The National Government is making a shamble of the recovery effort in the aftermath of unprecedented earthquake damage in Southern Highlands, Hela and parts of Enga and Western Province, Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch said today.

Mr Pruaitch said although he complimented Prime Minister Peter O’Neill a few days ago for his fast response to the tragedy, the Government’s emergency response effort since then has been very disappointing.

“It has been mainly all take and little action,” said Mr Pruaitch, who noted that thousands of people in many communities were struggling to obtain essential food and water supplies with the Government making little or no effort to tackle this aspect of the crisis. “With roads cut off by landslides, air drop offs are vital but almost none have been organized by the Government in the face of a lack of capacity by the nation’s air force, with private sector aircraft not being commandeered for this purpose.

“Neighbouring countries, particularly Australia, are willing to assist but all PNG has managed to obtain is a single Caribou transport aircraft that will not make any difference to the overall relief effort.

“In so many areas water supplies have been badly damaged or cut off. Spare technical capacity at Water PNG, Eda Ranu, and from other utilities, could have been quickly dispersed into the four impacted provinces to help the recovery effort to repair damaged water tanks and water supply infrastructure. To this point nothing of this sort has been done or contemplated.

“All this Prime Minister can think of is the amount of money he wants to borrow, not to solve immediate problems of starvation and health, but a four-year reconstruction effort. The O’Neill-Abel Government has borrowed so many billions since 2013 that the private sector refuses to take up any more public debt and the search for foreign loans has proved largely futile in the hands of the Bank of Papua New Guinea.

Unless the Government fully engages the help of the private sector and volunteer organizations… the relief effort will be totally inadequate.

“Getting adequate funds to immediately take the relief effort is a near impossibility because of the PNG Government’s soaring levels of debt and economic mismanagement which has made debt servicing a highly onerous task.

“Unless the Government fully engages the help of the private sector and volunteer organizations – a good start has been made by ExxonMobil and Oil Search in their operating areas – the relief effort will be totally inadequate. Even with an all-out effort, the overall challenge is daunting.

The Government relief efforts are very much a mirror image of the irresponsible policies and mismanagement of the economy.

“Short term Government loans are now being rolled over at such a rapid rate it has jeopardized the payment of salaries of government workers, caused personnel from several government departments to be thrown out on the streets because lack of rental payments and industrial action has been threatened by teachers, doctors and others.

“These are factors that show beyond doubt that the O’Neill-Abel Government is one of the most incompetent Governments ever to sit in Waigani, matched possibly only by O’Neill’s People’s National Congress during the only previous occasion when it headed a Coalition Government.”



Leader of the Opposition

5th May, 2018