The Member for Chuave, James Nomane has decried what he has labelled as blatant disregard by Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey in usurping Parliament’s authority in approving the national budget and disregarding the plight of ordinary Papua New Guineans.
Mr. Nomane in a statement said this after members of the Parliament assisted the Treasurer in passing the supplementary budget of K771 million on Thursday, 12th of October, just a month before Parliament reconvenes to deliberate on the 2024 National Budget.
James then took the opportunity to debate the supplementary budget with next year’s budget in mind and spoke openly and frankly about several considerations the Treasurer should have been focusing on in his preparations for the 2024 budget.
“It is unfortunate that the Treasurer did not take my constructive criticism too well and instead took a political jab at my role as a Vice-Minister for National Planning. My response to the Treasurer’s comments that I am out of tune with the Government’s agenda is simple: I am the only one who called him out on the oppressive nature of section 31 of the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Act 2019 which facilitates selective warranting and micromanagement of the economy.”
“And quite frankly the writing has been on the wall for quite some time for the Treasurer to make significant changes to his fiscal management to pull the country out of the troubling economic slump we’re now in.”
The Chuave Member stated that he does not apologize for not joining the chorus of Government MPs in patting the Treasurer on the back as things were clearly not right in the country. He further highlighted that the invitation by the Treasurer to discuss details of the economy with him in private was appreciated, but he urged that this was not their private business.
“The people of PNG want accountability and transparency, and such details need to be presented and discussed in Parliament, the people’s house.”
Nomane’s critical assessment of the supplementary budget emphasized the importance of responsible governance, transparency, equitable allocation of resources, and firmly addressing the economic challenges that include high unemployment, low FX reserves, and low purchasing power of the Kina.
“I am concerned about the oppressive and the arbitrary nature of Section 31 of the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Act 2019, as it grants excessive powers to the Treasurer regarding warranting, which undermines the authority of Parliament. “
He announced that the Treasurer must only act upon Parliament’s approval for the budgeting and for loans.
“Look at the K3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)? Now the country is enslaved to this global financial behemoth and for what? So that we can fund our deficit budget? This is not good enough.”
The Member stressed that it was Parliament that granted the right for the Treasurer to exercise his powers to implement the country’s money plan as approved by Parliament in the Appropriations Bill, but the MP states that the Treasurer parks crucial funds under Vote 207- Miscellaneous in Treasury using a blanket Section of legislation and uses his own judgement to decide how this money will be spent with minimal consultation.
“Parliament cannot be used as a rubber stamp for the Treasurer. As a member of the country’s highest house, I cannot just worry about Chuave’s DSIP-my business is the K25 billion national budget that I am passing as a member of parliament.”
He said that since the passing of this year’s budget, no sizable investments creating mass employment have been noted and that the people of PNG were still facing persistent economic issues although Parliament has been passing record budgets year after year.
“This tells me that there is increased consumption and waste but not enough critical investments for strong economic growth. Why can’t the Treasurer simply leverage local conditions and emulate Singapore or New Zealand so PNG can become an economic success?”
Mr. Nomane added that there has been no visibility in the 2023 budget implementation with nil reporting on budget outcomes, lamenting that from the components of aggregate demand, the Treasurer’s interventions have increased consumption and government spending, but reduced exports and investments.
“A case in point for this is the disconnection of the Connect PNG budgetary appropriation of K425 million, while seemingly having K6 billion plus worth of spending and awarding of contracts, as highlighted by the Governor for East Sepik.”
According to Nomane, although the historic K25 billion 2023 budget promised to do so much, there have been not new jobs created, and inflation has only worsened since the start of the year.
“The Treasurer simply needs to look at the reality on the streets of Port Moresby and take a walk down the supermarket aisles to see his plans aren’t working.”
“A 415g of tinned fish of 777 mackerel costs K14.90, which is equivalent to K37 per kilogram of mackerel. How can a security guard or anyone on minimum wage expect to afford basic rice and tinned fish?”
Meanwhile, the Chuave MP called on the Treasurer to explain what serious measures were being taken to effectively address spending, inflation, and budget deficits.
He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the lack of equity in the implementation of the budget, specifically highlighting the unequal distribution of funds, with Simbu Province receiving comparatively less funding compared to other provinces.
“My comments are not a personal attack on the Treasurer and shouldn’t be viewed as so. I am simply fed up with the blatant disregard to the dire economic situation we are currently in.”
“We cannot predicate our economic growth on the fruits of Porgera, Wafi-Golpu, Papua LNG, and other resource projects. Let’s stop the out of touch economic forecasting for 10 to 15 years from now and let’s start looking at what we can do to improve the situation of our people in the next three months.”