MEDIA STATEMENT

14 AUGUST 2019

Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch said he is confident most Papua New Guineans would welcome a Supreme Court ruling that proper Parliamentary procedures, and the PNG Constitution, have been honoured during the May 30 election of the Prime Minister.

“Never again in our history should the letter and spirit of the PNG Constitution be breached, as it was in August 2011 when Parliament ignored two Supreme Court rulings that the election of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had been unconstitutional,” Mr Pruaitch said.

Mr Pruaitch said concerns have been raised that the recent election of the Prime Minister may have breached procedures laid down by the Constitution and this will be ascertained during the Supreme Court hearing.

He said: “I am saddened that Prime Minister Marape has chosen to personalise the issue by criticising my role as a former Treasurer of the Somare Government and under the O’Neill Government from 2014 till my sacking in 2017.

“As part of the ruling National Alliance Party we have to take full credit or blame for government performance from 2002 to 2011. Subsequently, credit and blame should be directed towards the O’Neill Government’s ruling Peoples’ National Congress, where Prime Minister Marape played a key role.

“I admit to being a little confused now as to why Prime Minister Marape approached the Opposition early this year for assistance to topple the O’Neill Government since he has embraced all previous government policies and publicly announced there will be no major changes.

“I cannot recall a single major policy announcement in the past two and a half months even though the Prime Minister has acknowledged ‘a tough 2019 fiscal year’. For the first time today, he mentions the ‘possibility’ of a Supplementary Budget even though the Prime Minister remains reluctant to state what this might achieve.

“Mr Marape has repeated the mantra that he wants a balanced budget and less borrowing on many occasions. The recently released 2019 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) shows the deficit has blown out to K1.7 billion in the first six months with continuing inaction set to blow it out to a highly damaging figure in excess of K3 billion.”

Mr Pruaitch said he would leave other commentators to assess his successes and failures as a former PNG Treasurer, but assured the public he has always tried to do his job to the best of his ability.

He said: “I became PNG Treasurer most recently in 2014 after the sacking of Mr Don Polye because the then Treasurer had refused to sign the illegal UBS loan deal. I took over only after the deal had been endorsed and signed by the former Prime Minister, in his capacity as Acting PNG Treasurer.

“The economy sank in a dismal fashion while I was Treasurer and leader of the National Alliance Party. I tried very hard in those years to minimise the size of the budget deficit and wanted to implement financial plans in 2014 to begin cutting back public debt.

“It was an uphill battle from the start. Prime Minister O’Neill and his PNC colleagues, including the current Prime Minister, were reluctant to implement Supplementary Budgets. They were keen on borrowing and spending huge amounts on glamourous and unproductive events such as the Pacific Games and APEC Summit.

“In November 2015 just a day before the budget was to be brought down, Mr Marape as Finance Minister, and Mr Charles Abel as National Planning Minister, came to my office to insist that more than K1 billion be added to government expenditure for “political commitments”. This was on top of demands from the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Mr Pruaitch said these unfortunate spending demands adversely impacted a budget regarded by the Department of Treasury as very good. Nevertheless, the 2015 budget deficit was still reduced to K2.5 billion after having soared to more than K3 billion in 2014 and K3 billion in 2015.