Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bart Philemon in Parliament today on the 22 reserved seats for women

Mr. Speaker.

1.0 Introduction & Setting the context

Let me be very clear. I DO NOT have any problems at all about Women in political leadership. In fact, there are many very capable women who can provide better political leadership than man. So I am NOT in this debate to argue whether a male or a female can lead better.

I stand today as a National Leader. And I make my remarks consistent with my role as a former Treasurer for four years and as an Opposition spokesman on Budget and Finances for four years.

Mr. Speaker.

I think this is the most consequential act of law making since our independence and this will now go down in our political history books.

We have now legislated to allow women to enter Parliament as legislators without going through the normal electoral process.

Mr. Speaker.

I personally have no problem in giving fair representation to our women population. They are important partners to work along with in pursuing our development goals as enshrined in our constitution.

Because of women, we are all here today. Women are an inseparable part of community life and our family life. They share our lives as mothers, wives, daughters, nieces and friends.

Mr. Speaker.

I consider women as a most important part of the society, for me it is the sign of modesty and respect in the society.

There are women who make the fate of societies. They are the reason of the success of every successful man, because they are the one who gives the moral support and listen to their son, brother, husband and father when no one listen and support them. So they don’t deserve to be looked as a thing of time pass or a tissue paper whose fate is to get used and thrown away.

Mr Speaker.

My issue on debating this bill is about the right use of public money in our nation – at this crucial time.

We must, as responsible leaders, act responsibly to ensure that the priority needs of Papua New Guinea and the 6.7 million people are addressed.

I want to ask this Parliament to lay aside in your mind the potentially emotive equality in gender debate. And I want you to focus on the facts and figures together with the issues I must raise.

I want to highlight the cost of governance and measure this against this bill to add 22 reserved seats for women which in total would add at 24 seats to this National Parliament Chamber with the two regional seats for Hela and Jiwaka Provinces.

2.0 The Parliament & Cabinet as envisioned by CPC fathers

Mr Speaker.

Let me remind this honourable House what our constitutional founding fathers said about our role. In chapter 3, clause 4 of the CPC Report while addressing the reasoning behind The LEADERSHIP CODE, our constitutional founding fathers envisioned, and I quote:

In his public office, a leader’s first responsibility is to the people he or she represents or on whose behalf he is working. This responsibility must override self interest. A leader’s first loyalty must be to his office, not to himself. Such priority of loyalties might in fact mean some personal loss of opportunity or benefit, but this personal and official responsibility of a leader is assumed when he takes office, and it continues throughout his entire tenure of office. END OF QUOTE.

Mr Speaker.

If we, as elected leaders by virtue of this Constitution, are to be faithful to our mandate, we must take note of the thoughts of these founding fathers on leadership and decision-making.

The Constitution and subordinate legislations as they framed allowed for 109 MPs and a maximum of 27 Cabinet Ministers.

Because of the early Bougainville secession movement, the Provincial Government system was introduced. Then we added 12 Vice Ministries.

We have now added five additional ministries to bring this to 33 ministries altogether.

SO now we have the following:

• 33 Cabinet Ministries

• 12 Permanent Secretaries or Vice Ministers

• 19 Permanent Parliamentary Committees

• 14 Parliamentary Referral Committees

Mr Speaker, add all the costs of the provincial government system, the district administrations and all the Government Departments and statutory bodies, our country has a very high public sector bill.

3.0 Huge Cost of Public Sector

Wages alone account for over K2.55 billion for some 77,000 public servants, 109 MPs and 584 political staff.

Year after year since I became a Member for Parliament – particularly since I had anything to do with PNG’s finances, I have raised concern about this public sector bills.

With the five new additional Cabinet Ministries introduced, figures from the SRC Determinations, indicate that some K21,492,781 is needed annually to cover the salary, allowances and staff salaries of the Executive Council Members alone. An additional K3 million needed to be found to pay for the additional 5 new ministries.

Mr Speaker.

I see no justification for the increase in Cabinet Ministries. I see no justification for the 12 Vice Ministers. Were all Ministers (before the additional five) overloaded with work? Instead of the usual eight hours a day, were the Ministers working 12 hours to 16 hours per day?

In truth, there was been no research to determine this. And then 12 Vice Ministers were added. What actually do these 12 Honourable Members do for the extra perks and privileges? The public hardly hear or see them at work. This floor has yet to hear a vice ministerial statement, or even a ministerial statement that acknowledges vice ministers’ contribution on the floor of Parliament.

If a leader’s first responsibility and loyalty is to the people and to the office, would any leader at all in clear conscience voted for the additional five Cabinet positions? Would a Prime Minister, from that perspective, allowed for 12 Vice Ministers to be appointed? The answer should be a resounding NO. But instead, in PNG, it has been YES.

Mr. Speaker.

And now we want to add two more regional seats and 22 more reserved seats for women to this Parliament!

4.0 Report of the Public Sector Rightsizing Working Group

Mr Speaker.

In September 2004, the National Executive Council chaired by then Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare in NEC Decision 143/2004 approved the establishment of the Public Sector Rightsizing Working Group. Their job was to provide the NEC with an appropriate policy, strategy and plan of action for an overall review and restructuring of government administration to achieve the government’s fiscal objectives for a reduction and rationalization of budget expenditure.

The report of this Public Sector Working Group was concluded in September 2006 and handed over to the Prime Minister shortly after.

This Rightsizing Report done by academics and hands-on experts. This report, on issues directly related to cost of governance, highlights the following:

(And this is a direct quotation) There are 27 Ministries at the moment in PNG, one Minister for about every 190,000 people. This is much higher than in other developing countries. The world average is around 16. National Parliament Ministers in PNG typically receive an annual salary of around K80, 000 (representing a total base salary cost to National Parliament of K2 million). This cost is compounded by the excessive level of support provided to this largest number of ministers. There are over 500 ministerial support staff servicing 27 Ministers – over 10 staff on average per Minister. For example, direct ministerial support services received K13 million in 2005. Involvement by the backbench in the process of government is limited; committee processes are not used effectively.

Mr Speaker.

The report examined the types of introduced reforms into Cabinet and examined PNG’s peculiarity, and recommended that there be: (And I QUOTE)

a reduction in the number of Ministers to between 15 and 20 (with departments grouped into portfolios). ADB reported the world average to be 16. Developing nations in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific had considerable variation. PNG’s current 27 Cabinet Ministers is large in comparison with many developing countries. (END OF QUOTE).

The report, done by PNG’s own sons, recommended:

A number of vice ministers in charge of various portfolio agencies with an overall Portfolio Minister

Reducing 24 departments to 18 portfolio departments.

In short, this report compiled by experts in various fields recommended re-organisation to reduce costs - not additional new ministries. We want to reduce the cost of governance – and increase the delivery of goods and services.

5.0 Analysising cost of governance and delivery of goods and services

Mr. Speaker.

I ask myself: will the additional seats increase the delivery of goods and services?

The same report highlights how savings in cutting down of number of ministries and number of Government Departments would have savings as follows:

For every K3 million, the State can:

• Engage 198 more policemen to address the law and order problems per year

• Educate 10,200 pre school students for a year

• Purchase medical supplies for vaccines for 10,200 young children per year

• Re-seal (single coat) 30 kilometres of road per year

Will 22 reserved seats for women increase delivery of goods and services?

Let me now focus specifically on this bill to allow for 22 reserved seats for women.

Mr Speaker, it is estimated that each seat will cost taxpayers about K500, 000 so we are talking about K11 million addition to the cost of governance.

Papua New Guinea is no where near to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. These goals and our human development indicators show that:

1. Up to five women die daily while giving birth;

2. Up to 15,000 out of every 100,000 children born will die as infants or within the first five years of their young life. Half of those will be female infants or children;

3. PNG is still struggling to balance gender equality in enrolments and retentions.

4. HIV/AIDS continues to create havoc especially among our young people – half of whom are female and who are the most vulnerable.

Mr Speaker.

This the only report which recommends cutting cost of governance. The 22 reserved seats for women will no doubt raise the scale a little in gender equality.

But I am faced with this mathematics: With just K9 million out of the K11 million for the proposed additional reserved seats for women, the State can:

• Engage 594 more policemen to address the law and order problems per year which will keep our womenfolk and girls safer

• Educate 30,600 pre school students for a year which will educate 15,300 female pupils

• Purchase medical supplies for vaccines for 30,600 young children per year which will save the life of 15,300 female children from early death and give them a chance at life.

• Re-seal (single coat) 90 kilometres of road per year allowing access for travellers of which 50 per cent are likely to be females.

6.0 Conclusion

Mr Speaker.

This bill boils down to this question:

Does gender equality in political leadership addresses the current development priority needs of Papua New Guinea?

In other words, does the cost of having 22 reserved seats in parliament addresses poverty eradication, better education, improved health, add more infrastructure, roll out more utilities to the majority of our 6.7 million people.

The answer, Mr Speaker, is NOBODY CAN TELL US. NOBODY KNOWS.

Faced with an obscure attempt to address our development woes by allowing for gender equality in political leadership, and faced with immediate human development indicators that ought to highlight immediate funding priorities, Mr Speaker, I have decided, consistent with my stance on reducing the cost of governance and public sector, NOT to support this bill.

I therefore do not support this bill because it adds to the cost of governance without showing it will improve delivery of goods and services to the masses.

Thank you.


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