Vice Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Jimmy Simitab admitted at the National Development Forum in Port Moresby last Thursday that the Department of Agriculture and Livestock is no longer capable of running agriculture in Papua New Guinea.
Mr Simitab dropped the bombshell in his presentation to the forum, which focuses on ‘Opening up opportunities for agriculture and rural development’.
He made a frank admission that DAL was incapable of running the much talked about National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP) and all overriding functions should be taken over by the National Agriculture Council.
The minister recommended the establishment of the NAC as the apex body in agriculture be given high consideration by the forum and the Consultative Implementation Monitoring Council.
Mr Simitab said one of the most-important recommendations of the Public Sector Review and Monitoring Unit (PMRSU) in 2005 was an overhaul of the DAL; however, this had not been implemented over the last five years.
“The findings of this review remain unimplemented, hitherto, the sad state of affairs in DAL over the last five years,” he said.
Mr Simitab said it was perceived that the NAC, once legislated, would recognise existing commodity and statutory bodies, with overriding powers to maintain and sustain the NADP.
“In fact, the National government, in approving and adopting the NADP in March 2007, had directed that a further institutional and legislative reform be undertaken to improve the management of the sector with NADP,” he said.
“Given the state of reforms that have occurred in agriculture to this point, it is obvious that DAL is neither a capable nor an appropriate ‘lead agency’ without an entity such as NAC as its apex body.
“The suggestion that NAC be chaired by the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, with membership of no more than 10 people appointed by the Head of State on advice, has great merits, on a number of fronts.
“First, it will act independently of all agencies of the sector, and has links to DAL only for policy and technical guidance.
“Secondly, it will establish its own sub-sectoral liaison mechanisms to capture development resource requirements of each sub-sector as well as from each district, for budget purposes and for monitoring and evaluation.
“Thirdly, the entity shall provide a one-stop-shop for investors, and coordination of donor support for agriculture.
“Finally, it shall provide an effective mechanism for the policy coordination of the sector, and the management of annual fiscal support for agriculture through NADP.”
Mr Simitab said the concept of an ‘agricultural council’ being an apex body for the sector was not a foreign concept as it had already been practiced in several emerging Asian economies, including Taiwan and South Korea.