PNG’s fiscal woes: where has all the money gone?
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2016/04/pngs-fiscal-woes-where-has-all-the-money-gone.html#more STEPHEN HOWES | Dev Policy Blog | Edited extracts
THERE are widespread reports these days from Papua New Guinea of budgetary difficulties, from budget cuts to church health services to government salary payment delays. Why?
Total expenditure is budgeted in 2016 to be slightly below the 2015 level. But it is still 50% above 2012 levels. That’s massive growth. So what is the problem? There are three.
The first is a big shift in allocations. Since 2012, there have been big increases in interest payments (due to increased borrowing), payments to members of parliament through district and provincial funds, payments to schools (in lieu of school fees), and compensation to employees.
Deduct these and there is an 18% increase in spending compared to 2012 to fund everything else, which includes critical things like maintenance and church health spending….
The second problem is revenue. The budget assumed that 2016 revenue would equal that of 2015. Given the slowdown in growth, this is realistic. Indeed, things may be worse, given that the oil price is below the level assumed in the budget. The budget assumed an oil price of $US54. In fact, oil prices are much lower. UK Brent crude, for example, averaged $53 per barrel last year and only $31 a barrel so far this year. Unfortunately, 2015 revenues were not the K12.5 billion estimated at the time of the 2016 budget. In fact, according to the final numbers just released, they were only K11 billion. ..
The third problem is borrowing. PNG needs to raise K2.1 billion in net borrowing this year to meet its budget targets. Domestic sources are limited, and the budget assumed K2.8 billion in a sovereign bond: almost 20% of total spending. But that plan has apparently been shelved, presumably assessed as infeasible, leaving a huge hole in the government’s financing plans. PNG can borrow more domestically than it assumed in the budget, but will find it difficult to fill the gap entirely.
These three give a sense of the situation PNG is in. Its current fiscal problems are due to the big shifts in the way the budget is spent, an inability to finance the deficit and much lower than expected revenue receipts.
What needs to be done? There are no easy answers. Expenditure reforms are needed. Nothing can be done about the interest bill, but the other “non-discretionary” items could in fact be put on the table.
Reform options include a freeze on salary increases, further cuts to district and provincial MP funds, and cuts to the school subsidy program. Revenue reforms should be re-examined. And a new borrowing plan is needed.
PNG’s frightening Final Budget Outcome
by Paul Flanagan
PNG Treasury released last Thursday an update on what may really have happened with the 2015 budget. Like the mid-year Treasury MYEFO update, this is a frightening document that points to a collapse in government revenues of 20 per cent in 2015 relative to the budget, and reveals 2015 expenditure reductions of 37% in health, 36% in infrastructure and 30% in education, areas the government said would be protected. The combined budget deficits over the last three years of 24% of GDP are the largest for a three year period in PNG’s history. …
The fall in international commodity prices was outside of PNG’s control. However, spending so much up-front in anticipation of higher PNG LNG was a risky and, in the end, irresponsible strategy. The pattern of expenditure reductions in 2015 suggest that not enough is being done to protect priority sectors. Especially with the likelihood that there will be no sovereign bond, the FBO, and the collapse in revenue that it confirms, add to the arguments that PNG is in a fiscal cash crisis. PNG should be reaching out to friends for assistance, accepting that this will involve some conditions for getting the house back into order.
[For the full article, see the URL above]
CIMC: Be wary of violent male partners
Post Courier, March 31, 2016
BOYFRIENDS and husbands or males in teenage relationships do not have the right to inflict serious bodily injury upon their girlfriend, wife and partners. This is the concern expressed by the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council’s (CIMC) family and sexual violence action committee in response to Post-Courier’s front page story last Thursday of a lady being hospitalised after being bashed by her boyfriend. The CIMC’s family and sexual violence action committee expresses concern that such behaviour by males has become so common today.
Women are cautioned that if they notice such behaviour from husbands or partners who are possessive, insulting, demeaning, harassing or impose movement limitations and rules around personal or work life, limits your words, ability, ideas and action, digital abuse, sexting, cyber-bullying or threatening you through the social media you are encouraged to think carefully whether to still remain and become a continuous victim of violence, leave or move out of that unhappy relationship. “Many of us in PNG mistake these actions as a partner showing love and protective attitude,” it added. National program coordinator Ms Ume Wainetti said women tend to make excuses for their husband or partner and often blame themselves as causes of the violence inflicted.
“These women stay in such violent relationships hoping and believing that their partners will eventually change one day and some have died in these relationships,” she added.
The National, Thursday March 31st, 2016
PAPUA New Guinea has the highest tuberculosis prevalence in the Western Pacific region and the 10th highest globally, according to the World Health Organisation. In 2014, WHO estimated the TB incidence to be at 417 per 100,000 people (31,000 new cases every year), with a prevalence of 529 per 100,000 (39,000 cases every year), and a death rate of 40 per 100,000 among HIV-negative people. WHO medical officer Dr Tauhid-ul Islam told The National in Port Moresby yesterday that TB was the fourth highest cause of death for those admitted in PNG hospitals. It was also the major cause of mortality among HIV/AIDS patients. “TB is a social disease and a disease of poverty,” he said. “So obviously, this is very expensive for poor people, especially M/XDR-TB which is super expensive (costing between K15,000and K30,000 per patient only for drugs).” He said prevention could be achieved by cutting the transmission chain through detecting cases early and getting effective treatment. “The community can play a big role by raising awareness and assisting in the completion of the treatment,” he said.
The National, Friday April 1st, 2016
A PUBLIC servant has advised parents in two Highlands provinces to stop marrying off their sons and daughters at an early age because they often end up in problems. Peter Nepil, an acting manager for the Community Development and Welfare Department, said some parents in Western Highlands and Jiwaka gave away their daughters before they turned 18 because of what they would get in return, such as money and pigs. He said early marriages often ended up in broken marriages, with couples failing to cope with community obligations. He said girls under 18 often came to the welfare office seeking assistance after their husbands deserted them with the children.
“Don’t think about the pigs, money, cow, cassowaries and force your daughter to get married. These things will still be there when your daughter reaches 18 and above,” he said. He said some married men lured girls with money, lying to them that they were single and looking for a partner. Nepil said many of these men had wives and children waiting for them at home. And most times they chase away the girls after they had used them.
Increase in number of young people involved in illegal activities
Post Courier, April 05, 2016
The number of young people taking part in illegal activities has swiftly increased in PNG, says Juvenile Justice executive Director Paul Wagun. Mr Wagun raised this concern when stressing on the type of crimes that children make to end up in jail or the Juvenile Justice Centres. “Children, especially those living in squatter settlements and rural communities cannot survive the advancing society and as a result, much younger people are now involving in illegal activities like selling marijuana rolls, pick-pocket, selling betel nut, taking part in pornographic activities and prostitution forced by adults and many more,” he said. He said the result of wanting more causes disparity, leading them to involve in illegal activities that they think money can be made quick so that they can have enough like others in urban areas do.
Bougainville’s lost generation is a ‘time bomb’ – John Momis
BOUGAINVILLE president John Momis has said he has concerns at the impact of under-resourcing and other large problems affecting the province’s education system. In an interview with Radio New Zealand International’s Don Wiseman, Dr Momis admitted that Bougainville has “a big percentage of our youth who can effectively be called a lost generation. “They are very, very frustrated, traumatised, and unless something is done soon it’s a total injustice to them and we are sitting on a time bomb.”
Dr Momis agreed with Wiseman’s observation that many of those children and their parents would not have gone to school because of the civil war, resulting in two successive generations without any opportunity of schooling. He also agreed that part of the problem was that the PNG government was not providing Bougainville with promised funds. “But even with the allocated funding, it just wouldn’t be enough to address the backlog of young people — kids — who have had no education,” Dr Momis said.
“Probably the most responsible way to deal with this problem would be to, if we had the funds, have more vocational schools to improve our current system of primary and then secondary education.
“But apart from vocational schools we might have to embark on a program of popular education, not just vocational, but even just having a mass education system of raising awareness, trying to encourage values, giving people a sense of hope, and then engaging them in simple socio-economic activities to get them involved so that they don’t become frustrated and become totally anti-social.”
Dr Momis said the Bougainville government could not itself go to overseas donors to solicit funds.
“Unfortunately donors are also beholden to the national government, which I think is wrong. Donors are not involved in any subversive activity and are probably our only other viable alternative way of obtaining some funds.”
Baisu jail food supply cut
Post Courier, April 08, 2016
THE Baisu Jail in Western Highlands Province has run out of food supply for the month of April due to none payment of monthly ration fees to the supplier. The only supplier Whisky Fresh engaged by the PNG Correctional Institution Services (CIS) through Central Supply Tender Board claimed that CIS was yet to settle over K700, 000 for previous supplies. The Managing Director of Whisky Fresh, Berry Maip who was engaged to supply food ratios to Bundaira Jail in Kainantu, Bihute in Goroka, Barawagi in Simbu and Baisu in Mount Hagen told Post Courier yesterday that his company will not supply food ratios to these jails until his previous payments are made. Mr Maip said he was not happy with the management of the CIS for mistreating him by terminating his contract on the 2nd of April for supplying food ratios to Bundaira and Bihute Jail in Eastern Highlands Province. He said his company was loyal with the Department of CIS and supplied the food rations on time and even sometimes spending his own money in making sure prisoners have food on daily basis.
“Since I was engaged in 2013 to supply food ratios to four jails in the Highlands, I never failed them. I make sure food supplies were provided on time in every month,” Mr Maip said.
Critical drugs shortage
Post Courier, April 13, 2016
THE Port Moresby General Hospital has been without life saving drugs for more than six months, forcing patients to buy their own prescribed drugs. “The Port Moresby General Hospital is in need of essential lifesaving drugs for close to six to seven months now,” clinical services executive director Dr Umesh Gutpa said yesterday. Dr Gutpa said patients are being checked and are prescribed medication so they can buy their medicine in pharmacies because the hospital has run out of essential lifesaving drugs. He said this is because the Government has cut the health budget by 40 per cent and the hospital was not able to buy the medicine to provide for the patients. Dr Gupta also spoke about the use of antibiotics sold on the streets, warning that these are not safe for use. He urged the public not to buy these antibiotics, including amoxicillin and Panadol, which are sold on the streets without prescriptions. He said that is why antibiotics are sold on the streets in the city which is risky as people could become drug resistant when they use too much of the medicine and asked the Government to give more money
The National, Tuesday April 19th, 2016
THE Catholic Bishops Conference has called on the Government to consider churches as partners in delivering health and education services. The conference’s general-secretary Father Victor Roche, said in the 1970s, the Catholic Education Services joined the Government to form an association of equals in a unified system of education in PNG. He said this partnership had lasted but there was little respect shown to the church by the national and provincial education authorities.
“They rarely consult their partners when setting new policies and making changes in the education system,” Roche said. “In this context, we find that for PNG, the partnership we entered into with the State many years ago is now in crisis, even in chaos. “Now as the years went by, it looks like the Catholic Church and the other churches were more considered as the church giving service which is good. But we have to be treated as partners to ensure that the services are delivered effectively and efficiently.” He said national leaders including ministers talked about the church playing an important role in delivering health and education services. “But they do not consider the churches, especially the Catholic Church, the important player, to be a partner at present.”
Mainline churches launch booklet
Post Courier, April 20, 2016
THE seven mainline Christian churches receiving aid from the Australian government for its social programs have launched a booklet on gender equality. Called the Theology of Gender Equality, the booklet was launched in Port Moresby yesterday and is part of the PNG Churches Partnership Program.
Leaders from the seven churches and their counterpart Australian church-based non-government organisations attended the event which coincided with a two-day forum on the PNGCPP that is under review. This is the second document that has been produced by the seven churches under PNG CPP, the first being the Theology of Development statement which was launched at the Parliament in 2014.
Church leaders speaking at the launch agreed that prevalence of violence and gender inequality is high in this country.
Woman donates food to drought areas
Post Courier, April 22, 2016
SHE was waving a printed copy of the Summary of Assessments of Food Supply Situations in Kandep, Enga Province and Panduaga, Hela Province. She is Maria Peter and she had an assessment which was produced by the Church Partnership Program food security assessment team at end of March. “I just read about the alarming situation and stories of children in drought-affected areas. Is this your work?” she asked. Ms Peter has just walked into the office of the Hela Community Good Action forum on March 30. James Kinu Komengi confirmed that he had led a rapid assessment team into the communities and the report was theirs. The dire situations expressed in the report were also real. People living in the Panduaga and Tengo Valleys of Hela Province and many more in the entire Kandep valley of Enga Province needed food. Mr Komengi told Ms Peters that many families were feeding mainly on green leaves like cabbages and watercress. Then, she listened to some stories of Panduaga Elementary School students taking extreme risks to find food. Nearly all children came to school without breakfast and lunch. “Weak and dehydrated children were sleeping in classroom in front of us. Many fainted but recovered to go into the bushes to find wild food themselves. One girl stole sweet potato and accepted a beating by the owner. “Then, she stole again the next day and accepted another beating again. “It was obvious this mother of many children was not going to hold back her tears as I shared more stories,” he said. Maria Peter said she had 10kg of very good corn seeds in a bag and wanted to share with those people in need. She asked to give it to a church pastor who will share with the needy families. That was her contribution to the Churches’ Christian Ministry. She also said she will transfer K500 into the United Church account Hela Region disaster relief to buy more seeds for families.
SHP setup medivac services for health
Post Courier, April 21, 2016
SICK people from remote communities throughout the Southern Highlands would now have access to health services from four major hospitals in the province through the establishment of a Medivac service of the Provincial Government. The Southern Highlands Provincial Executive Council has passed a resolution to establish the medevac service to assist rural communities where many die silently due to lack of proper health facilities. Announcing the decision, Southern Highlands Governor William Powi said the Provincial Government will enter into an arrangement with local airline company South West Air to provide medevac services to remote communities. He said a 24 hour hotline service would be established at Mendi town to receive phone and two-way radio calls from the remote communities when there is a need for emergencies services. He said after receiving the emergency calls a team of health officials and the airline will fly to the remote communities and retrieve the sick people to access health services in four of the hospitals in the province.
Can Rimbunan Hijau’s powerful grip over PNG be broken?
JAMES Sze Yuan Lau and Ivan Su Chiu Lu must be extremely busy men. Together, they are listed as directors of some 30 companies involved in various activities and services related to logging or agribusiness in Papua New Guinea. The former is the managing director of Rimbunan Hijau (RH) PNG and son-in-law of RH’s founder Tiong Hiew King; the latter is executive director of RH PNG Ltd.
All but two of these 30 companies have the same registered address at 479 Kennedy Road in the national capital, Port Moresby–the headquarter of the RH group in the country. Their ability to magically fit into a relatively small office space on Kennedy Road is not the only puzzling fact about the subsidiaries of the Malaysian group, Rimbunan Hijau. Out of the 30 above mentioned companies, 16 subsidiaries that are directly involved in logging or agribusiness have one other thing in common.
According to their financial records, they don’t make a profit. Most of them have been working at a loss for over a decade. During the 12 years for which financial records were available to the Oakland Institute’s researchers, all together, the subsidiaries declared an average loss of about US$ 9 million every year.
How the group – the largest logging operator in PNG – manages to operate at a loss for so many years, and yet still remains in business? If it were unprofitable to log and export timber from PNG, why would these companies continue their operations? These are some of the critical questions raised in a report released in February 2016, The Great Timber Heist: The Logging Industry in Papua New Guinea, by the Oakland Institute. The report exposed massive tax evasion and financial misreporting by foreign logging companies, allegedly resulting in non-payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.
Recovering tax revenue would be certainly welcomed by PNG given the acute budget crisis the country has been facing in recent months. Yet, it is unclear whether the government of PNG will decide to take action following these revelations.
After all, despite the promises made by the Prime Minister, still no action has been taken two and a half years after the damning report on recent land leases, produced by the Commission of Inquiry, which identified all sorts of malpractices and irregularities and concluded that most leases were illegal.
RH is controlled by Tiong Hiew King, one of Malaysia’s richest men. Although logging is the core business of the group – ‘Rimbunan Hijau’ ironically means ‘forever green’ in Malay.
Papua New Guinea First to Finalize National Climate Plan Under Paris Agreement
On March 29, Papua New Guinea became the first country to formally submit the final version of its national climate action plan (called a “Nationally Determined Contribution,” or NDC) under the Paris Agreement. The small Pacific nation’s plan to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 is no longer just an “intended” nationally determined contribution (INDC) – it is now the country’s official climate plan.
Papua New Guinea’s NDC marks a step forward in the process of implementing the landmark international climate agreement adopted at COP21 in Paris last year. In the lead up to COP21, countries submitted INDCs, setting out what climate actions they proposed to take to contribute to the global community’s collective effect to limit global warming. To date, 161 INDCs have been submitted representing the national climate plans of 188 countries and covering 98.7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement provides a legal framework for these climate plans.
Papua New Guinea’s leadership in taking this important next step towards implementing the Paris Agreement should be widely noted and applauded. We can now to look forward to many other countries formalizing their national climate action plans and further building the momentum for a low-carbon, climate-resilient world.
The National, Thursday April 21st, 2016
MT HAGEN, third largest city in the country, made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Now it is changing for the better. Over the last five weeks, streets have been cleaned, petty crimes on the streets are largely gone, sale of animal in public spaces have stopped along with store goods, betel nuts and cigarettes.The harassment of the travelling public at the main bus stops like Jiwaka to Lae, Enga or Mendi to Tari are down significantly. Criminals who usually armed themselves with screw drivers, pocket knives and long swords and surviving on other people’s efforts or food and property, are also disappearing fast. Positives changes in the city started after the establishment of the new Hagen city authority by an act of parliament passed last year.
Authority’s chief executive officer Leo Noki and his team have taken control of the city.
Their efforts to clean it up was boosted by police and women’s groups living in city suburbs.
The city is now like in the past, during the 1980s when Late Rapheal Doa was the Lord Mayor and people used to call Hagen beautiful and one of the cleanest cities in the country.
PNG Journalist Threatened
By Scott Waide – EMTV News 24 April
Another low point came yesterday when another Papua New Guinean journalist was threatened by senior members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary for maintaining contact with the suspended head of the Police Fraud Squad, Matthew Damaru. The seasoned journalist working for a daily newspaper was threatened with arrest simply for doing his job and doing what is a fundamental part of his job – maintaining contact with an important source. It is infuriating that we, as a country have allowed arms of government to stoop low to threaten those whose job it is to speak out for those who are unable. While the arrest did not eventuate, the fact that a threat was issued has struck at the heart of constitutional rights of freedom of the media and freedom of speech.
A free media able to challenge a government and those in positions of power and to hold them to account is vital for a vibrant democracy to thrive and to ride out political and economic turbulence a country many be going through. A people cannot be silenced. The act to silence the masses by silencing the media is – as history has shown – always unsustainable and always short lived.
While Papua New Guineans have not protested violently, it does not mean a dissenting voice cannot be heard. Silencing a journalist is so old school and reeks of 70s and 80s Latin American military dictatorships. It is what is done by 21st century, Asian regimes that attempt to stifle and control public opinion in the age social media. It simply does not work.
The National, Monday April 25th, 2016
THE country has achieved the Millennium Development Goals set for malaria by reducing the incidence rate to 48 cases per 1000 people and mortality rate to 48 deaths per 100,000 population.
Health Minister Michael Malabag, in a statement, said the Government realised the impact of malaria on people and singled it out as one of the priority diseases.
“Papua New Guineans must seriously reflect on this single disease that affects up to 90 per cent of our people and this great achievement that has been made through the efforts of the government and the many partners,” Malabag said. He said from 2005 to 2009, the Global fund provided more than US$20 million (K61 million) under the round three grants. “In the current round eight grant, the global fund has again made available another US$120 million (K264m). AusAID has provided A$3 million (K7.3m) in the last three years.“The Government alone cannot win this battle but it will require the efforts of all partners, the private sector, NGOs, communities and individuals.”
Malabag said factors needed to combat malaria were for:
- The Government to remain engaged in the fight to control malaria;
- Donors who pledge funding to fulfil these commitments;
- Delivery of malaria control interventions from the private sector, non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and faith-based organisations
“I challenge my colleague members of parliament and provincial governments to recognise the impact of malaria on our people and take action.”
The National, Tuesday April 26th, 2016
MORE doctors are needed in rural hospitals, Dr David Mills from the Kompiam Hospital in Enga says. Mills said the Master of Medicine rural doctors training programme was one way more doctors could be lured to rural hospitals. He said the churches were behind the programme because they noticed the small number of doctors in rural hospitals, which were set up by missionaries. Mills said because of this programme, the Christian Health Services had five specialist doctors in rural hospitals.
“We thought of setting up our own programme. We partnered with the University of Papua New Guinea to make it a full specialist programme,” he said. Mills said the programme was well known in other countries as well. “In fact, there is no other programme in Asia Pacific where rural doctors are educated to be specialist medical doctors,” he said. Mills urged rural hospitals to start thinking about taking on board medical students and train them. “We’ve got good hospitals so start thinking of getting those students because they will come and work with you in the rural hospital.”
Manus shutdown ordered
Post Courier, April 27,2016, 02:37 am
Australia’s detention and processing of asylum seekers in Manus Province are unconstitutional and illegal, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The five-man bench ruled that the detention breached the right to personal liberty in the Constitution. Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, Justices Sir Bernard Sakora, Ambeng Kandakasi, Don Sawong and Terence Higgins also ordered that both Australia and Papua New Guinea Governments take all necessary steps to stop the operations of the regional processing centre.
The decision was made following an application by then Opposition Leader and Vanimo-Green MP Belden Namah in his capacity as the then Opposition Leader. The transfer of the asylum seekers was done under an arrangement between the Australian and PNG Government in the form of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on September 8, 2012. A second MoU was signed on August 2013. Later, the two Governments sought to validate the arrangements by an amendment to Section 42 of the Constitution (now declared unconstitutional). The court found amongst others that the undisputed facts clearly reveal that the asylum seekers had no intention of entering and remaining in PNG. Their destination was and continued to be Australia. They did not enter PNG and remained in PNG on their own accord. The court found that their transfer was done forcefully and outside the Constitution and legal framework of PNG. The court therefore ruled that the transfer and processing of the asylum seekers be deemed unconstitutional and illegal.
10,000 teaching positions vacant
Post Courier, April 27, 2016
THERE are about 10,000 vacant positions for teachers in schools nationwide. The Teaching Services Commission chairman Baran Sori revealed the startling figures yesterday and admitting that there was no urgency in filling these positions. “With the figure in hand, Government’s policy on basic quality education for all may never be achieved if those positions are not filled,” Mr Sori said. Mr Baran Sori explained the sad reality faced by the education department and the entity that looks after the interest of teachers (Teaching Services Commission) that struggles each year to fill the gaps but cannot do so because it is hit by unwilling teachers, a small number of graduating teachers each year and the increased number of children searching for school every year. “Quality education can only be balanced with enough resources and manpower. But the reality now is that we lack manpower.” On top of the issue is the lack of teachers, there is the lack of school infrastructure. In a recent governor’s conference on education, a call was made for 600 grade nine spaces to be created each year to address education for all. Mr Sori said there are just not enough teachers to make such initiatives work for the Government. He said the Government wants every child to receive quality education but it will take a long time to close the teaching position gap. These vacant positions are mostly in remote and unattractive primary, high and secondary schools where many teachers refused to live and work. Some of those remote schools are in Provinces such as Western, Gulf and West Sepik. The chairman also noted that teachers do not want to move out of any Province at a given time and are left unattached which create a position. He gave an example that in 2013, teachers in East New Britain Province did not want to move out of the Province to new schools. Also it has become a norm for teachers to migrate to towns and cities for better living conditions as well.
Bougainville in financial crisis
Post Courier, April 26, 2016
THE ongoing dispute between Bougainville and the National Government over more than K600 million in unpaid grants has caused a financial crisis in Bougainville. The revenue shortage in the Autonomous Region is causing civil unrest that could lead to instability. Businesses are experiencing severe slowdowns and service providers are not being paid by the Autonomous Bougainville Government due to a lack of funds. Some disgruntled providers have started possessing government property – in particular vehicles – due to lack of payments. The ABG has an annual budget in access of K350 million made up of grants from the National Government and aid donor funding. But this year’s budget remains a piece of paper without substance. Bougainville President John Momis said in January that the National Government owes his government K635 million in unpaid grants.
Are PNG’s family and sexual violence police units working?
http://devpolicy.org/pngs-family-sexual-violence-police-units-working-20160426/ When women in Papua New Guinea experience violence and try to access help, the police can often be just another challenge to surmount. Under-resourced, slow to act, and sometimes dismissive of domestic violence cases in particular, the police response has been criticised in report after report on the family and sexual violence (FSV) challenge in PNG, despite the dedication of some individual officers to the issue.
Family and Sexual Violence Units (FSVUs) within the PNG police have been one of, if not the main attempt to improve the response that survivors receive when trying to access justice. The Australian aid program has been a particular supporter of this approach and, through the PNG-Australia Law and Justice Partnership (PALJP), has supported the establishment of 15 FSVUs across the country since 2008.
A recent evaluation of FSVUs provides some insight into whether they are working, exactly what police officers and survivors are up against, and what more needs to be done.
In many ways, the report paints a grim picture of the operating environment for FSVUs – not allocated resources in police budgets (this was bluntly stated: “The Evaluation Team found no evidence of budgets allocated for FSVUs”), not formally recognised within official police structures, under-staffed, and in some cases, under-trained. Although the report notes the major problems with data collection at many FSVUs, particularly case data, the data tables in the report show increasing demand for services year-on-year. They also show just how low the rates of arrest are in cases seen by a FSVU—something that earlier research in Lae also demonstrated. For example, in Lae in the first quarter of 2015, out of 49 FSV cases only two arrests were made. In Waigani, from 411 FSV cases in 2014, there were only seven arrests, and no follow-up at all in 109 of those cases.
The evaluation argues that the low arrest numbers are “linked to the fact that most FSVU officers are female and they are not in a position to arrest people due to potential threats to their safety” – but it cannot show that arrest rates would change if the gender profile within FSVU staffing did. …
Officers volunteer to work in FSVUs, and women have been more willing — and they were also willing to go out and make arrests.
Both Lusby’s research and the evaluation show that the overwhelmingly female FSVU officers struggle to get assistance from their overstretched colleagues when they need it and ask for it. Their resources, such as cars, are often poached by other police units (and the evaluation shows that many officers working in FSVUs don’t know how to drive). They are also swamped with cases. Adequate resourcing, of FSVUs and the police more broadly, would seem to be the biggest constraint on arrest numbers and case follow-through, rather than the gender of officers.
Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands 2016
Statement on Catholic Education and Health Services
In light of our desire to bring the mercy of God to the poor and vulnerable and empower them also to witness to Gods mercy, the Catholic Church needs urgently to address the consequences of the collapse of our partnership with the State in the delivery of education and health services. This historical relationship, which has great potential for good, is poorly understood today, lies in tatters and needs repair without delay.
The task of all
There are many Catholic men and women in the national and provincial public service departments and many others who hold political positions of great influence. The Catholic communities call on these Catholic lay people and others of good will, who hold power and distribute services, to carry out their responsibilities with honesty, fairness, and justice, while also exercising a preferential option for the poor. We appreciate the support of members of the PNGSI Federation of Religious who work tirelessly for the poor and also speak for them on many occasions. We are also greatly encouraged by the “Catholic Professionals”, which has spoken out on a number of social issues in recent months. We hope their words will translate into positive action, and that their movement will grow and prosper for the benefit of all. The Catholic community would also like to see Divine Word University become a more active participant in the promotion of Catholic social teaching and the training of social workers to assist and provide advocacy for the poor and disadvantaged..
Catholic Education Services
The traditional spiritual works of mercy we reflect upon during this Year of Mercy include offering instruction to those in need of guidance. This clearly applies to our children and is the reason the Catholic Church runs hundreds of schools at all levels, especially in the remote rural areas. Teaching and guiding the young is a sacred task and solemn obligation of parents and families. But they need help. Thus, through the years, at the village and community level, the Catholic Church has established schools, some of which are over a hundred years old. For economic and other reasons by 1970 Catholic Education Services had joined with the Government system to form an association of equals in a unified system of education in PNG. This partnership endures but seems little respected by National and Provincial Departments of Education, since they rarely consults their partner when setting new policies and making changes to the education system. In this context, we find that, for PNG, the partnership we entered into with the State many years ago is now in crisis, even in chaos.
For example, it is well known that there are major problems and imbalances in the provision of tuition fee free education (TFF). As a result of the TFF policy, a large number of classrooms are over-crowded and many older children have been inappropriately accepted back into lower primary grades, to work their way through the system as adults. Infrastructure has not kept up with student population and funding has not kept up with student population. Teacher morale is at an all-time low and absenteeism on the part of teachers and students is high. TFF and other policies connected with it is an example of an idea introduced and implemented without Churches Education Council and Catholic Agency involvement, and consequently the system faces many problems that could have been avoided.
Despite many attempts to discuss issues related to education with the State of PNG, we feel that we are steadily losing control of our schools. They become less and less a means by which we can evangelize, catechize, educate and share God’s mercy with, our children. The Catholic Church is now at a critical point of frustration, so that if there is no change for the better in this situation, for PNG, in the light of the mercy that demands justice, those dioceses with no functioning Memorandum of Agreement with their respective Provincial Education Boards, may not be able to open as Catholic schools in 2017.
Catholic Health Services
Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) are also important to our Catholic communities because we see them as a means by which we carry on the healing ministry of Christ. Mothers, babies and children are the major recipients of these services, especially through antenatal and immunization programs. The recent cuts in funding for church run health services, salaries and operational, is a shockingly ignorant and insensitive decision by Government. The cuts will have a major negative impact on our healing ministry in general, particularly in rural areas where population concentration is high and mobility to seek health care outside the area very low.
A broken promise
In 2013 the Prime Minister of PNG visited the Bishops during their annual meeting which was that year held in Madang. He promised to arrange a meeting between representative bishops and respective Education and Health Ministers and Secretaries to discuss problems and iron out difficulties. Unfortunately these meetings did not eventuate, so urgent issues still remain unresolved. We renew our desire to hold such meetings.
In all of this, we are more and more aware of the rather sad state of the PNG economy and wonder why this is so.
Bishop Arnold Orowae
CBC President, 15 April 2016