Tuesday, November 07, 2006
BY HON. BART PHILEMON, MP
MEMBER FOR LAE
AT THE MOROBE AGRICULTURAL SHOW
5TH NOVEMBER 2006
I am indeed honored as Member for Lae – and a former banana farmer - to have been invited to give the keynote address at the 2006 Morobe Agricultural Show.
My commendations to my good friend Mike Quinn, who has been the Show Society President for the last 10 years and a member of the Show Society since 1992, for keeping the fire of the Morobe Agricultural Show alive.
Not forgetting Mike’s hard-working Show Committee, the business community of Lae and Morobe Province, and most-importantly the little men and women farmers of Morobe Province to whom this Show is dedicated.
Like you, I once was a little banana farmer at Malahang, who toiled the soil to make ends meet – so I feel an empathy for you.
Let me also not forget the support of all sponsors, especially Coca-Cola, without whom this iconic event of Papua New Guinea would not have been possible.
The Morobe Agricultural Show is a major tourist attraction and showcases the agricultural, industrial, commercial and cultural aspects of Lae and the Morobe Province.
It plays a major role in the dissemination of information on cultivation, crops, diseases and breeding, as well as being the largest entertainment event in the province.
I am proud, as Member for Lae, that this is the 46th show since 1959 and is – without question – the best show in Papua New Guinea with a bias towards agriculture.
As a farmer, I strongly believe in agriculture to help develop this country.
We must encourage and foster upstream processing of agricultural commodities;
We must reduce the National Department of Agriculture and Livestock to a small policy making unit advising the Minister;
We must review, consolidate and restructure existing commodity boards, ensuring that growers make appointment of at least half the board members and those they have effective controls to prevent unnecessary wastage of growers’ funds;
We must consolidate all agricultural research under the National Agricultural Research Institute or the private sector. Ensure that adequate government funding is provided for agricultural research by providing funding on a kina-for-kina basis. Ensure regular external reviews of agricultural research;
We must revive agricultural extension by expanding the Smallholder Support Services Pilot Programme to all provinces;
We must review and enhance the Rural Development Bank lending and operational policies to make it accessible to rural populace;
We must encourage smallholder farmers to increase production;
We must review all outstanding debts to government owed by commodity boards.
We must ensure that transport infrastructure is adequate to allow farmers to get produce to market and trade goods back to villages.
We must ensure adequate telecommunications to enable farmers to access information about markets and prices.
We must support and rehabilitate livestock industry including institutional strengthening.
God Almighty has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and an abundance of natural beauty and wealth.
But whilst we live on this earth, we have to make the most of it by living a life of fulfillment, of joy, peace and harmony.
To do so we need good, wise leaders and governments that make decisions that bring maximum positive benefit to their people.
Whilst only a handful of countries enjoy good life, many, including us in Papua New Guinea, struggle from year to year in search of the same, but we never really seem to make it.
Many of us here today at the Morobe Show have children, or younger brothers and sisters, or nieces and nephews.
I wonder what life is like for those children: do they have good homes and access to good health, education, food on the table or money in their pockets.
What will it be like in 20 years from now?
Will they have access to employment in 30 years time?
Will they have access to government services in 50 years from now, when most of us will no longer be here?
Will they have access to adequate health care and security?
Unfortunately for us, as it is now, there is no guarantee, even after 30 years of Independence, of these happening.
According to United Nation’s ratings, Papua New Guinea ranks amongst the lowest or worst in human development index.
Our child mortality rate remains very high with about 70 deaths per 1,000 births, maternal mortality at about 300 deaths per 100,000 births and, life expectancy of a low 58 years.
The sad thing here is that these high mortality rates occur mainly from preventable diseases.
Our literacy rate is also low with many children lacking access to good education.
It is also estimated that around 38 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s population live in poverty.
During the last two years in my former job as Minister for Finance and Treasury I have traveled to many districts in the country to bring financial, banking and postal services to the districts.
I have been forced to weep openly seeing the plight of our mothers and children.
Basic government services have deteriorated to such a state that they can no longer provide the services they are supposed to.
Schools, aid posts and health centres, roads and bridges, police and prison services and general administration have all broken down.
I have seen an alarming contrast.
On the one hand we are a nation of great beauty with immense natural resources.
Unlike many other countries, we have rich mineral deposits, vast timber reserves, teeming fisheries and rich soils, rich and diverse cultures.
And yet while we have been so richly blessed we are so poor.
I see poorly educated children, I see run down buildings, I see news headlines every day about fraud and corruption within our society.
In large urban centres like Lae, Port Moresby and Mount Hagen, I see the social effects of poverty expressed in crime and violence.
So how can a nation of people so richly blessed with such wealth of natural resources suffer in the way that so many of our country men do?
Where is the wealth that we have been so richly given going?
Clearly, much of the people’s natural wealth has not filtered through to the people.
I believe that these past and current failures are as much failures in our leadership and management as they are failures of any other kind.
It is not an absence of wealth that we suffer – it is the absence of the effective leadership and management of that wealth that we suffer.
We must never allow ourselves to underestimate the linkages between good leadership and management and the wellbeing of our communities.
Good leadership and management are not something we can hold up as some vague notion or distant goal – it is something that is essential, something non negotiable, something that we must doggedly pursue regardless of personal cost, regardless of barriers and regardless of set backs difficulties and frustrations – for without good leadership and management the people suffer.
There is an insightful saying that goes like this:
“Sow a thought, reap an action; Sow an action, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character; Sow a character, reap a destiny.”
I would like to also suggest that the long term destiny of this nation will be ultimately determined by getting the basics right.
We have to go back to the basics, and that means going back to the districts and going back to the people.
Today, as I speak to you people of Lae, Morobe Province and Papua New Guinea, I believe it is the actions we take, or avoid today, will determine - in no small measure - what life for you will be like.
We have to make the new generation our priority by having good honest leadership in government that will make the decisions that will ultimately in the best interest of our children, their children and their children.
We, leaders and governments, have to ensure that the future of every man women and child alive in this country today is as bright and prosperous as possible.
It says in the Bible, and is inscribed at the entrance of Parliament House, that:
“When the wicked rule the people suffer, when the just rule, the people rejoice.”
Let me tell you - without good leadership and management the people suffer.
Without good leadership and management our taxes go in servicing foreign debt, our physical infrastructure is not maintained, and our capacity to provide basic services to the community is depleted.
Without good leadership and management babies don’t receive the medical care they need, school children don’t receive the education they are entitled to, fathers can’t find employment and can’t support their families.
Without strong leadership and management, opportunities to grow our economy and attract foreign investment will be limited.
Without strong leadership and management, we lose the confidence of the markets, our development partners, and lenders.
Without good leadership and management, we waste the very money that should be being used to strengthen the infrastructure and programs essential to achieve the aspirations of the people.
So to me, good leadership and management is not an option – it is an absolute necessity and it is one that I have committed myself to and will continue to commit myself too wholeheartedly.
But that commitment must also come from you, the voters.
You must make wise decisions when selecting your leaders.
You know, the kind of leadership that forms government is the kind of leadership you choose.
You can choose to have wicked leaders that make you suffer or you can choose to elected just leaders that make you rejoice.
The choice is entirely yours because that choice you make will determine the destiny of your children and grand children.
The type of government and leadership I want to be a part of will also work in partnership with all the people of Papua New Guinea.
I say this because after three decades as an independent sovereign nation, Papua New Guinea is still a country in turmoil.
Despite its vast natural resources and potential wealth, Papua New Guinea remains poor.
It failed to improve the well-being of the people because of political instability and weak economic management.
Consequently, economic well-being is now little changed since independence in 1975.
Poverty is pervasive with significant regional disparities, health facilities and education are sub-standard, and unemployment is high as the population growth accelerates.
This pattern must now come to an end.
Papua New Guinea must recover lost ground and advance for the benefit of current and future generations to come.
In this regard, the paramount goal of the Government must be to serve the people of Papua New Guinea to ensure common prosperity and durable improvements in the well being of the people of Papua New Guinea.
The Government must at all times be guided by the by the National Goals and Directive Principles established in the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and implemented through its duly elected representatives.
The critical elements which can and will ensure a decisive and irreversible forward progress are not just economic and political, but also social and cultural.
These are critically important.
1. We must legislate National Goals and Directive Principles to guide the policies for social and economic development.
2. We must improve the welfare of all Papua New Guineans by ensuring that they have access to basic medical and educational services.
3. We must achieve high and sustained growth rates by developing and expanding the resource sectors to include downstream processing all agricultural and mineral resources. We must do so responsibility to ensure sustainable development of our natural resources.
4. Similarly, we must expand and rehabilitate physical infrastructure to allow people to take part in the modern economy and to thereby lower unemployment and underemployment especially in the rural areas.
5. We must promote the private sector as the key engine of growth in order to generate income earning opportunities for all Papua New Guineans.
6. Government’s role in the economy must be limited streamlined regulation and providing an enabling framework for the rapid growth of productive capacity in the private sector.
7. We must eradicate corruption and graft at all levels by ensuring that transparency and accountability permeates every aspect of public transactions. We must learn from the past and adopt best practices that have worked elsewhere.
8. We must reduce waste and improve the efficiency of service delivery to our people, especially those in the rural areas. To do so, we must break from past tradition and review the current three tier system of government with a view to making more cost effective and service oriented. A lean productive and responsive public service machinery will deliver better services to our population.
9. We are a proud nation, rich in diversity of people, ideas, and action. We must use this to our advantage to create an integrated order of one people and one nation.
10. We must also protect and preserve our natural environment, and cultural heritage for future generations yet unborn.
It is time now to aim high and to set our course on the right path and relentlessly set our goals high and steadfastly pursue these goals to build a nation and lift the economic, social, and cultural well-being of all Papua New Guineans.
When this is done, Papua New Guinea will then truly be one nation and one people, harnessing and unleashing all energies together to build a brighter future and better future for the current and future generations.
With these few words, I now declare the 2006 Morobe Agricultural Show officially open.
Thank you and God Bless Papua New Guinea.