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PNG Budget Repair – the 2020 Budget Strategy

Statement by Treasury Minister

“Budget repair is difficult. It requires an honest approach, one that exposes the economic lies of the O’Neill years. It requires an ability to make tough decisions, such as the K1,482 million spending cuts in the 2019 Supplementary Budget.

It requires planning over the medium-term, as the economic hole dug by economic mismanagement will take years to climb out of. The next step in this process of budget repair will be the release in the next two weeks of the 2020 Budget Strategy. This important document will set out the budget framework for taking back PNG. The framework will cover five years – so it will include high level information on revenue, spending, the budget deficit and debt from 2020 to 2024. The document is later than I’d wished, but that was an inevitable consequence from starting to sort out previous fake budgets.

“At this stage, I wanted to share the broad principles that the Marape-Stevens Government will and have been using, when preparing our 2020 Budget Strategy. There are lots and lots of detail, but in summary, the approach has been:
 spend the money we have more wisely,
 raise the revenues more fairly,
 finance the debt more cheaply,
 leverage friendly international support more intelligently,
 get foreign exchange flowing more freely,
 focus on the agriculture sector, SMEs and informal sector,
 distribute resource benefits more equitably.
 stimulate non-resource growth back to 5% annually,
 create at least 10,000 jobs annually,

“This work has built upon the work being done by our loyal public servants, working long nights and into the weekends, over the last few months. This work has had to deal with the major budget revisions revealed by the Due Diligence/IMF process, and the subsequent cuts in the Supplementary Budget. The budget process is a tough one – a demanding one requiring balancing different claims on a very limited pot of money. I am proud of the work that has been done by our staff in central agencies, as well as all our other departments and agencies that have put together their budget bids.

“One particular challenge facing this budget has been the extraordinary level of unpaid bills from the former government. In a future release, I will set these out in more detail. Enough to say now that these are so large that they cannot be paid off in one year. They are so large that they will require a special approach which separates out the once-off payments to clear the arrears. They need to be separated out to present an underlying, on-going picture of how the budget is actually performing. The O’Neill years were ones of hidden arrears, unpaid bills that have hurt our businesses and brought many to their knees, unpaid bills to our power companies that are causing blackouts, unpaid allowances or necessary exit and superannuation payments for our public servants. The years of arrears are nearly over – the Marape-Stevens government will endeavour and give every effort, not to accumulate any more arrears” stated Treasurer Ling-Stuckey.

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