PNG research institute says freedom of speech critical
The Papua New Guinea Institute of National Affairs says it's critical people can question public spending in order for the government to become more transparent and accountable.
The Papua New Guinea Institute of National Affairs says it's critical people can question public spending in order for the government to be more transparent and accountable.
Its executive director, Paul Barker, recently faced criticism from two politicians over comments he made about the 2014 budget, including a warning about the dangers of borrowing against future earnings.
Mr Barker told Amelia Langford the government is running a deficit budget and needs to prioritise its spending.
PAUL BARKER: It's against PNG's interest for the public and institutions to be silent, and not to be asking questions. Part of the problem over the years has been that too often projects have proceeded, sometimes have not been of great utility, and public and institutions have remained silent. So it really is beholden upon the whole community to ask questions about the budget, to ask questions about proposed projects, projects that are directly affecting people in their own home areas. So it can be done at a national level, right down to the local level. And people shouldn't feel that this is just something for the leaders to determine - it's something, it's critical that people do ask questions and make an input, because let's face it, over many years there's been a lot of abuse of public funds that has occurred and this has occurred partly because there hasn't been enough questioning both by the official watchdogs, by the institutions such as parliament itself, but also by the wider community and certainly the institutions like the INA [Institute of National Affairs] and NRI [National Research Institute] and other bodies.
AMELIA LANGFORD: Do you think the situation is getting worse?
PB: Well the amount of money that is being allocated to large projects from the development budget are increasing. But the core section of government is the provision of law and order, health, education services, and roads and other core infrastructure. Most of those functions are recurrent budget functions. To some extent, the development budget is used as a means to catch up and to restore facilities, infrastructure and services that have been allowed to be run down over many years, particularly in the 1990s and early 2000s. And so it's a catch up exercise in part. But at the moment the government has been running a deficit budget in the last couple of years - we're up to 35 percent debt to GDP at the end of last year, we're borrowing for developing and managing these projects, so it is really critical that they are the right projects and the government carefully prioritises to have maximum impact.
Meanwhile, PNG's director of the National Research Institute, Thomas Webster, has spoken out in support of Mr Barker, saying critical views are needed if PNG is to prosper.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: