Social Concerns Notes – February 2020

So PNG, What is a Fair Deal

PORT MORESBY – The politics of bigman, the economy of wastage and a public service that has become ‘private service for a tip’ all combined to deliver prime minister James Marape’s ground breaking announcement last Sunday rejecting the P’nyang gas deal.Mr Marape’s speech rejecting the P’nyang gas deal had been written over the years. It was a speech really aimed at an audience close to home. And if we didn’t get it, we have a problem. The irony is that I’m not even sure the PM himself gets it. Our criticism of Exxon Mobil and other development partners in the resources sector is as much a criticism of ourselves. If we think we are fighting them for a ‘fair deal’, we are barking up the wrong tree. So what is a fair deal? From where I stand, a fair deal to me as a taxpayer is when my tax is spent in the right manner without caressing some bigman politicians’ egos, without the money disappearing into ‘private service’ pockets and without wasting it on nonsensical economic projects with no clear return to the community. That is a fair deal to me. And only the PNG government and its machinery are capable of delivering a fair deal to taxpayers and citizens. …

PNG manufacturers face tough year

PORT MORESBY – It is shaping up to be a difficult and frustrating year. Manufacturers, like anyone else, require people to be spending money to buy our goods and there is just not much money going around. If you go to the supermarkets there is nobody in line and everyone has a small basket because they can’t afford to fill up a trolley. In the rental market there is a 40 to 50 per cent vacancy rate. One of most pressing things at the moment is the liquidity of the government. Their cash-flow problem is terrible and that has flow-on effects. When the landlords of government have not been paid for up to five years their business, and all of its employees, will be under significant duress. When the government is nine to 12 months behind in paying their utilities provider that means the utilities provider can’t even look at reducing the cost of its services. So this government cash-flow problem is having a huge inflationary impact on the rest of the market. … We need to address why it is so expensive to do business in PNG. It is not expensive because people are chalking up large profits. It is expensive because security is a nightmare, law and order is terrible, and our ports and road infrastructure is falling apart. In PNG, you are paying 10 to 20 times more for your monthly operating costs, so how can you be competitive?

Will PNG get serious about corruption?

PORT MORESBY – With the resignation of former prime minister Peter O’Neill last May after a seven-year tenure, many citizens hailed the resulting appointment of the Marape-Steven government as an opportunity to start afresh. A staggering K26 billion mountain of debt and an inefficient and incredibly costly public service has forced the new government to implement a number of unpopular, yet arguably more fiscally responsible, initiatives. This includes a 50% reduction in O’Neill-era popular subsidies for primary education, with potential savings directed towards university education. While there has been much debate about new measures to address national debt, little has been done about the waste created by corruption at virtually every level of society in Papua New Guinea. …

With a score of 28 out of 100 on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), PNG finds itself among a majority of countries that show little to no improvement in tackling corruption.

As with many countries that score below the global CPI average of 43, PNG experiences a link between the perceived prevalence of corruption in a country and a lack of political integrity….

A Nursing Officer Shares


Churches need funds to help victims of violence

February 19, 2020The National

THE Government is expecting churches to respond more to issues of violence against women and girls, sorcery-related accusations and killings and input into issues, the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands says.
Its president Bishop Rochus Tatamai said the churches were doing the best they could to help victims move to safe environments, but they were also facing difficulties in funding and accommodating the large number of victims they received daily.
He said 70 per cent of the population and victims in Port Moresby were from outside provinces and the Government had not funded anything yet to date.
“Centres that run out of funds and food were going out and doing small fundraisings just to continue to look after victims in their safe houses,” Tatamai said.
Tatamai said the Safe House Association launched in June would be another way they would work together and support each other.
“We don’t want to be labelled as a violent nation. Every time we are in other countries, people always ask about continuing killings and fights, labelling us a violent country,” Tatamai said. He said more could be done if the Government and other partners came together and supported each other.

Death Penalty under Review

Post Courier 25 Feb

New safe house eyed to assist victims

February 19, 2020The National

THE Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and the Solomon Islands will be launching a Catholic Safe House Association in June to build a network among agencies to provide further services to victims of violence. Madang Safe House representative Sr Thecla Gamog addressed the Catholic Bishops, agencies and media, saying the association linked four safe houses run by Catholic Mission in the country. These safe houses were located in Wewak, Kokopo, Bougainville and Madang.
The church will be looking into building one in Port Moresby, Lae and move onto the Highlands region because of increasing number of violence against women and girls.
Gamog said the association was a network of small agencies that had been providing temporary shelter for battered women and their children and victims of family and sexual violence. The church is calling on international and non-governmental organisations and Catholic houses with potential for true justice for women who often struggled to access paralegal service.

Cooking to Feed the Needy

Post Courier 24th February

Roads need fixing now: Bishop

February 19, 2020The National

ROADS in Brahman and Bundi in Madang need to be fixed quickly to allow students attending a high school to go to classes, a church leader says. The Catholic Archbishop of Madang, Rev Anton Bal urged authorities to fix the problem. “We have two mines (MCC Ramu Nickel and Marengo Yandera) here, and we have politicians from this area, so it is surprising to see the road in such a bad condition,” he said. “The provincial government and the district must put money into fixing the roads and bridges.” Bal said it was scary to see the Baia Bridge on the verge of collapsing. “If we have heavy rain up in the mountains, this bridge will be swept away. People living on the Bundi and Brahman side will be cut off. The schools will shut down and the people will suffer.” There are more than 700 students attending the St Michael’s High School in Brahman. It will be forced to close if supplies do not reach the school by today.
Missionary Max David said the road condition was so bad, vehicles transporting students could not reach the school. “One more flood and we may lose our bridge, and our primary school, secondary school, health center and all the needs of the community in Brahman and Bundi will be cut off and shut down. It is important to us that the roads and bridges be maintained,” he said.

Sir J talks against illegal logging

February 19, 2020The National

NEW Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan has declared war on illegal logging and wants such loggers to be prosecuted for treason.
“They destroy our land, rivers, bridges and roads by using trucks that weigh two or three times more than the limit,” he said.
“They even hire policemen, so the very people who are supposed to protect our people are attacking them.
Sir Julius alleged that even provincial police commanders were doing nothing about it, denying that was happening.
“That is treason, they should be called to account for it. I hope the prime minister protests the rights for the weak and those less fortunate,” Sir Julius told Parliament last Friday.
He said although all the logging operations were approved by the PNG National Forest Authority, “most are illegal”.

Safe houses lacking funds to help victims

February 20, 2020The National

SAFE houses are facing many challenges, from repatriating clients (victims) back to their families to shortage of staff, funding, counsellors and experts or specialists in most provinces. Madang Safe House representative Sr Thecla Gamog said they could only provide accommodation. But they had to find money to look after the victims, including children, through fundraising and donations. Money was needed for food and to repatriate the victims back to their families and community.
She said at times, police would leave victims with them without a proper care plan of when they would process the investigation and follow up on the perpetrators and court.
“We look after them, find ways to take them hospital and other necessities,” she said.
“Victims who stay longer – we need more support for them and provide food.
“Sometimes when the perpetrator is not arrested, we pay for fuel so that police can go and make arrests.”

PNG passes historic whistleblower law

PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s parliament passed historic whistleblower protection legislation on Tuesday following a commitment made by prime minister James Marape last month. The passing of the Whistle Blower Act coincided with the tabling of enabling legislation for the creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Commenting following the vote, Mr Marape thanked both sides of parliament for supporting the bill.

 “Parliamentarians are doing our job by passing relevant laws, it is now up to those of you with evidence of corruption to rise above fear, wantok system, nepotism, bribery, hearsay, politics etc and report corruption and assist prosecuting corruption.”

Mr Marape said he looked forward to the operationalisation of ICAC.

“We will appoint credible non Papua New Guineans and known corruption fighters in PNG into ICAC to make it work,” he said.

Elisabeth Determined to give back to PNG

Post Courier 25 February

Debate on prostitution

February 24, 2020 The National

 JUSTICE Minister and Attorney-General Davis Steven says the position of the law on prostitution in PNG is not clear. Steven, currently acting as prime minister while James Marape is overseas, plans to seek the advice of the State Solicitor on the matter.
“As the Attorney-General, I’m very much dependent on the State Solicitor to give me specific legal support on matters like that,” he said.
He, however said that assuming there was a law against prostitution, those who breached it should expect the penalty.
Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands Bishop Rochus Tatamai told The National that life was a gift from God and no one should use it as an object to satisfy one’s pleasure and receive money for it.
He blames the current “economic crisis” as one of the reasons behind the increase in prostitution.
He said women selling their bodies for money was against the rules of the church.
“The church’s role is to promote the family and marriage.
“Once a man is married to a woman, they become one and live as a family.
“Using a person’s body as an object for pleasure shows no self-respect.
“It is against the church and us as a Christian nation.”

Comparing poverty in Oz and PNG

 MORRISET – A recent report by ACOSS [the Australian Council of Social Service] and the University of NSW highlighted the rates of poverty in Australia, particularly for children.

Two years ago the Asia Development Bank and the Borgen Institute produced a similar report for Papua New Guinea. I in no way wish to diminish the work of ACOSS but I think it is important to put things into perspective by making a comparison to our nearest neighbour in PNG.

The poverty line in Australia is set at 50% of the median household disposable income. That’s around $433 a week for a single adult and $909 a week for a couple with two children. School attendance rates in Australia average 92% (82% for indigenous children) and public schools are free. More than 13% of Australia’s population – that is about 3.2 million people – live below the poverty line, according to the report. About 774,000 children under 15 (17.7% of Australian children) live in poverty. The infant mortality rate is 4.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Meanwhile in Papua New Guinea….

An estimated 40% of Papua New Guineans live below the poverty line, which was established by the Asian Development Bank at $9 a week. PNG has fewer than 400 doctors, with an estimated 51 of these working outside Port Moresby. Similarly, there is a shortage of nurses, with recent figures suggesting only one nurse per 2,270 people. An estimated 25% of children are unable to attend school, with current figures suggesting 600,000 children do not receive an education. School attendance rates average below 75% and schools are fee paying. Only seven percent of Papua New Guineans have access to both electricity grid and properly treated water. The infant mortality rate for Papua New Guinea is 41.4 deaths per 1,000 live births.

That’s quite a comparison.

Safe house for women, children closed for maintenance

February 26, 2020The National

A SAFE house in Port Moresby where woman and children fleeing “domestic violence” seek refuge in has been temporarily closed for maintenance. The management of Haus Ruth said the building badly needed repairs as water had been leaking from the top floor wetting the kitchen area and floors, gas stoves were not working and walls broken.
It had to be closed “for the health and safety of children and mothers”.
Haus Ruth opened its doors in 2003 under City Mission.
It offers to help women and children but now men too are also coming in for counselling

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