Weekly Commentaries

This is Sunday Chronicle's weekly commentaries on various issues of interest affecting the country. All individual commentators are done by elite Papua New Guineans from diverse educational backgrounds.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Provincial Governments must shape up and deliver or ship out

News Analysis by BENNY SANDEKA

REVELATIONS by the National Economic and Fiscal Commission this week of provincial government's failure to deliver basic services to the rural masses only gives more reason to the national government to abolish the second tier of government in this country and deal directly with the local level governments.

The provincial government system was introduced in PNG to become the vehicle by which basic services in the rural areas can be effectively delivered to the rural masses and also give greater political participation to the people in lower levels of governments.

But to date, the service delivery aspect of the provincial government system is almost non-existent. The main reason employed by provincial governments over the years is that the national government is not funding the provincial governments properly.

Over the last four years, the National Economic and Fiscal Commission have gone out of its way to verify if funding is really the problem of provincial governments in delivering the basic services. And the results of their findings are disheartening.

Provincial governments have once again failed the national government and the people of Papua New Guinea in the delivery of basic goods and services. The national government has been increasing its annual allocation to the provinces since 2007.  But the productivity of provincial governments is still the same as it was since the inception of the system in 1977.

This begs the question whether provincial governments should be retained in whatever form to allow for greater political participation at the lower levels of government at the expense of service delivery.  We will look at both arguments and justify them.

Seen from the view point of service delivery, provincial governments are a white elephant. They are supposed to be the most effective mechanism facilitating service delivery to the people of Papua New Guinea. But they have miserably failed.

The latest findings of the National Economic and Fiscal Commission indicate that provincial government's recurrent expenditure on health and infrastructure has stagnated and in some cases, is on a worrying downward trend. Expenditure on education has made slight progress over the last four years while expenditure on agriculture and agricultural developments is "peanuts" according to Dr. Nao Badu. These are key investment areas of the national government's Medium Term Development Strategy 2005 - 2010 and the latest vision 2050.

Now let us turn to the aspect of increasing political participation of the masses at the lower levels of government. The provisions of the provincial government system were made as the First Amendment to the country's constitution in March 1977.

In a country where there are a thousand tribes, languages and ethnic groupings, working with hundreds of local level government throughout the country is a recipe for disaster. The country will disintegrate into little groupings making it difficult for national unity. Provincial government is a management tool of the national government whereby all hundreds of different groupings can collectively express themselves by participating in political activities in their respective areas. More so, it is better off managing the country through the twenty provinces rather and through hundreds of local level governments.

However, political participation at this level has been curtailed by recent changes to the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments where elected representatives were removed from the provincial legislature and replaced with appointed ones.  This totally defeats the original purpose of the provincial government system whereby elected representatives are supposed to serve.

The way forward for the Provincial Government system in as far as the findings of the National Economic and Fiscal are concerned is to retain the provincial government system, involve elected representatives of the local level government system in the decision making process at that level and above all, improve the capacity of provinces by advertising all positions and recruiting university graduates who can do the job well.

The National Governments Medium Term Development Strategy 2005 - 2010 indicated that many government policies are not implemented because the implementers do not know what they are doing or can do to implement important government decisions at their levels. 

Currently, old timers are clogging the government systems hence denying the effective implementation of government policies and delivery of basic goods and services. The 2005 -2010 MTDS calls for cadet public servants but that has never been implemented.

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