Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beneath the shadow of Mt Giluwe


National Agriculture Research Institute’s high altitude research station is situated in picturesque Tambul, Western Highlands, on the foothills of the majestic Mt Giluwe.

Mt Giluwe towers over the station
Mt Giluwe is the second highest mountain in Papua New Guinea at 4,368 metres (14,331 feet), after Chimbu’s Mt Wilhelm (4, 509m or 14, 793ft), and is in neighbouring Southern Highlands.
Tambul, situated to the west of Mt Hagen and bordering Enga and Southern Highlands provinces, is famous for its fresh vegetables.
Field supervisor Joana Galua in a kaukau (sweet potato) plot

In fact, it is the single biggest producer of fresh vegetables in the country such as potatoes, broccoli, cabbages and cauliflower.
Its people are some of the hardest working who still value their subsistent way of living.
Unlike other parts of the highlands, where tribal fighting, rapes and murders are commonplace, Tambul is one place that begs to differ.
The people are putting down their guns and knives, and picking up their spades and shovels, to work the rich volcanic soils of Giluwe that God has provided.
They are keen to supply the gas project in just a stone’s throw away in neighbouring Southern Highlands.
Tambul station is about 2,224m (7, 296ft) above sea level at the foot of Mt Giluwe, and was established as a government patrol post in the 1950s, with the first highlands highway passing through it in the 1960s to Mendi in Southern Highlands.
Believe it or not, ice and snow are regular occurrences here, and the place is freezing cold, too cold, in fact, to grow coffee
Tambul is already contributing in a big way towards development of agriculture in this country, with the research station.

Wheat grows in proliferation
Around the station, there are cattle, sheep and goats grazing, amidst kaukau, potato, wheat and rice fields in scenes of pastoral poetry.
It’s a joy for visitors like me to wander through the scenic fields, garnished by sentinel-like trees, to the magnificent backdrop of Mt Giluwe.

Taro besides potato screen houses
Tambul, in the Kaguel Valley, is also one of the more lush, fertile and verdant areas of the Highlands.
Vegetables and fruit grown in abundance, supplemented by readily-available chicken, pork, sheep, goat, cattle and fish from aquaculture projects.

 Potato screen houses
Hence, in this land of milk and honey – on the border of Western Highlands, Southern Highlands and Enga provinces - you have a very healthy-looking population.
During my visit, I spent an enjoyable Friday afternoon with NARI staff including programme manager Johannes Pakatul, as well as my former Aiyura National High School mate, scientist Kud Sitango, who showed me around beneath the towering presence of Mt Giluwe.

Station manager Johannes Pakatul at the station signboard
“We have a dedicated team of scientists and staff from all over PNG working here,” Pakatul tells me.
“What we are doing here will benefit the whole country.”
I couldn’t agree more.

Freight subsidy the way to go: Dutton


Former MP Warren Dutton believes the success of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd’s freight subsidy scheme for rubber growers in Western province can be duplicated throughout PNG for every crop produced by rural villagers.
He said this today at a workshop focusing on the impact of LNG on the PNG economy, with particular reference to agriculture.
Dutton, who is chairman of the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC) agriculture sectoral committee, said successive governments over the years were of the view that PNG should not have a freight subsidy policy.
“I would confidently suggest that if our members of parliament were to set aside half of their annual K10 million into a freight subsidy fund, that that K500 million or so would be sufficient to provide a marked improvement in the prices that would be paid for cash crops right throughout all their electorates,” he said.
“I would suggest that it would be an even greater vote winner than the free education policy was some years ago.
“More importantly than that, it would change the mood of the nation.
“It would change that mood, because our rural people would be able to believe that they were at last being recognised as productive citizens of their country, whose labour and sweat deserved an appropriate financial reward.
“Rather than beggars, who are only worthy of recognition at election time!”
Regarding the LNG project, Dutton said successive governments over the years had lacked experience and wisdom to manage and share the wealth from various resource projects to rural people.
He said inflation brought about by the LNG project would squeeze most village cash crop producers out of business.
“If we allow this to happen, we will be responsible for their inevitable reaction,” Dutton said.
“The LNG project will inevitably cause this to happen.
“It may, hopefully, sometime after 2016 supply the revenue needed to continue the alleviation of the problem.”

Sovereign wealth fund to offset ‘Dutch Disease’


The creation of a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) can offset the negative impacts of ‘Dutch Disease’, according to deputy treasury secretary Anthony Yauieb.
He said this today at a workshop focusing on the impact of LNG on the PNG economy, with particular reference to agriculture.
“Can ‘Dutch Disease’ be avoided?” Yauieb said in his presentation.
“Cause of ‘Dutch Disease’ is an inflow of foreign currency into PNG
“It can be reduced by not bringing all of the foreign currency into PNG
“Policy option to minimise the effects of ‘Dutch’ Disease is through creation of an offshore SWF.”
Yauieb said the size of LNG revenues have substantial macroeconomic implications that need to be carefully managed, including:

• Exchange rate appreciation / Dutch Disease;

• Cost and operation of monetary policy;

• Risk of overheating the domestic economy; and

• Adverse effects in non-mineral sectors of the economy.

He said offshore arrangements for the SWF included: state retaining full ownership and control; promoting macroeconomic stability; underpinning long- term development and socio-economic objectives; helping protect non-mineral sector industries; and were robust, transparent and effective.
Yauieb said the plan was to establish a consolidated pool of offshore funds with three coordinated and integrated funds for infrastructure; stabilisation; and future (savings) fund
He said other plans for the PNG SWF were:

• Fully integrating SWF with the budget and fiscal framework;

• Governance, transparency, disclosure, accountability and asset management rules would be based on international best practice;

• Drawdown rules would be developed to ensure prudent macroeconomic management while supporting development objectives;

• SWF would be overseen by an independent board; and

• Investment would be undertaken by offshore investment manager.

‘Dutch Disease’ a real threat to Papua New Guinea with gas project

Bank of Papua New Guinea governor Loi Bakani today warned of the effects of the dreaded ‘Dutch Disease’ on the PNG economy, particularly agriculture, in light of the liquefied natural gas project.
Bakani made the warning at a workshop focusing on the impact of LNG on the PNG economy, with particular reference to agriculture.
World Bank country manager, Laura Bailey, also warned of the dangers of ‘Dutch Disease’ as she gave an international perspective on this.
‘Dutch Disease’, or the ‘resource curse’, refers to an economic condition where a mineral boom leads to an appreciation of the real exchange rate, which in turn depresses output in the tradeable sector, in this case, agriculture.
“The export agriculture sector – such as coffee, cocoa, palm oil, copra and forestry – will be harmed by the real appreciation or ‘Dutch Disease’,” Bakani warned.
“Our exports will be less competitive and so there will be a decline in the export of these commodities.
“This adverse effect can be more pronounced under the aggressive government spending scenario, because excessive government spending will add to the real exchange rate appreciation through increased liquidity and high inflation.”
Bakani said this adverse effect could be mitigated or minimised through the conservative government expenditure approach.
“Apart from strategic careful and prioritised spending, the government can also mitigate the ‘Dutch Disease’ effect on the tradeable agriculture sector by maintaining and reconstructing the existing road network of feeder roads, as well as all the social sector infrastructure of health, education and law and order,’ he said.
“This will aid the producers get their produce to buying points and sustain production and export.
“In other words, the resource sector scenario can be addressed through better and improved infrastructure network.”
Bakani said BPNG, on its part, could mitigate or minimise the ‘Dutch Disease’ effect through its management of the kina exchange rate, as well as encouraging macroeconomic stability as an important foundation for microeconomic development and improvement.
World Bank’s Bailey said the ‘Dutch Disease’ threat was for real.
“The risk of so-called ‘Dutch Disease’, inflation, shifting of all resources into the mineral sector and disadvantaging other sectors including agriculture, are real risks,” she saidafter her presentation.
“But there are three things we can do.
“We can make sensible choices about managing mineral resources.
“The next thing we can do is when we spend the money, we can make strategic expenditure policies, for example, infrastructure that supports agriculture.
 “Thirdly, we need to be very transparent.”

Air Niugini gets 3rd Dash8


AIR Niugini has increased its fleet to 21 aircraft with the arrival of the third Dash8-Q400 Next Generation aircraft yesterday, The National reports.
The national flag carrier was expecting a Boeing 767 next month, which will replace the current Boeing 757 on its international routes.
ANG chief executive officer Wasantha Kumarasiri said they were confident that this additional aircraft would provide operational flexibility for both passenger and cargo movements.
He said this would also assist in providing more frequencies and capacities in the implementation of the new flight schedule which began this week.
Congratulating the ANG staff, management, board and the Q400 project team, State Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare said the arrival of the new aircraft was well-timed to assist ANG carry out its new flight schedule.
He explained that this schedule would now see a fourth weekly service to Singapore and a third weekly service to Honiara, Solomon Islands, Manila and Nadi, Fiji.
The fourth weekly service to Honiara and Nadi still to be approved, Somare said.
The international sector now sees double daily services to Cairns on Wednesdays and to Brisbane on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays on the Boeing 767, and on the Fokker 100 on the other days.

Doctors ordered to end all strikes


NATIONAL Court judge Justice Catherine Davani yesterday ordered the executives of the National Doctors Association (NDA) to follow last Friday’s court orders and cease all strike actions until the issues are dealt with in court, The National reports.
“The court order is very specific and very clear for the defendants to be restrained from carrying out further strike actions,” Davani said.
The court was told that the executives of the NDA had failed to comply with interim restraining orders that were obtained by state lawyers last Friday and served on the NDA executives at around 6.30pm the same day.
A contempt proceeding on the doctors’ failure to comply with the court order was filed by the state and would be heard today following a ruling on whether or not the restraining order remained.
State lawyer Sam Koim yesterday submitted that a memorandum of agreement (MoA) was signed by the NDA and the departments of Health and Personnel Management (DPM) on Jan 12, 2007, over benefits for doctors throughout the country.
He said the matters relating to the MoA were addressed through a subsequent agreement signed between the parties under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Jan 11 last year.
Following that, all outstanding matters were implemented except for a new log of claims which were yet to be lodged with DPM which, effectively, was preventing formal negotiations from taking place.
In his submissions, Koim also highlighted the failure by the doctors’ executives to meet with the heads of DPM and Health when requested to prior to last Friday’s strike action.
He also pointed to the refusal by the industrial registrar early this month for a secret ballot on a proposed strike to be conducted by the NDA, simply because there was no dispute and no evidence of a fresh log of claims.
In addition, the state argued that a similar view was expressed by the Public Services Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration tribunal.
The doctors were now into their sixth day of strike.
Based on these arguments, Koim submitted that the restraining order should continue.
He also revealed to the court the verbal abuses and threats he allegedly encountered when serving the court order.
Defending counsel Tai Yai of Kange Lawyers argued in a brief submission for the restraining orders to be set aside.
Yai argued that the doctors had resorted to the strike action over frustrations and dissatisfaction aimed at their employer, who had failed to honour the January 2007 MoA.
He also pointed to a court order of Jan 4, 2007, which the DPM and Health had failed to satisfy.

Breakthrough in doctors' strike

Zibe intervenes to end doctors’ strike

HEALTH Minister Sasa Zibe has ironed out differences with the striking doctors, paving way for them to return to work today, The National reports.
Zibe personally took charge of the situation as National Court judge Justice Catherine Davani reminded the doctors of her court order last Friday not to strike while she heard substantive matters on their revised log of claims yesterday.
She is due to make a ruling today.
In an unprecedented move, the health minister, who had blamed the bureaucracy for dragging its feet in the doctors’ claim, met with the NDA executives at the PNG Trade Union Congress headquarters to agree on a compromise.
Zibe announced after the meeting that a memorandum of understanding would be signed today by the relevant parties although he did not disclose the content of the MoU.
In a complementary move, Public Service Minister Moses Maladina also met with NDA executives but the outcome of that meeting was not immediately known.
NDA president Dr Kauve Pomat was jubilant last night, saying he welcomed Zibe’s decision to sign an MoU.
Since last Friday, the NDA executive had refused to meet with Health secretary Dr Clement Malau and his Personnel Management counterpart John Kali for further dialogue on their revised log of claims which, they claimed, should have been concluded last September.
Malau and Kali maintained that the 2007-09 MoA had been fully implemented and the doctors were paid more than K10 million in backdated claims.
The NDA wanted a new agreement to revise the 2007-10 awards relating to, among others, medical officers’ salary classifications and progression, medical/dental officer classification, domestic market allowance, consolidated clinical overtime and on-call allowances.
In a separate statement, Malau said he had done all he could to address the doctors’ concerns, adding that a transitional arrangement was made which led to the MoU signed between the state and NDA.
He said this was done to fully implement the 2007-09 MoA while waiting for a new agreement to be signed by the two parties for a new log of claims.
Malau said under the MoU, the Heath Department was to implement a number of key commitments, which included the appointment of a chief medical officer under the new structure, work value study and appropriate remuneration for doctors.
They were fully implemented by the department, he said, adding that Health then worked on its own restructure and alignment of the work value study to restructure doctors’ remuneration packages.
Malau said this package was provided to the NDA to use as part of the new log of claims to be submitted to Personnel Management Department for negotiations to take place.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Danaya: Coward’s way out of problem

FORMER doctor and Western Governor Dr Bob Danaya said yesterday that taking a court injunction to stop doctors from striking “was a coward’s way out and will only add fuel to the fire”, The National reports.
Danaya, who led another doctors strike in 1999-2000, said: “The national doctors current industrial strike could have been averted had the Department of Personnel Management and the Health Department addressed the outstanding log of claims amicably and in a sensible manner.
“The last thing that any doctor would do is to walk away from their patients in the hospital because of the hypocratic oath they all have taken as doctors to serve their patients with dedication and commitment.
“All responsible governments in the world would know this and the important role that doctors play in patient care in the health system,” he said.
In the 1999-2000 doctors strike, the undertaking that all parties took legally was that the state must do all things possible to address national doctors grievances in the industrial dispute to avert any strike action as the role played by doctors was an essential function as they dealt with human lives.
The state, through its institutions, had failed to adhere to this undertaking and must now face the consequences, he added.
“The time for negotiations is before any industrial action takes place. This is what we did in 1999 and all parties were satisfied.
“It is very sad that proper negotiations have not taken place.
“To take out a court injunction is a coward’s way out and will only add fuel to the fire.
“Those who have failed to do their job should not take part in the negotiations,” Danaya said.

Court to rule

More talks ahead for striking doctors
NATIONAL Court judge Justice Catherine Davani will decide today what course the nationwide doctors’ five-day strike should take, The National reports.
She will hear the ex parte (one party) application from the state on the status of the failed negotiations between the Health and Personnel Management departments and the National Doctors Association prior to last Friday’s walkout.
Secondly, Davani will hear an application by state lawyers that the NDA executives should be held in contempt for defying her orders last Friday not to order their members to strike.
In related developments yesterday, as most of the 500 doctors throughout the country stayed away from work indefinitely:

*Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal met with Health Minister Sasa Zibe and Public Service Minister Moses Madalina to discuss the urgency of resolving the dispute;

*Health secretary Dr Clement Malau and Personnel Management secretary John Kali announced that they were ready to meet with the NDA executives to discuss their claims for pay rise and improved working conditions;

*The disputing parties snubbed a compulsory roundtable conference called by the Public Service Conciliation and Arbitration Tribunal at 10am;

*Provincial doctors claimed they were not being updated regularly on the developments by their NDA executives in Port Moresby;

*Heath secretary refuted claims of double dipping and embezzlement of public funds by six senior executive managers of the Health Department;

*Several private clinics recorded higher than normal daily patients being treated since the weekend; and

*More than six trade unions, affiliated to the umbrella PNG Trade Union Congress, maintained their support for the NDA.

Davani’s rulings at 9.30am today would set the stage on where the dispute would be heading.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Agriculture extension project recruits specialists

DAL acting secretary Anton Benjamin (second from right) congratulates the three domestic consultants recruited by SSSEP after signing their contracts. From left are Bernadette Haro, Arilla Haro and Dr John Duguman.
The Smallholder Support Services Expansion Project (SSSEP), implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, has now commenced in two additional provinces.
The expansion phase has been made possible by a K3 million grant provided by the New Zealand government through its aid agency, NZAid.
It will now be expanded to the Chimbu and Central provinces.
The agriculture smallholder extension concept was successfully trialled in the Eastern Highlands and Morobe provinces previously through funding from the Asian Development Bank.
The extension concept has been well received and has improved agriculture extension and agriculture productivity in the two provinces.
Other districts in the two provinces are now implementing the programme.
The main activities carried out under the expansion phase include training of provincial and district agriculture extension officers on the new extension process, project appraisals, capacity building and awareness.
One of the sustainability issues being addressed is development of on-going opportunities for farmers to access extension services once SSSEP is institutionalised in the target provinces.
An important outcome to address sustainability has been the establishment of a national service providers’ association (NSPA).
Plans are underway to establish a national association for service providers.
A domestic consultant, Arilla Haro, has been recruited to oversee this task.
Another important goal for the concept is to improve the status of women in agriculture by focusing support services on food crop production, income generation and market access.
Given the critical role that women play in the agriculture sector and in contributing to family livelihoods and wellbeing, it is vital that the SSSEP adopts a gender mainstreaming approach to ensure gender responsiveness of the project.
This will ensure that the concept promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women as an integral aspect for a positive outcome.
Bernadette Haro has been recruited as a gender analyst specialist to conduct a gender analysis and develop strategies to improve gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Dr John Duguman has been recruited as a monitoring and evaluation specialist who will provide short-term inputs to assist SSSEP to develop a monitoring and evaluation framework to monitor implementation progress and to evaluate the economic and financial impact of the project.
DAL’s acting secretary Anton Benjamin, whilst signing their contract agreements, thanked the New Zealand government for its funding support towards the expansion phase.
He said with two additional provinces and the recruitment of the domestic consultants, this complemented the final phase of the programme and he expected it to run smoothly.

Enga’s potato industry recovers from devastating disease

Former NARI scientist, Humphrey Saese (right), who is leading an exciting new potato project in Lagaip-Porgera, Enga, talking to farmers at the NARI field day in Tambul.-Picture by MALUM NALU
An exciting independent potato project in Lagaip-Porgera, Enga province, is gaining momentum and support.The project, spearheaded by local MP Philip Kikala, was showcased at the recent National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) field day in Tambul, Western Highlands.
Led by former NARI scientist Humphrey Saese, the project is aimed at building capacity for high health seeds and sustainable potato production in Lagaip-Porgera and involves construction of three screen houses for producing mini-tubers.
“We are building three screen houses to take in 12,000 plantlets,” Saese said in Tambul.
“That capacity will produce about four tones of mini-tubers.”
Saese said he expected about 50 tonnes of seed production by June this year in Lagaip-Porgera from the work they had already done, including training and extension programmes, as well as introducing potato late blight (PLB)-resistant lines to farmers.
“Potatoes are important to the livelihood - food, social and income - of the people who live in the highlands of PNG and in particular the people of Lagaip-Porgera,” he added.
“This was until a major disease outbreak caused by PLB in 2003, which wiped out the entire farming systems.
“Potatoes can only be grown at present through the use of chemicals to protect the crop which is costly.
“In addition, the availability and access to clean, certified seeds, has been difficult and expensive for the people.
“This project targets to address these issues by developing local capacities that will enable clean seed production and support a wide spread production of potatoes in the district and the province.”
Saese said availability and access to quality seeds was recognised as a major problem limiting potato production in the district.
“For the people of Lagaip-Porgera, developing the local capacity, in particular the screen houses for growing tissue-cultured potatoes, integration of resistant lines and the development of the seed scheme will ensure the long-term sustainability of potato production,” he said.
“The current capacities developed will support a local industry worth over K2 million.
“These will create rural-based employment, and improve the livelihood of the people in the district

LNG and agriculture in focus

A broccoli paddock in Tambul, Western Highlands, owned by the PNG Bible Church and which is a major supplier to Port Moresby.-Picture by MALUM NALU
A two-day consultative and planning workshop focusing on the impact of the liquefied natural gas project on the Papua New Guinea economy, with particular reference to the agriculture sector, begins at Ela Beach Hotel in Port Moresby on Thursday (March 31).
Organised by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) and the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC), the workshop has the theme: Maximise long-term benefits from PNG’s oil and gas mining projects and avoid the pitfalls of a resource curse – “A case for investment in the agriculture sector”.
There will be several key speakers from government and private sector including Agriculture and Livestock minister Ano Pala, Bank of PNG governor Loi Bakani, Teasury deputy secretary Anothony Yauieb, World Bank country manager Laura Bailey, and many more.
Heads of agriculture institutions including Dr Raghunath Ghodake of National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI), Rural Industries Council’s Brown Bai, Coffee Industry Corporation’s Navi Anis, DAL’s Anton Benjamin, PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute’s Dr Eric Omuru and University of Natural Resources and Environment ‘s Prof Philip Siaguru add to a lively programme over the two days
“Papua New Guinea is an agrarian society due to the fact that over 85% of citizens are rural dwellers who derive their livelihood based on agriculture,” according to the programme.
“Hence, the anticipated national impact of the huge resource development projects, namely the liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects will significantly affect the agriculture sector, in different ways during both the construction and productions phases.
“Despite this important fact, inadequate consideration has been given to the implications and needs for the agriculture sector and wider rural economy, including within the context of the government’s various planning horizons, notably under the Vision 2050, the development strategic plan (DSP) 2010-2030 and the respective medium term development plans (MTDPs).
“This issue has been discussed in successive CIMC agriculture sectoral committee meetings in 2009 and 2010, and other forums, and it is in this context, that this consultative planning workshop is co-funded and hosted by the CIMC secretariat and the Department for Agriculture and Livestock.”
The objectives of the workshop include:

• To understand the possible impact of the LNG project(s) (and to some extent other major new extractive industry project) on the economy and its implications on the agriculture sector, both during the construction and production phases (notably till 2014 and from 2104, respectively);

• To endeavour to plan and mitigate negative impacts upon the agriculture from Dutch disease implications, notably currency appreciation and other inflationary pressures which might undermine the viability of the rural economy ;

• To assess key measures to safeguard and enhance priority infrastructure and services needed by the rural economy, including public management and reform (including improved models for effective service provision), including through opportunities provided by LNG developments to support the Vision 2050, the DSP 2030, and the respective five-year MTDPs, suitably revised, as may be needed.;

• To assess the key aspects considered in reforming and revising the NADP in the context of the overarching development policies and emerging issues viz. the LNG projects and climate change; and

• To assess and propose other policies and policy instruments including institutional arrangements appropriate to minimise the negative impact of LNG and other emerging challenges, while at the same time maximising the opportunities these present to the agriculture sector.

How the 2012 national elections are going to be different!

Please click image to enlarge

Whistleblower legislation a necessity


I refer to the story about the release of evidence by a terminated whistleblower which implicates executive managers of the Department of Health, as reported in The National (March 28).

There is a dire need for whistleblower protection legislation to be endorsed in Papua New Guinea, which places a mandatory obligation upon public sector organisations to create robust internal procedures to allow for protected disclosures.
A similar argument, although more delicate, can also be made to place a similar obligation on private sector organisations.
A framework whereby employers should create internal procedures to allow employees to make disclosures about serious wrongdoing is necessary for organisations that pride themselves on good governance, best practice, transparency and corporate social responsibility.
Provided that such disclosures are made in accordance with the requirements of the legislation, the employee disclosing information should be entitled to certain protections against reprisal - including protection against disciplinary action being taken by an employer.
Whistleblower legislation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand applies to disclosures concerning "serious wrongdoing" - which broadly relates to significant matters such as unlawful use of public funds, actions that might endanger public health or would constitute an offence, and actions of a public official that are indicative of gross mismanagement.
There is no doubt that whistleblower legislation is relevant to the fight against corruption.
PNG is a party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the country has an obligation to consider the implementation of such measures under Article 33 of UNCAC which states: "Each state party shall consider into its domestic legal system appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith any facts concerning offences".
It’s time we act.

Deni Tokunai

New Zealand

Prime minister confirms state’s stake in seafloor mine

CABINET has approved the arrangement for the state to take up equity in the Solwara1 project that it hopes will be the first in the world to lead to mining of the seafloor, The National reports. The project, by Canadian developer Nautilus Minerals, involves mining for gold and copper found in high concentrations in massive sulphide deposits over a 59km2 section of the Bismarck Sea, at depths of about 1,600m, 50km north of Rabaul.
Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare’s announcement yesterday of the cabinet approval followed an earlier announcement last month by Mining Minister John Pundari that the government would take its full 30% stake in the venture – more than US$100 million.
Sir Michael said in a statement that Solwara1 was among the priority projects to create jobs, increase revenue earnings and boost foreign exchange.
“The project will be mining very rich seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) deposits and will generate over US$140 million directly into the economy.
“The approval of the arrangement has preserved the right of the state to acquire up to 30% equity in the whole value chain of the project,” he said.
“Being the first offshore mining project to be granted to mine massive sulphide systems on the sea floor, the government had ensured that the people of Papua New Guinea benefit through the state’s participation in the whole value chain of this milestone mining project.”
He said the state’s right for equal participation would be exercised through its nominee Petromin PNG Holdings Ltd .
This was consistent with current policy and law that Petromin was the state nominee for designated mining and petroleum projects.
Sir Michael also said Solwara1 was a first of its kind, involving an equity position by the government.
“This is the first time that the government has taken an equity position in a medium scale mining project that will be developed under a mining lease,” he said.
“This now sets a policy precedent that the state will take equity participation in future mineral projects that are to be developed both under special mining lease and mining lease, for both onshore and
offshore mining developments.”
Nautilus Minerals capital investment in the project would be about US$387 million over the lifetime of the mine.
Early this year, the government granted a 20-year mine lease for the project as well as set certain conditions in the mining lease to guide and control development.
“I must commend Pundari, for successfully securing the project development as well as ensuring the state’s equity participation in this project,” Sir Michael said

Solicitor-general told to file for contempt

THE solicitor-general has been advised to go to court today and apply for contempt charges to be served on the striking doctors and their leaders, The National reports. A court order was allegedly served on the executives of the National Doctors Association (NDA) last Friday, preventing them from staying away from work in protest over their working terms and conditions agreed to in 2007. However, the doctors had defied these orders and had continued on with their strike, which is now into its fourth day.
The Port Moresby-based doctors had been joined by other members of the association from around the country, including Mt Hagen and Goroka.
An inter-parties court hearing on the matter had been scheduled for tomorrow.
In issuing instructions to take the doctors to court, Attorney-General Sir Arnold Amet said the NDA executives could be called before the court and cited for contempt or “they could be arrested and imprisoned”.
“I have instructed the solicitor-general to advise the court that its interim stay order against the doctors striking was served on them.
“The NDA executives were served the court order, but they have not complied,” Sir Arnold said.
“It is imperative that a court order is complied with. Whatever the circumstance, a court order must be complied with or adhered to while discussions, to reach some form of compromise, continue.”
The court order was sought, and granted, through an ex parte application last Friday to restrain the doctors from going on strike.
The matter will return to court tomorrow for both parties to be heard.

Doctors defiant

THE nationwide doctors’ strike appears to be headed for the courts today as six more trade unions threw their support behind the National Doctors Association, The National reports.

Hagen hospital empty ... Normally one of the busiest sections of Mt Hagen General Hospital in Western Highlands, the hospital pharmacy, was yesterday empty of its usual packed crowd waiting to collect their medication. Only the patients who consulted the nurses were treated or prescribed treatment. Most other sections of the hospital were empty yesterday as patients, who needed to see specialist doctors and medical workers, sought treatment elsewhere following the nationwide doctors’ strike, which will enter its fourth day today. Mt Hagen is also a major referral hospital for the highlands region. – Nationalpic by YVONNE HAIP
 The NDA executives face the likelihood of being held in contempt of a court order stopping them from striking last Friday.
A worst case scenario is being arrested and locked up.
Attorney-General and Justice Minister Sir Arnold Amet had instructed Solicitor-General Neville Devete to tell the court an earlier interim stay order restraining the doctors from going on strike was served on them last Friday but they had not complied with it.
As the strike enters its fourth day, most doctors nationwide stayed away from work after the Health and Personnel Management departments failed to reach an agreement with the NDA for improved pay and working conditions for its 500 members.
As the executives of the NDA face the prospect of being arrested for contempt, the umbrella PNG Trade Union Congress warned that national security was at stake.
Its management board met and agreed that the PNGTUC utilises all possible means and ways to have the matter resolved amicably following due industrial relations processes.
It added that all forms of industrial action, including a nationwide strike for all member associations, could not be ruled out.
“The strike is over a legitimate matter and has no political motives and will have adverse implications on the lives of the workers and their children, on the ordinary people of PNG and the lives of the patients,” it said in a statement.
As of yesterday, more than six trade unions said they supported the doctors and called on the government to intervene to save lives of the sick in hospitals.
Among them were the PNG Communications Workers Union and the PNG Maritime and Transport Workers Union which said separately that all available avenues must be explored to find an acceptable negotiation settlement instead of provoking and inflaming the situation by resorting to National Court injunctions.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A dying health system in Papua New Guinea


What is really happening with the health system in Papua New Guinea?
The national doctors have gone to the limits of making a choice
between a moral life and death service of sacrifice and monetary
compensation for services.
What does that say about the Department of Health and the bureaucratic system?
Is it productive or old-aged and grinding to a halt because of
incompetent and aged work force?
Health Department gets a fair slice of the budget over the years but
it seems the funds never get tangible medicine and health workers
benefit in the rural areas of PNG.
Where are all the budgetary allocations going to each year?
Are there any draw downs?
Or are they being parked in trust accounts?
Or is all the government funding going to "paper shufflers" or to
"paper doctors" and "paper health consultants" and "paper paramedics"
as it has been happening all across other departments.
Now we know there are "fat cats" getting fed at the cost of rest of
health services.
Needless to mention, the termite-infested and aged facilities like
Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae, the hospitals in Mt Hagen, Daru,
Mendi, Modilon and Port Moresby.
The facilities are rotting away almost on a weekly basis.
And the entire negative images being heard of in the news.
While our people are dying slowly with an almost systematic alienation
The Minister responsible and his Secretary must be held morally
responsible for loss of life while the system seems to be clogged and
is not responding to the demands of the population growth currently
facing our nation.
Why are we seeing all the policy and awareness in the Post -Courier
and the National almost on a weekly basis?
How much is all the cost of adverts?
Why are TB and AIDS getting all the attention?
What about the general medical services and the general workers welfare?
Are not the neglected services in themselves a psychological deadly
killer equivalent to AIDS and TB or malaria for that matter?
Why advertise and promote new programmes when we are not able to
maintain and sustain the existing infrastructure?
Why are we not able to sustain and properly look after our national doctors?
How could we have asked the Cubans to come and do our work?
It's a symptom of neglect all around.
Is something wrong with the system or the people sitting behind those
chairs in the Department of Health head office in Waigani have lost
the passion and the vision for a healthy population by 2050.
Why aim for 2050 when the basics of today are neglected?
There needs to be a revamp of the people in the positions of decision
making at Waigani.
Is the action taken by the national doctors a wake-up call or not?
The elites and the educated can afford the private doctors and
overseas medical services.
What about the simple villager, the urban settler and the average worker?
Where do they get help?
What a sad state of affairs and a state of seizure!
Health services have become an eyesore and a slow systematic killer
across the country.
It seems our citizens must live a careful and healthy life because the
public health system will not help.
God help us.

Western Highlanders form development forum


Educated Western Highlanders have formed a non-political entity known
as Western Highlands Development Forum to pool together resources for
The forum had a gathering at the Botanical Gardens in Port Moresby
last Saturday, attended by prominent Western Highlands personalities,
as well as students from University of PNG.
"It's a very simple concept," executive chairman Samson Komati Yuimb
(pictured) told the gathering.
"There are more than 10,000 degree holders from Western Highlands since 1975.
"These educated elite do not have a voice in the development of our province.
"This group will be known as Western Highlands Development Forum."
Yuimb said once all formalities were completed, office bearers would
be elected, and a secretariat office would be set up in Mt Hagen.
"It must not be a political thing," he said.
"Politics has always been a problem area for us in Western Highlands.
"We aim to keep this group as non-political as possible."
Prominent Western Highlander, journalist John Eggins, suggested that
the forum operate along the lines of the successful Ipatas Foundation
in neighbouring Enga province.
"It's good to see a lot of young people here," he said.
"Organisations such as this are good.
"Our problem is we're always suspicious of each other.
"When you start something new, people will always be suspicious of you."
Eggin called for transparency if the forum was to be successful

BSP rethinks rural banking projects


BANK South Pacific (BSP) is rethinking its plan to provide banking services in the rural areas over security concerns, The National reports.
BSP chief executive officer Ian Clyne and head of rural banking Paul Thornton indicated last Friday during a media briefing that BSP’s rural banking projects are now being reviewed in light of recent robbery at Kwikila in Rigo, Central, and Daulo in Eastern Highlands.
Right now, there are 10 rural banking projects under way “but given the recent robbery, we have to review”, Clyne said.
“Simply put, if BSP rural could not be protected, then there would be no BSP rural branch in those areas (Daulo and Kwikila).
“BSP’s policy on armed robbery is clear – we will immediately close Daulo and Kwikila BSP rural branches for an indefinite period,” Clyne stressed.
That means the people of Daulo and Kwikila will now have to travel at great cost to Goroka and Port Moresby to do their banking.
Thornton said the BSP rural banking initiative was launched in last year to provide basic banking services across the country.
“This initiative is a community service initiative that would not generate profit for BSP,” he added.
To date, the bank has six branches, namely Kwikila, Daulo, Banz, Minj, Kerowagi and Lufa with staff recruited locally.
Clyne said BSP had taken the view based on previous experience that the people and the local community would have been aware of these pending robberies and might even know the identity of those involved.
The bank executives said the act of criminals now penalise majority of honest and hardworking people in those two areas.
Last Tuesday, the new BSP rural branches in Daulo and Kwikila lost a total of K70,000 to armed robbers.
BSP has called on the people of Asaro and Kwikila to help police solve the case, otherwise the bank might be forced to stop the local service.

First stage of Baisu project launched


THE first stage of the K83 million state-of-the-art highlands metropolitan jail in Baisu, Western Highlands, was launched last Friday by Correctional Service Minister Tony Aimo and Western Highlands Governor Tom Olga, The National reports.
Aimo said the project came in seven stages and it would take seven years to complete.
He said that when completed, Baisu would be the first in the South Pacific to have such an infrastructure.
Aimo told a big crowd including Olga, Correction Services Commissioner Richard Sikani, CS officers and the public that the project was a first of its kind funded by Government and AusAID, under its law and justice sector programme.
He said the first stage of the development cost K10 million and the contract was awarded to Simple Blue Collar construction and would take 20-months to build.
He said the project was expected to be completed by next October.
He said the project was aligned with the Vision 2050 under pillar No. 3 and 4, which states institutional development, service delivery, security and international relations.
Aimo said Baisu jail was one of the four regional jails and was a major correctional institution in the highlands region and received prisoners from the five highlands provinces, Morobe and Madang.
He said Baisu was, therefore, earmarked under the correctional service “10-15 years reconstruction plan,” to replace the colonial infrastructure built in 1963.
He said most of the buildings in Baisu were nearly 50-years old and due to funding constraints, they did not maintain them throughout the successive years.
Aimo said the project would bring spin-off benefits to the people living near the jail and also change the image of the province.
He appealed to the community leaders to take control of the people, respect the development, contractors and other service providers who would develop the project.
Aimo requested Olga and his provincial executive council to improve the road from Bak to Baisu, water supply and communication at Baisu jail.
Olga thanked Aimo and the Government on behalf of the 550,000 people for the mega projects and other impact projects in his province.
Olga committed K3 million for the sealing of the Bak-Baisu road.
He also told the Aimo that Baisu jail was included in the master plan of Mt Hagen redevelopment, which was launched last year by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.
Olga said Sir Michael allocated K20 million for the city redevelopment and this would be rolled out this year.
He said the water supply in Baisu jail was also included in the master plan.
Olga said under the plan they would have reservoir tanks at Mt Ambra so that the jail would receive a consistent supply of fresh water.
When the project is completed, Baisu would accommodate up 1,300 prisoners at any one time, 80 self-contained units for the married officers, 40 self-contained units for the single officers and 90 houses for the senior officers.

Report: Fat cats feed on doctors’ awards

DISTURBING new evidence has emerged that fat cats in the Health Department have used perks and privileges negotiated for the striking national doctors in their own contracts, The National reports.
Even more disturbing, the “doctored” contracts were approved in a matter of weeks while the National Doctors Association has been waiting for these perks and privileges after five years of negotiations.
Tired of the procrastination, the NDA called its membership to strike last Friday despite a court order restraining the action.
Documents released to The National showed there was double-dipping in relation to housing and vehicle allowances in the contracts of six executive managers of the Department of Health.
Further, overtime, education and domestic market allowances had been calculated and paid to these executive managers over and above those allowable for these positions.
In all, a total of K1.6 million per annum had been paid the six executive managers with total packages ranging from K232,476 at the lower range to K342,561 at the upper level.
Correspondence between a terminated whistle blower from the DoH and the Department of Personnel Management secretary John Kali indicated that the contracts for the executive managers had been negotiated by the NDA for specialist medical officers.
Executive managers were only entitled to standard senior public services category B contracts which do not carry allowances such as housing, vehicle, overtime and education at the levels contained in the contracts, the correspondence revealed.
The NDA specialist medical officers awards were negotiated “to attract and retain our limited highly skilled medical professionals”, one letter dated last May stated.
In the letter to Kali, the whistle blower said: “The NDA specialists medical officers are still waiting for this contract payment to be signed and the very agent, NDOH, that should implement these contracts according to the MoU signed with DPM in January 2010, has decided to draw their contract on this hard-fought contract and have made payments to themselves as effective in April 2010.”
Instances mentioned included the following:

* One executive was awarded and paid K96,000 housing allowance even though the officer had an institutional house and was also paid K60,000 special domestic market allowance for which the officer was not entitled to as it was only negotiated for specialist medical officers; and

* Another executive was awarded and paid K48,000 in minimum consolidated clinical overtime/on-call allowances which was only for specialist medical officers even the executive does not do clinical on-call and was not eligible for overtime as an executive.

Although the department refused a negotiated backpay for doctors of 25%, one of the executives was paid the full backpay amounting to K27,083.
Although new four-wheel-drive vehicles were given to the executive managers, each had worked into their contracts K42,000 and K45,000 vehicle allowances per annum.
Details of cheques paid and alleged fraudulent contracts were made available to DPM, Public Service Commission, the Ombudsman Commission and the chief secretary as well as senior ministers in government.
The whistle blower recommended that the fraud squad be called in to investigate the allegations and for the government to withdraw the devolution of powers to the Department of Health and for the secretary of the department to be suspended.

Doctors go on strike

Court order defied, union solidarity grows

THE PNG Trade Union Congress has warned of a nationwide rolling strike by major unions as national doctors defied a National Court order to return to work, The National reports.
As the 500 doctors’ strike enters its third day today, other medical workers who belong to the Medical Laboratory Technical Personnel Association of PNG, the Community Health Workers and the PNG Nurses Association are considering their options of industrial action.
The all-powerful PNG Maritime and Transport Workers Union, which handles cargoes at all major PNG ports, also said at the weekend that it was supporting the doctors, who are members of the National Doctors Association (NDA).
Industrial Registrar Helen Saleu last week refused to register the NDA’s grievances as an industrial dispute, preferring to refer it to industrial arbitration tribunal for resolution.
However, umbrella body PNGTUC president John Paska said the congress was planning to call a nationwide strike of its affiliates if the state continued to suppress rights of workers and undermine the trade union movement.
A sympathetic Health Minister Sasa Zibe yesterday blamed the Health and Personnel Management departments’ “administrative slackness” for the strike.
As of 4.06pm last Friday, the doctors started their indefinite stop work after the government failed to respond favourably to their demands for pay increases and improved conditions as agreed in the 2007-10 contract awards.
“We have just gone on strike and we are now on strike and will continue until 4.06pm Monday and, if nothing eventuates, we will all resign en masse,” NDA president Dr Kauve Pomat said.
Two hours into the strike, the NDA executives were served with the court order not to strike but return to court on Wednesday. The doctors refused to accept the order, saying it was late in the day and they were not represented in court.
Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal had earlier directed Personnel Management secretary John Kali to address the doctors’ demands but Pomat said the secretary failed to meet with them.
The NDA have demanded that:

* An MoA be signed immediately as submitted last September;

* Make funds available to pay the salary packages backdating to Jan 1 last year;

* Contracts of all doctors be adjusted immediately and backdated to last year;

* Kali and Health secretary Clement Malau be sacked for the industrial action;

* Outstanding claims of the 2007-09 awards be met; and

* All Health managers contracts payments be investigated and industrial personnel replaced.

According to the NDA, Kali and Malau had not told the truth about their log of claims.
Pomat said doctors were led to believe that their reviewed job value salary packages would be addressed as agreed to but this was not done.
Paska said Kali and Malau had left the doctors with no option but to go on strike.
“This is the saddest and the darkest hour for trade union in PNG because we are dealing with the people who look after lives.
“Nowhere in the world are doctors treated like this,” he said, adding this sad state of affairs had been dragging for four years.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

AAP newsman leaves Papua New Guinea

Outgoing AAP man Ilya Gridneff (left) with his successor Eoin Blackwell yesterday.-Picture by MALUM NALU
 The birth of a baby boy outside Goroka, Eastern Highlands, named Kevin Rudd Jr rates among the highlights of the three-year career of Australian Associated Press Papua New Guinea correspondent Ilya Gridneff.
Gridneff was mistaken for Rudd when he visited Degi village, outside Goroka, that he was feted like royalty and carried on the shoulders of singing villagers when he went to visit the birthplace of Kevin Rudd Jr.
The boy was given the name five minutes after the then Australian prime minister visited a local hospital on March 7, 2008.
Kevin Jr has become somewhat of minor celebrity in PNG, with media attention and international tourists visiting.
Gridneff, 31, leaves tomorrow (Monday March 28) after three memorable years in PNG covering the good, bad and ugly from the ‘land of the unexpected’.
His success is Eoin (pronounced Owen) Blackwell.
Friends and colleagues gathered at the botanical gardens in Port Moresby yesterday to say farewell to a good mate.
“I’ve covered many memorable things,” Gridneff told me.
“It’s hard to pick one which stands out, however, the hospitality of Eastern Highlands people when visiting Kevin Rudd Jr, and them thinking I was the prime minister, stands out.
“And also of an all-in brawl with hundreds of angry Sepik pukpuks, in the car park of Wewak yacht Club, at the Sepik Iron Man in 2009 – it’s something I will never forget.
“But it’s also some of the small things like a night out with local journos, ending up at Baret Club or Club 22, and coming home when the sun is shining are some of the things I’ll never be able to forget.
“I’ll just go bek to village blo mi, Sydney, and just malolo.
Mi no klia what I’m going to do, maybe write a book about PNG, or enter into politics for Moresby South in 2012,” Gridneff says with a laugh.”
Gridneff’s last words: “Papua New Guinea, you deserve much, much more, and taim blo yu to question ol lida bilong yu, because you’ve got all the talent, resources, cash flow and ability but are being let down by all the conmen who call themselves leaders and bikman.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Port Moresby wired for change

PNG is moving into the modern age, with the population of its capital Port Moresby approaching one million and set to be larger than Brisbane's before long Source: The Australia

By ROWAN CALLICK in The Australian

PAPUA New Guinea's founding father and Prime Minister Michael Somare, aged 75 next month, was found guilty last Monday of 13 charges of misconduct and on Thursday was suspended from office for 14 days.

Until recently, this would have caused a sensation that would have virtually stopped the nation.
That it hasn't demonstrates how rapidly PNG has changed. It is awash with cash, and corruption. It is wired everywhere, mobiles hanging off every ear, in a way unthinkable under the old government telecommunications corporation. And it is heading to overtake Australia's population this century.
The leadership tribunal, chaired by Australian judge Roger Gyles, found Somare guilty of filing incomplete or late returns on his assets and business dealings to the Ombudsman Commission annually as required.
It is Somare's skills as a leader and a player for 42 years in the PNG political game, which is at once ornate and brutal, that have held together his ruling coalition for almost 10 years.
But this long-anticipated court case has become more a coda to the passing of the old independence era than a decisive central movement of a fresh symphony.
For regardless of Somare's personal fate, PNG is on the cusp of an extraordinary economic, social and political transition, one the country has not seen since gaining independence from Australia in 1975.
Where this change will take it remains utterly uncertain. But that it is undergoing a convulsion is clear.
A new generation is on the move, born since independence and unburdened by sentiment towards the past.
The election due mid next year, for which the manoeuvring is well under way, will indicate who is likely to win or lose from this transition. Usually, more than half the MPs lose their seats, and this time Somare has said he may decide to stand down at last, clearing the way for generational change.
Within 30 years, PNG's population may start to overtake that of Australia as it stands today. Its capital Port Moresby is already approaching one million and appears set to be bigger than Brisbane before long.
Its economy is likely to grow faster than China's this year, more than 8 per cent. Almost every leading resource company in the world is scrabbling over prospects there. Rio Tinto is back after the Bougainville civil war. BHP Billiton is back after the debacle of its withdrawal from Ok Tedi. The first liquefied natural gas project, costing $16.5 billion, is just beginning four frenetic years of construction in the Southern Highlands and along a pipeline route down to the liquefaction plant in Port Moresby. Massive mines are being developed elsewhere.
Port Moresby's burgeoning backstreet lodges are bursting with landowners from gas fields and mine sites desperately seeking their fortunes from government and corporations, from anyone who may be persuaded to compensate them amply for their lost lands.
And life is being transformed especially rapidly by the wild rush into the mobile phone era.
Irish-based company Digicel, which specialises in telecommunications for developing countries, has launched a remarkably cheap service and backed it up by building towers all over PNG, giving its signals a nationwide reach despite its mountainous interior and myriad islands.
Streetside betel nut sellers and people offering single cigarettes for 25c now also sell SIM cards.
In bustling Tabari Place in Boroko in the capital, traders have set up booths where they sell mobiles and all the associated paraphernalia, the deals usually being conducted entirely in Tok Pisin, while in the background young preachers try to attract the attention of the milling crowds.
Downtown outside the US embassy, where security guards hold dogs on leashes and parking is restricted to diplomatic staff, people wander the pavements selling China-pirated DVDs of American movies for $4 a time, as well as memory cards and flash drives.
Papua New Guineans are able to contact relatives back in their villages by phone for the first time. The arrival of 3G has enabled people to go online throughout the country, accelerating the attractions of Facebook, which has already attracted 35,000 users.
Groups of young social and environmental activists -- such as Act Now, Patriots, and The Voice, are building their numbers rapidly via such new technology, and also propelled by a growing rejection of the old politics of PNG: the parliamentary numbers game and the domination of money politics.
A "consultancy" firm run by one lobbyist from Enga province in the Highlands, the populous, high-energy but sometimes unruly region that is coming to dominate much of the country's business and politics, is named, with breathtaking frankness, Money Talks Ltd.
A massive hoarding at the start of the road to the parliament carries the unadorned biblical text of Proverbs 29:2: "When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice. But when the wicked rule, the people suffer."
Chronox Manek is among those sufferers. By rapid evasive action with his car, he only narrowly escaped an assassination attempt 15 months ago by gunmen outside his home but still requires treatment for his left arm where one of the bullets hit home.
He is the Chief Ombudsman, whose most contentious role is to police the leadership code that is the prime tool for combating corruption in PNG.
The foyer to the Ombudsman Commission's office displays posters with cartoons. One shows a sleek politician urging a group of peers: "All those in favour of the construction of this hotel, say aye." A thought bubble is emerging from his head at the same time: "On my block of land!"
Another has an Asian figure saying to an official: "I know you can't accept a bribe. It's illegal. But this is just a loan. Pay me back whenever you can."
The stakes have never been higher in PNG, and thus the institutions established at independence by Australia have never been under such siege, especially the legal system.
Manek, who for many years was the top public prosecutor and has been the leading public defender, and has a master's in law from the University of Melbourne, only pursues a limited number of targets at a time.
It is thus all the more extraordinary that the police have failed to make any charges over this assassination attempt on one of the country's top constitutional office holders.
Manek tells Inquirer: "I'm left without information about what's going on" over the case. "But it's happened, and I'm moving on."
He believes corruption began its insidious undermining of the country's governance in the early 1980s, when PNG opened up to the logging industry.
"Our world was no longer an Australian-focused one but a much bigger world", in this case, that of Asian timber corporations.
Manek's favourite motto is "no sweat, no get".
He believes that has been undermined by a growing culture of taking short cuts to getting rich. And he is keen to educate the public that it is its right to insist that governments deliver citizens the services they are paying for.
"I want to educate the leadership that the public is right," Manek says.
Another figure who is urging on this shift to a new form of leadership in PNG is Powes Parkop, a young former journalist and human rights lawyer who is the Governor of Port Moresby.
He has gained a reputation for cleaning up the city and beautifying it, for new fountains, for Christmas lights, for his organising of family events in the evenings to "reclaim the night" from the rascal gangs,, with some positive indications: young hoodlums being chased away from evening big-screen relaying of rugby league games.
"We need to change the political culture and quickly," Parkop says. "It has gone bad in PNG and we must alter that so that many other changes can happen, too. Too many people have effectively been disenfranchised, socially and economically.
"People have migrated here to Moresby looking for the land of milk and honey, and have found instead a place that is not so rosy."
Sam Basil is another new-generation MP, a young businessman from Bulolo in Morobe province, scene of an early gold rush 80 years ago and where top global mining houses are building or planning to build world-sized mines.
Basil uses Facebook extensively in communicating his views, with his supporters and others.
He says he is concentrating much of his efforts on helping give the public accounts committee of the parliament the teeth it needs.
Paul Barker, executive director of the private-sector-funded Institute of National Affairs, says it's crucial that the government ensures that benefits flow broadly from the new resource projects, especially from the ExxonMobil led gas deal.
"If the government doesn't get its act together and leaders cream off the profits, then PNG will get only the downside, not the upside, from such projects," he says. "As in the Arab world today, the people in their 30s are the talking generation. But the younger generation below them have no special respect for what's happened before."
Australia's role as PNG enters this difficult transition remains substantially shaped by its aid program, which comprises about 14 per cent of the national budget. It is becoming more focused and more practical, advice giving way to implementation.
Last year AusAID built 400 classrooms, provided 500,000 textbooks and trained 9000 teachers. The aim is to raise this to 800,000 textbooks next year. They will be delivered via an international procurement agency, which is also being deployed for the health project that is following these education successes, aiming to distribute much-needed basic medicines to every aid post and clinic, however remote.
Alternative paths towards PNG's development are reflected in the Port Moresby landscape.
Structures new at independence in 1975, such as the "pineapple building" where prime ministers once had their offices and the former main government building nearby, have been abandoned for sheer want of maintenance, today decaying skeletons.
Nearby, Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau -- "forever green" -- has built a massive mall, the Vision Centre. It is still largely untenanted but is likely to fill steadily, including with a new cinema complex that will be Port Moresby's first since its old cinemas were shut as crime soared.
There is an intensity in the humid air, a gathering pace of change, as individuals and the nation as a whole dices for the prosperous future that has so far evaded them

University of Goroka graduation set for next Tuesday

University of Goroka's 14th graduation ceremony will take place next
week Tuesday, March 30, 2011.
A total of 518 students will graduate in the main quadrangle on campus.
Graduands will be from all faculties, including diploma, degree and
post-graduate students.
Highlands Regional College of Nursing will also have 29 students
graduating on the day, along with 10 students from Madang Teacher's
Guest of honour for the graduation will be Dr Thomas Webster of
National Research Institute.
The event will be witnessed by Dr Webster, chancellor Benais Sabumei
and pro chancellor Jerry Tetaga.
Other council members, vice chancellor, pro vice chancellors, all
academic and non-teaching staff, and other special guests will also be
present at the ceremony.
Graduands will also receive prizes for different categories of
university awards on the day. These are: the vice chancellor's
leadership award; academic excellence award; professionalism award;
the Goroka Rotary award; teaching practice award; Val Ward charity
award; and various faculty awards for different programmes.
Major sponsors of the awards will be PNG Toner and Ink Supplies
(Goroka Office), and the Coffee Industry Corporation.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Highlands farming field day at Tambul

Picturesque Tambul, Western Highlands, on the foothills of the majestic Mt Giluwe, came alive last Saturday when National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) highlands regional centre staged its third annual field day.

Bags of potatoes at FPDA stall
This event coincided with the 46th NARI council meeting which was held at Tambul last Friday, however, a lower-than-anticipated crowd attended the event.
An icy-cold typical Tambul downpour also cut short the event and had visitors running for cover.
With the theme ‘Enhancing sustainable farming for rural farmers’, the event provided an opportunity for the people of Tambul and visitors alike to learn about activities undertaken, meet scientific and technical staff, tour the grounds and facilities, and gather information on other activities NARI undertakes throughout the country.

Broiler feed made from kaukau and cassava
This event provided the chance to people to find out more about the research and development activities undertaken by NARI in the high altitude highlands region of PNG and how they can source and adopt them.
Tambul MP and Minister for Civil Aviation, Benjamin Poponawa, was disappointed that not many people attended, given that his electorate is the capital of potatoes and fresh vegetables in the country.

Tambul-Nebilyer MP and Civil Aviation Minister Benjamin Poponawa (right) listening attentively to NARI dought preparedness project team leader Akkinapally Ramakrishna at the field day in Tambul.-
‘Manu more of our people should be here, however, they are not aware of the event,” he said.
“There should be more awareness about such activities in future.”
NARI council chairman Dr John Kola urged the local people to be proud that such an important institution was located on their land, and urged them to look after it.

Grinding kaukau leaves to make pig silage
“What is developed here will benefit the whole country,” he told them.
“When you look after this place, you are contributing to the development of Papua New Guinea.”
The best news was that NARI had made a major breakthrough in the fight against the dreaded potato late blight (PLB), which just about decimated PNG’s K25 million potato industry in 2003.
It comes with the lucrative liquefied natural gas project just around the corner, and provides an added sense of food security with real fears of another prolonged drought.
NARI, with support from Australian Centre for Integrated Agricultural Research (ACIAR), has developed new PLB-resistant clones, which were showcased at the field day.

NARI food technologist Isidora Tamita shows prducts made from local vegetables
Farmers, visitors and NARI council members were able to see first-hand the new clones, which will be officially released at NARI’s annual agricultural innovations show at Bubia outside Lae in May.
The disease – caused by a fungal agent called Pythorthora infastans - remains a major concern for potato farmers in PNG, as it is easily transported by wind under moist and humid conditions, especially so in the highlands where it can rapidly multiply and spread over long distances in short times.
It has, to an extent, been controlled by expensive chemical fungicides and integrated disease management (IDM) systems.
NARI research has identified the behavior and type of PLB present in PNG, identified suitable chemical fungicides for PNG, and identified the PLB-resistant clones.
NARI director-general Dr Raghunath Ghodake told farmers, visitors and council members that these outcomes would help PNG farmers to successfully grow potato again for cash income as well as food security.

Pigs eating silage made from kaukau leaves
“We now have three to four varieties of potato which are tolerant to PLB,” he said.
“These will be released in May at NARI’s agricultural innovations show.
“These can be grown here at Tambul and people throughout PNG will benefit.
“Other stakeholders like Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA), will also benefit from our research, and will provide seeds to farmers as well as extension services.”
Apart from the work of NARI and FPDA in getting PNG’s potato industry back on a firm foothold, an exciting independent potato project in Lagaip-Porgera, Enga province – spearheaded by local MP Philip Kikala – was also showcased at the field day.
The project, led by former NARI scientist Humphrey Saese, is aimed at building capacity for high health seeds and sustainable potato production in Lagaip-Porgera and involves construction of three screen houses for producing mini-tubers.

Fresh Produce Development officer Conrad Anton (right) explains the work of FPDA at the field day
“We are building three screen houses to take in 12,000 plantlets,” Saese told me in Tambul.
“That capacity will produce about four tones of mini-tubers.”
Saese said he expected about 50 tonnes of seed production by June this year in Lagaip-Porgera from the work they had already done, including training and extension programmes, as well as introducing PLB-resistant lines to farmers.

Potato crisps are among several items showcased by NARI
Major activities that were displayed and demonstrated include kaukau (sweet potato) silage-making for pig feed, village broiler production, improved pasture species, wheat milling and cooking, high-yielding pyrethrum clones, early-maturing kaukau varieties, and mini tuber production of selected potato clones.
Representatives from divisions of primary industry in Enga and Western Highlands provinces, Enga Pyrethrum Company, National Development Bank, National Micro-Bank, Correctional Services of Baisu, Porgera Joint Venture, Christian Leaders Training College, Tambul/Nebilyer district administration, Fresh Produce Development Agency, Jiwaka Women’s Association, Highlands Farmers and Piggery Association, MKL Vegetables, Laiagam district project office, farmers, and school children, attended the day.
Field days such as the one staged in Tambul are one of the means that NARI uses to allow stakeholders to come together to share information, exchange views and see for themselves the agricultural technologies and innovations being developed and tested.

Lagaip-Porgera potato project team leader Humphrey Saese (right) talks to interested farmers
Similar open days are organised in all NARI regional centres around the country, including the annual innovations show, which will be staged on May 5 at the Sir Alkan Tololo Research Centre at Bubia, outside Lae.

Tambul-Nebilyer builds roads

Tambul-Nebilyer district in Western Highlands is placing emphasis on development of road infrastructure, according to local MP and Civil Aviation Minister Benjamin Poponawa.
These include the 17km national government-funded sealing of a 17km stretch of the Tomba-Tambul road by Dekenai Construction Ltd, which is expected to be completed by July and open up a whole new world of opportunities for Tambul people.

Part of the 17km stretch of the Tomba-Tambul road which is being sealed by Dekenai Construction Ltd.-Pictures by MALUM NALU
Apart from the Tomba-Tambul road sealing, Poponawa’s joint district planning and budget priorities committee (JDPBPC) has allocated K7.5 million funding for the 22km Tambul-Piambil upgrading, 10km Tambul-Upper Mendi, 7km Tambul ring road, 7km Pokerapul-Sisinpi, 10km Highlands Highway-Porabruk, and 12km West Kambia.
He is mindful of the new opportunities the liquefied natural gas project in neighbouring Southern Highlands will bring to his people.
Tambul already prides itself as the ‘capital’ of potatoes and other fresh vegetables, and already has some of the best services found in a rural area such as good roads, health, education, mobile phone, television, district treasury and internet connectivity.
Poponawa, however, believes that Tambul-Nebilyer can do better.
“Our major objective in the district is road infrastructure,” Poponawa told me in Tambul.

Project signboard along the Tomba-Tambul road
 “Once that is in place, all services will follow through.
“When you have improved roads, services start flowing in such as education, health, agriculture and others.
“What we’re doing is we’re opening up every road, even feeder roads.
“This has made life much easier for all stakeholders and everyone in the district.
“Tambul is a remote district but it’s unique, in that people have access to almost everything here.”
Poponawa said health, education and law and order were other priority areas of his JDPBPC.
“All health centres are operational, are fully stacked, and supplied with fully-kitted ambulances with two-way radios,” he said.
“All educational institutions from elementary and primary schools, and technical/vocational centres are all operational.

The well-maintained Tambul primary school
“We have staff, infrastructure and schools are running on time.
“We have law and order problems, however, these are minimal.
“Tribal fighting has reduced greatly.
“Alcohol and drug problems are being addressed with the help of churches.
“That’s why we are pumping a lot of money into the churches.
“We try to keep peace and good order through conflict resolution.
“We encourage conflict resolution through Peace Foundation Melanesia.”
Rural electrification and water are other priority areas of the Tambul-Nebilyer JDPBPC, with plans in place to bring these to all villages.