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Former PNG PM O'Neill reflects on his govt's achievements

Statement by Hon. Peter O'Neill , former PNG Prime Minister 

π–π„π‹π‚πŽπŒπ„ π“πŽ 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟎

As our country enters a new year and a new decade, we as Members of your Parliament must deliver policy and legislation that will move our country forward.

For the past seven months I have remained relatively quiet so that our Members could give the new Government every opportunity to demonstrate if it could take on the massive and complex task of managing the country.

We brought this Government together and gave our support as a coalition partner and build on the successes of the past years of Government.

Regardless of fake news and mischief we see on social media, even our opponents recognize the success of our Government over a period of nearly eight years in delivering development and infrastructure around our Nation.

We woke the economy up from the sleep of the previous decade and we empowered our people.

We implemented policy and passed legislation that was essential to provide a strong foundation as we move forward with policy delivery in the months and years ahead.

The change of government was a shock to many, but on the bright side, it has given our Members of Parliament the opportunity to review and reflect on what has worked and what will be done better in the future.

Our Government is the father of modern infrastructure expansion in Papua New Guinea.

Throughout all parts of our country, not just the main centres, we delivered new hospitals, roads, bridges, airports, training colleges and housing.

This can never be taken away and is the legacy of our Members since we first formed Government in 2011.

When we came to office in 2011, and were re-elected in 2012, we inherited a Government and economy that was in serious trouble.

After a decade of high national revenue there was nothing left. The surpluses had gone missing, as this money had been stolen and wasted.

While the PNG-LNG project construction inflated growth, this was somewhat hollow because there was nothing else happening in the economy. When the construction phase of the PNG-LNG project ended, so did the jobs and growth.

π„π‚πŽππŽπŒπˆπ‚ πƒπ„π•π„π‹πŽππŒπ„ππ“
National economic growth was at the core of our Government’s policy platform. Because with real economic growth we delivered positive change for our people.

We balanced our expenditure with expanding revenue and careful debt management, and the global investment community had confidence in our management of the economy of Papua New Guinea.

International organizations like the ADB, the World Bank, and agencies such as Moodys regularly reviewed our economic performance and they were very positive.

We improved perceptions of Papua New Guinea as a safe investment location with political stability and the continuity of policy. We also reformed the way investment takes place in our economy particularly when it comes to local product and returns to landowners.

We further ensured that business growth is not just for large companies, but conditions set so that small and medium enterprises can grow their businesses right around the country.

In 2018 we successfully completed our first international bond issue that was well oversubscribed. This was after twenty years of our country trying to complete a successful bond issue.

When our Government came to office we set about restructuring the public service, and we established better and more efficient systems in the public service to deliver for our people.

As a Government we delivered and continued to refine our Tuition Fee Free Education Policy. This policy has put more than one million more children in schools, most of them girls.

We also trained and assigned an additional 5,000 primary school teachers and 3,000 secondary school teachers.
Following the initial roll-out of the free education program, we reviewed what had been achieved, and what more needed to be done. The focus of the current term of Parliament had been on increasing the quality of teacher training, and the construction of more classrooms and teachers colleges.

We all have a responsibility to continue to make education more accessible. This ranges from primary and secondary education, to universities and technical colleges.

As our population grows, and we have more children entering school age, we must have enough schools and teachers.

We must create every opportunity for all young Papua New Guineans to take advantage of better opportunities and to be our future doctors, engineers, pilots and elected leaders.

Our Government continued to expand free basic healthcare, and we subsidized specialized healthcare around the country.

Spending on healthcare programs continued to increase with this averaging more than K1.3 billion each year that was increased to K1.5 billion in the 2019 budget.

We have trained nearly 700 additional nurses, assigned around 500 doctors around the country, and trained many clinical health workers.

Our hospitals have seen dramatic improvements such as at the Port Moresby General Hospital, but also around the country in places like Angau, Mt Hagen and Kerema, and we opened new hospitals in Popondetta, Goroka and Wewak.

Real improvements were delivered such as malaria prevalence rates being reduced from 171 per 1,000 people when we came to office, to 109 per 1,000 people. The tuberculosis prevalence rate reduced from 475 per 100,000 people to 320 per 100,000.

There is still so much more work to do and the Government must maintain focus on healthcare and not let this slip which would result in more people suffering and getting sick, and losing their lives.

𝐋𝐀𝐖 𝐀𝐍𝐃 πŽπ‘πƒπ„π‘
As a Government we have delivered safer and more secure communities. This was through a multi-layered approach focusing on police, the judiciary and correctional services.
We increased police numbers after ten years, during which time not a single recruit went through the Bomana Training College. We opened the college again and were training more police.

We improved discipline in the police and military and we came down hard on those who disrespect the oaths they have made to our country.

We were strengthening all levels of courts right down to the village courts level. We employed more judges provided better training to court officials and constructed better court buildings.

And for those convicted of a crime, we have strengthened the prison system where they have better opportunities for rehabilitation so that former prisoners can make a contribution to society when they are released.

As a Government we refurbished Jackson’s Airport and other national airports, including Mt Hagen, Hoskins, Vanimo, and Popondetta. We had been rebuilding the Nadzab Airport Terminal and the rehabilitation of rural air strips, and upgraded the Goroka Airport and rebuilt the Mt Hagen Airport terminal.

We built the Lae Port, moved the Port Moresby Port and increased the capacity of other ports and had been building new International wharves in Wewak, Vanimo, Manus and Kikori.

When it comes to roads, we improved more 3,000 kilometres of road to seal standard, built more than 1,000 new bridges, and, laid more than 4,000 kilometres of closed provincial and district roads that have now been opened up to accessible condition.

We worked with the Asian Development Bank, and other international agencies, to invest 3 billion Kina to fully redevelop the Highlands Highway. We invested in the Sustainable Highlands Highway Investment Program, the National Highway Rehabilitation Program, the National Bridge Program and, the Missing link Road Program.

As part of our policy implementation we opened up the road between Kokopo and Kimbe, the New Britain Highway and have been building more bridges to complete this work. We also had been working on the highway between Baiyer and Madang, and had been close to completing the link from Kikori and Gulf, to the Southern Highlands and the highlands provinces.

𝐏𝐄𝐀𝐂𝐄 𝐈𝐍 ππŽπ”π†π€πˆππ•πˆπ‹π‹π„
One of the greatest issues facing the Government today is establishing a lasting peace on Bougainville. Together, we have achieved a great deal since peace talks began under the leadership of Prime Minister Bill Skate. But there is a lot more work to do.

We must work together to ensure the requirements of the Bougainville Peace Agreement are met, to ensure there is real weapons disposal, and we must strengthen good Governance. We must ensure that we communicate with all Bougainvilleans with total respect for cultural and economic desires.

πˆππ“π„π‘ππ€π“πˆπŽππ€π‹ π€π…π…π€πˆπ‘π’
On the international stage, global perspectives of Papua New Guinea have changed for the better over the past eight years.

This includes belief in the potential of our economy as an international investment destination, and the promotion of our culture and our people.

We successfully delivered the 2015 Pacific Games to a standard that has never been seen before, and our Government delivered other international sporting events including the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup and matches of the Rugby League World Cup.

We hosted major regional and global political and economic summits, including the 8th African, Caribbean and Pacific Leaders’ Summit, Pacific Islands Forum and Melanesian Spearhead Group Meetings.

And of course, we brought the eyes of the world to Papua New Guinea for APEC 2018 and the APEC CEO Summit.

APEC delivered many positive outcomes for our country including the electrification project that will deliver electricity to 70 per cent of our people by 2030.

At a bilateral level, we have strengthened relations with our traditional partners, and opened new relationships.

With Australia, our long-time traditional partner, and we moved this relationship to a new level. Our joint projects are delivering more results than ever before and more lives were being saved through improved healthcare, more of our youth are being educated, and more infrastructure is being delivered.

With China we strengthened our co-operation, as the first Pacific Island Nation to be invited to participate in the Belt and Road initiative and elevated our relationship to the level of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

With Indonesia, the only country with which we share a land border, we have increased trade and investment, and worked together to ease tensions and enhance peace for our Melanesian Brothers and Sisters who live in Papuan areas.

With New Zealand we have increased co-operation in the training of Government officials, particularly in protocol and governance areas.

Our Government has improved our co-operation with Japan and built much stronger ties particularly through APEC.

We also encouraged the United States to increase its participation in the Pacific Region.

With Pacific Island Nations, including our next-door neighbor, the Solomon Islands, we have increased our trade and cultural exchange, and we provided our support through RAMSI.

We expanded our engagement with India, a country with one of the largest populations and growing markets in the world, particularly through closer information technology co-operation.

With countries as far away as Europe, we have crossed geographical distance. As the United Kingdom deals with its ongoing BREXIT dilemma, we have sought new trade and investment opportunities.

With France, which is not a traditional bilateral partner, we negotiated billions of dollars in investment that we must see delivered in the coming years, and this will only come through the return of political stability.

We have expanded our co-operation with countries such as Russia, Canada, Vietnam and energy producing countries in the Middle East.

The global community now views Papua New Guinea differently today and it is incumbent of every future government to continue to build on this work.

Our Government’s legacy is our track record.

We have been a Government that was tried and tested, and when you look around our country today we all see the great change that has taken place since we first came to office in 2011, and were re-elected in 2012 and 2017.

As Prime Minister I always had an open-door policy for all Members to discuss issues. It should not matter if a Member sits on the Government or Opposition benches, Leaders should always be open to hear all views and look at how to work together to deliver development for districts and provinces.

We will be part of any Government that continues the work we have started. This will continue to put more of our young people in schools, and technical colleges and universities, and to improve the quality of education. We must all work to continue to improve healthcare, particularly for our remote and rural communities. We must continue to enhance law and order and make our communities safer. We must continue to expand infrastructure right around the country so that our people have better access to electricity, have better roads, more airports and jetties.

The Government of this land must continue to continue to grow our economy, attract more investment, create more jobs and improve the living standards of our people while ensuring our landowners get a fair deal from this investment.

Leading a Government is never simple, it takes commitment, stamina and belief that we can achieve what we said we would do, and very important we have to have real plans of action to get there.

What our country needs now, from whoever leads the government by the end of 2020 and through until the election in 2022 is decisiveness.

I would like to thank each and every person who has worked with our Government including our Ministers and Members, our Departmental and Agency Heads, our diplomats, our Public Servants at all levels of Government, Community Groups and NGOs, and everyone else who has contributed to nation building over the past eight years.

Our Nation, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, has a great future ahead of us. We are unified in our diversity and we are very strong as a Nation when we work together.

Through the new decade we must work together and move beyond the delays and setbacks we have seen in recent months, and make this a great decade for Papua New Guinea.

May God Bless each and every one of our people for the year and decade ahead. Happy New Year Papua New Guinea.

Hon. Peter O’Neill, CMG, MP
Leader of the People’s National Congress Party
Member for Ialibu-Pangia

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