By MALUM NALU
National Planning and Monitoring Minister Paul Tiensten has defended his department’s highly-ambitious agricultural projections for 2030 and hit back at experts who had criticised it as being unrealistic.
Experts from cocoa, copra, palm oil and coffee described the projections in The National last week as unrealistic and said they had not been consulted before the projections were made in Tiensten’s PNG development strategic plan (DSP) 2010-2030.
The minister was particularly harsh on Cocoa and coconut Institute chief executive officer, Dr Eric Omuru, who had described the projections as a “joke”.
“The CEO’s criticism was based on shallow administrative points and not on practical economic and scientific reasoning as he may have been trained and paid to do,” Tiensten said in a full-page advertisement in The National last Friday.
“He argued that the CCI and others were not closely consulted during PNGDSP formulation process and that the set targets were unrealistic, given the current constraints the agriculture sector currently has.
“The criticism lacked intellectual substance but only devised to derail the government’s efforts to break from past ‘business as usual’ practice to map out a new strategic plan for PNG’s advancement into a middle-income country by 2030.
Tiensten said his department, in consultation with Department of Agriculture and Livestock had in 2008 and 2009 provided cocoa, palm oil, coffee and copra projections.
“We did consult and gather the intelligence from the core agency responsible for agriculture in PNG (DAL),” he said.
“Most importantly, these are targets, not ‘business as usual’ projections based on one sector strategy.”
“They are based on a whole range of measures in the PNGDSP that will substantially boost the productive capacity, including:
• Investment in major infrastructure development aimed at tripling the road network in rural areas and the extension of electricity to most of the rural population;
• Implementation of the land development programme which will end the current lease-lease back system;
• Initiatives to increase extension services, including research and development to achieve a 60% productivity growth; and
• Undertaking a major drive to boost literacy and technical education of the rural population.”
Tiensten added: “What has happened in the past does not point to the future.
“The PNGDSP makes a break from ‘business as usual’ to map out a new path of real development for PNG.
“The PNGDSP deliberately sets out ambitious, yet achievable targets.
“Without ambition, there can be no hope to achieve progress.”