“Treasurer Abel once again has demonstrated the PNC government is filled with good intents language, but it doesn’t know how to deliver. The Treasurer on Tuesday stated he wanted to appropriate the required K11.1 billion for meeting PNG’s debt service obligations in 2019. But it is only the actual Appropriation Bills which provide the legal basis, under Section 209 of PNG’s Constitution, for meeting our debt obligations. So where in the actual Appropriation Bills have you actually delivered on this good intent? Please, just show us this simple piece of evidence – the extract from the Appropriation Bills. Without this simple piece of evidence that there is a legal basis to pay our debt bills in 2019, Parliament needs to be recalled urgently so that we can meet our legal obligations, protect our international reputation, and minimise risks to our financial system” stated the Shadow Minister for Treasury & Finance Ian Ling-Stuckey.
“Please don’t continue with your convenient lines of the K11.1 billion (and this is billion, not million – so it is a huge amount of Kina) was mentioned in the Explanatory Notes and the Budget. The Alternative Government knows this and included the relevant extracts in my previous media release of 21 November. However, this is not the actual Appropriation Bill. Any lawyer can talk about how the Explanatory Notes can help provide clarification of what is included in legislation, and they can be considered in some cases as “supporting or extrinsic materials”. But they will also tell you that the omission of K11.1 billion in funding in the actual Appropriation Bill approved by Parliament is a fundamental error. It is not some possible “technicality” as hinted by the Treasurer in a partial admission of guilt. It is an absolute failure to deliver” stated the Shadow Treasurer.
“Section 209 of PNG’s Constitution, in the first section dealing with Parliamentary Responsibility, discusses the key role of the “raising and expenditure of finance”. Importantly, as the Treasurer’s mistake covers loans, the section continues “including the imposition of taxation and the raising of loans”. The Constitution continues “is subject to authorisation and control by Parliament”. So how is this authorisation and control exercised? It is not through Budget Volume 1 or some Explanatory Notes. The Constitution is clear: it “shall be regulated by an Act of the Parliament”. The Appropriation Bills are the required Act of Parliament. There is no alternative. If the K11.1billion is not in the Appropriation Bill, then this K11.1 billion in loan repayments is not in the 2019 Budget approved by the Parliament. Any payments for debt service will therefore be illegal from 1 January 2019.
“Treasurer – just show us the Constitution authorisation for this K11.1 billion in loan repayments. If you do so, then the Alternative Government will apologise and we can move on. However, if you can’t show us this provision in the actual Appropriation Bills, then PNG has a major Constitutional problem which threatens our ability to repay loans, including to our superannuation industry as well as our banks, as well as foreign creditors. This is serious – it is 40% of the total required appropriation for 2019. Treasurer, for the sake of PNG’s financial reputation and the stability of our financial system, please admit your error, accept responsibility for your failure to deliver and urgently organise the recall of Parliament so the Alternative Government can help to get the job done. Be Honest with the people of PNG.” requested Mr Ling-Stuckey.
Shadow Minister for Treasury & Finance
28 November 2018
The opening of Section 209 of the PNG Constitution is below: