[Madang, Papua New Guinea] A team of Pacific Islands Forum experts in planning, budgeting and aid delivery consulted in Madang and East New Britain this week as part of a Peer Review of development coordination.
Senior officials from Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand are carrying out the Peer Review exercise, which began in Port Moresby last week, at the request of the Government of Papua New Guinea.
“While we bring our own country perspectives to the table, Papua New Guinea is truly unique in its challenges due to the sheer scale of its landmass, population and diversity of cultures and languages,” remarked Mr Mathew Pativato, Director Financial and Economic Development Unit in the Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Finance and Treasury, speaking from Madang.
With a population of about 450,000 – equivalent to the Solomon Islands’ own population (2000 est.) – the Madang Province boasts the country’s highest peaks, active volcanoes and biggest mix of languages. “Clearly the Madang provincial and local-level governments have quite anextensive responsibility in delivering services to the people on the ground,” said Mr Pativato.
“From our consultations in Madang so far, we have heard a consistent message in support of decentralisation of development funding from the national government, directly to local-level governments. While this would give those closer to the people more opportunities to implement their planned development initiatives in a timely manner, there is also an understanding, and a plea, to strengthen the human capacity and systems at this level to support decentralisation.”
Former Governor of Madang, Minister for Provincial and Local Government Affairs, Health, Bougainville Affairs, Chairman for the National AIDS Association and a longtime political and business figure now based in Madang, Sir Peter Barter, agrees.
“Respect each level of government and give them the appropriate levels of capacity and funding to deliver effectively,” was Sir Peter’s advice.
Mr Pativato says he can relate to the issues raised, as the Solomon Islands have faced similar challenges and are consequently taking steps to propose a new way of doing business. “In the Solomon Islands we will be presenting a Bill at the next sitting of Parliament to direct resources straight to the constituencies to avoid ‘bottlenecks’ such as those described by Madang administrators,” explained Mr Pativato. “I think this is an excellent initiative to move the important responsibility and resources closer to the people. There is, of course, the need to up-skill civil servants and to put the appropriate financial management systems in place, which we are also working on.”
A Madang District Administrator did not mince his words in highlighting his office’s administrative challenges to his Pacific peers.
“There is a lot of planning coming from the National Government but we don’t feel it on the ground,” he told the Peer Review team, asserting that the ‘bottlenecks’ in the system between the Provincial Government and his office were a great hindrance to their day-to-day operations.
“They receive their funds late from the National coffers, and we receive ours even later. We cannot implement what we planned for without the appropriate resources.”
Madang District Deputy Treasurer, Ms Helen Kanimba, says everyone is to blame to some extent.
“I blame all of us – it’s about attitude,” she said. “We have to contribute to development – to take ownership. In the 70s and 80s the Government’s priorities were well looked after – what has happened?”
Mr Pativato said he looks forward to developing practical and specific recommendations to the Government of Papua New Guinea from the Peer Review exercise.
“Coming to the rural communities has been an enlightening experience and has given the team a greater understanding of the planning, budgeting and service delivery challenges in Papua New Guinea. Improving service delivery on the ground will be no small task, particularly somewhere like Madang that has the least road connectivity in the country.”
Papua New Guinea has 20 provinces, one autonomous region (Bougainville) and the National Capital District. Each province consequently has at least one or more districts, and each district has one or more Local Level Government (LLG) areas.
The Peer Review team will present their preliminary findings and recommendations to the Government at the conclusion of their consultations next week.
Peer Reviews, established under the Forum Compact by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2009, are an opportunity for mutual learning between Forum Island Countries to assist with improving their planning, budgeting and delivery of development programmes.
PNG is the eighth country to undertake the Forum Compact peer review process after Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Niue, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tonga.
Please contact Mue Bentley Fisher of the Forum Secretariat via email@example.com or +679 9998677 for further information and high-resolution images.
PNG Planning Minister Hon. Charles Abel welcomes Pacific planning experts (Press Statement released 4th October 2012)
Peer Review of development coordination underway in PNG (Press Statement released 2nd October 2012)