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PNG Opposition accuses O'Neill govt for falsifying country's debt figures

The Papua New Guinea  Opposition yesterday accused the government of falsifying the debt to GDP ratio which it said was way higher than the 2017 forecast and its revised figure for the same year.

It charged Treasurer Charles Abel of misleading Parliament a week ago in a “rushed and unscheduled budget speech” where he told “some fairy tales again to try and protect his political reputation.”

In question was Mr Abel’s assertion that the debt to GDP ratio was 31.9 per cent lower than the forecast level of 32.1 per cent.

“Using PNG Treasury figures for 2017 GDP of K73.86 billion, this gives a debt to GDP ratio of 33.4 per cent, not 31.9 per cent as the Treasurer announced in his 2018 Budget,” Shadow Minister for Treasury and Finance Ian Ling-Stuckey said.

“This increase is even more extraordinary when we consider the forecast debt to GDP ratio in 2017, as announced in the 2017 Budget, would be only 28.8 per cent.

“The outcome is nearly 5 per cent of GDP higher than forecast in the 2017 Budget and 1.5 per cent higher than the revised forecast.

“Who do we trust. A rushed and unscheduled 5-page political speech by the Treasurer or PNG’s Central Bank?”

Mr Ling-Stuckey said the Bank of PNG indicated on February 6, that PNG’s debt levels had reached K23.867 billion by September 30, 2017.

He said this was already higher than the level forecast in Mr Abel’s 2018 budget of K23.82 billion.

He said it reflected a fiscal deficit at that stage of the year of K894.6 million.

“Treasurer Abel has now revealed that the deficit for 2017 had increased to K1.7 billion, so more than an extra K800 million in deficit or debt borrowed in the final quarter of 2017,” Mr Ling-Stuckey said.

“Extra deficits mean extra debt. So PNG’s public debt level would also have increased by K800 million to more than K24.6 billion.”

Mr Ling-Stuckey said it appears the Treasurer continued to manipulate numbers by simply not paying bills and fiddling with revenue.

He said there were some positive elements in Mr Abel’s speech as much as serious errors, but emphatically too much time was focused on the resources sector and not enough on the areas that provided livelihoods for most people, especially agriculture and fisheries.
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