Education (NDoE) should have done right in articles (II) – (IV).

This article gives an introductory remark on way forward in next 10 years by looking at why Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

His words are relevant in PNG now.

This great man gave his speech during his first visit to the US after his release from 27 years imprisonment. In the early 1990 many students dropped out of school. That was why he stressed the importance of school and education. He wanted to get the message to every student - young man and woman who was present that time.

He also said “This [students dropping out from school] is a very disturbing situation, because the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” he told the students . He urged students to “try as much as possible to remain in school.”

The message was clear: he gave it at the right time to the right audience. Many students present took the message in.  Here is one example.

Papua New Guinea education planners need to get this message in, too. Education consultants, researchers, NDoE secretary and time wasters at the department must get their heads together.

This isn’t a time for planning as it may seem. It is time for planning and implementing a new (or adjusted) 10-year vision.

The words of Mandela rings through to this day when over 80% of Grade 12s do not have a place in higher educational institutions. It is time to create National Education Plan that encompasses not only the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), BUT also relevant to PNG.

Why not start by addressing high dropout rate? Look no further than do what needed done is the best way forward.

Dame Carol Kidu, Loujaya Kouza, Delilah Gore, Julie Soso Keke | PNG Lost Interest in Women's Representation in Parliament?

Women representation in politics has done 3 steps back. During her time there was talk about creating seats for 22 women reps. This was received with mixed feelings, yet there was a good support from male MPs.

Current parliament has 3 sitting female MPs. The situation for woman and girls may have stayed the same. But, the situation for woman leaders was NOT represented well by those 3 women MPs. It has deteriorated, don't you think?

For example, MP Delilah Gore's recent alleged spending of department's K17000 and siding with Arore to oust Governor Juffa is a black mark on her reputation, including woman leaders. Remember the Air Niugini incident - Yu Save Lo Mi - comment. That was directed at a younger woman. 

Take a look at MP for Lae, Loujaya Toni. A few months after her election to the parliament her marriage broke down. Even, as a Melanesian woman leader where simplicity is gold, she does not give the impression of a contemporary PNG woman leader. 

What about the Governor of EHP, does she portray a mirrored image a young girl could reflect? Julie Soso can be described as a Melanesian woman. However, as the governor, there is more to be desired of her. She has never done better than Mal Kela Smith or Feti Lafanama. Goroka Town has not got back the image of the 80s -  beautiful and clean. Pigs are roaming the market. Pickpockets are everywhere in town. Shanty towns extended from Genoka to Banana Block and everywhere. 

Those 3 women leaders CAN change public opinion on woman leaders in the country. They failed miserably in this regard.

I still have lots of respect for Dame Kidu. She showed how a woman can make a difference. She topped her career off with being the only opposition leader and the only member of the opposition. She stood against males idiocy. She is forever to be remembered as one woman opposition. 

PNG needs a woman like Dame Carol Kidu.

Image: PNG opposition leader cuts lonely figure (ABC News, 15 Feb 2012)