By NELSON DUWABANE
PNG Country Party
The Country Party supports the ONeill government's focus on getting the basics right in terms of rural transport, communication and other economic and social infrastructure that will support agriculture and improve majority population livelihood to underpin sustainable development.
The party has two MPs and as a signatory to the Alotau Accord, the Country Party has policies that will provide people with own food, affordable locally-produced food, provide income and employment earning opportunities and mitigate poverty and a positive plan to build a stronger society and economy.
PNG is generally a primary producing country and prior to and after Independence until early 1990s, relied on the agriculture, forestry, fisheries and livestock sectors to develop the country and prop up the economy.
We say 97% of land is customary owned and 80% of people rely on that land and agriculture.
This is the strength of our society and economy that will provide for the people and reduce the high cost of living pressures that face our working class people and our rural families.
This means we have to support agriculture and rural business and the industries that build PNG to where it is today, which many of our political parties do not seem to care about.
Our people have been growing kaukau, tapioca, yam, taro, banana and introduced crops and tree crops like coffee, coconut, cocoa, tea , rubber without tax holidays, freight subsidy, import tax and other tax exemptions.
We should be supporting our farmers, small entrepreneurs, PMV and trade store owners and our manufacturing industries to provide incentives as well as to lower cost inputs that general public will benefit.
Our plan will cater for food security and the wealthy and healthy nation so much used in Vision 2050 and government policies without thinking about its meaning.
The Country Party believes that agriculture and rural industries are the heart and soul of the country and so we must always keep the heart beating.
Despite National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP) being an official document, this has not been assessed, despite the wrong move to provide grants and unplanned inclusion of grants to all districts without measuring its input and impact.
This sector and its contribution to manufacturing will create more jobs and improvement in peoples lifestyle.It is feasible and achievable.
Country Party believes that these are priorities PNG must invest in.
The national budget and policy statements does not mention it but targets the associated and complementing issues of transport and communication infrastructure and small business and loans at NDB.
Whether 50, 000 farmers can be granted loans of say K3, 000 in a year remains out of reach due to the stringent application and appraisal process.
We need to fix this issue.
While that is going on, the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) and commodity boards and agencies must not wait but develop programmes to connect to the governments initiatives to help the rural sector.
We need agriculture and simplified process and access to extension services, accessible and cheaper marketing outlets and markets to change lives of ordinary Papua New Guineans.