By REGINALD RENAGI
While he did not remain long in office, this Papuan Knight and former PNG Prime Minister; Sir Mekere Morauta will long be remembered over his peers as a great political reformist.
Among important policy changes he did as a PM, the citizens have come to remember him well for his fundamental reforms in PNG’s financial sector.
Unlike other former PMs who lacked the political will and commitment to make a difference, Sir Mekere inherited his predecessor’s liability and immediately cleaned up any remaining problem areas in the country’s financial sector.
As PM, Sir Mekere reformed the following public entities:
· Minerals Resources Development Corporation (MRDC). Key actions taken were: To protect the landowner interest groups, pushed for legislation removing political interference by MPs, regulatory regime similar to the Superannuation Act 2000, outsourcing investment management, Central Bank oversight and a ‘fit and proper persons’ test.
· Workers Mutual Insurance. To protect many thousands of contributors, he re-established the Worker’s Mutual Insurance at a cost of K 19 million, outsourcing investment management and conducted a major inquiry into its collapse as prelude to reforms of the existing Insurance Act.
· Pacific Balanced Fund. Acting on major Inquiry recommendations, resolved current impasse by appointing new trustees and investment manager.
· Securities Commission. The commission was revamped to strengthen its weak and ineffective status. This action gave it stronger powers and independence to pursue white-collar criminal activity by corporate bodies.
· Rural Development Bank (now called the National Development Bank – NDB). The bank was continually under capitalised with much political interference. A review of the new act followed to protect the interests of small rural-based entrepreneurs. With current regulatory regime the NDB under the Central Bank includes: appointment of independent directors similar to the old IPBC board make up of ex officio directors and a fit and proper persons test.
The financial reforms greatly improved the efficiency of the economy which among other things: restored independence to the IPBC, facilitated instructions to IPBC as a matter of priority to develop ‘community service obligations’ in such important areas of: power, water, telecommunications and airlines to deliver services to rural PNG.
The commitment to phase out the former Telikom monopoly by increasing competition in telecommunications, and other monopoly service providers achieved positive outcomes: increase in jobs, services and tax revenues.
Furthermore, a full review and reform of the Electoral Commission included: an audit of existing roles, registration of eligible voters and more voter awareness education programmes.
To further boost the national economy, his plans to phase in competition in the airlines and to establish an Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) with wide sweeping powers were mooted widely then, but Sir Mekere did not finish what he started when he left to hand over to a new administration after the 2002 national elections.
Presently, the last two political regimes under the current government have consistently demonstrated an inability to initiate much-needed political reforms from where this great reformist PM left off.
Despite pressing needs, current PM has unfortunately not ensured real and innovative political reforms to improve the country’s financial sector.
Papua New Guineans are only hoping and praying that our country gets another reformist leader like Sir Mekere Morauta after the 2012 national elections to make the required political reforms PNG so desperately needs in future.