There are many people commenting online on the impacts of decisions taken by the current Papua New Guinea government. Many express their feelings about a looming fiscal crisis, these range from fury to indifference. In the haste for change once again it is easy to assume that a new crop of freshly elected leaders in a newly constituted PNG parliament after 2017 will miraculously create the change PNG needs!
We must not forget that the same laws will apply in the same national parliament and provincial houses of assembly. In the same national and district courtrooms, case law will grow and precedents will continue to be set in the absence of the hard questions that may never get asked about the blatant breaches in our society and adopted system of government.
From 2017 our leaders will (more than ever before) need the knowledge, political will, grace and patience to restore integrity, democracy and the rule of law as a national emergency in order for all else to be rebuilt without exception. The truth is a new government in 2017 will inherit inter-generational debt, a massive deficit and redundant parliamentary rules/standing orders governing important decision-making processes. Not to mention the crumbling sanctity of the National Executive Council (NEC) or cabinet.
They will realise that legislation set up in principle to provide robust governance mechanisms have been misunderstood or ignored by their predecessors. In 2017 a newly elected parliament will discover an exhausted public service, a manipulated police force, an angry defence force, and many broken Papua New Guineans with drought and income starved families and disrupted livelihoods.
Those elected Members of Parliament will find very drained state-owned enterprises, institutions and agencies incapable of operating with only a steady trickle of public funds to deliver wages, health & education or district support according to policies and promises of the past and present. They will find that the much promised revenues from oil and gas have been committed to paying off the current government’s unilateral decisions and therefore debt for unauthorised loans for generations.
New leaders in 2017 will need to navigate a global economic downturn of epic proportions with PNGs development and economic interests at heart. Our new leaders will discover that our broken service delivery system and our overheated economy will need more than elected candidates with tunnel vision.
Those elected will need to be legislators, not aspiring millionaires or public finance managers. Newly elected leaders will require an understanding of serious fiscal discipline, tax and industrial relations reform and economic modelling that reflect PNG’s economic conditions and our revenue-earning potential in sectors other than petroleum and energy.
PNG will need MPs who are humble yet extraordinary thinkers to guide monetary/fiscal, social, cultural and development policy simultaneously to aid a new-look holistic reconstruction strategy focused on understanding that our vast natural resources should never again be left to a single individual who knows no institutional, spiritual, executive or national boundaries. Those new MPs should be held to the universal promise that candidates seek election (and re-election) to be servants to their people not master manipulators of their resources.
All the hopes in online commentary revert to a single assumption that PNG will inevitably have free and fair elections next year. If all we do is dare to dream it’s no longer enough because we will inevitably get what we vote for yet again.
Photo: Sepik Wewak Urban Local Government facebook group