My Dear People of Papua New Guinea, I bring to you warm greetings for a happy, prosperous, and a very hope-filled New Year, 2022.
Whilst walking with optimism into 2022, I want to thank our God who looked after us in 2021 right through the burden of COVID-19 and economic hardship.
God’s watch over the past, gives us confidence, that the future will be good and bright for us. In this New Year’s message, I would like to take the opportunity to remind us all of the significance of this year, and the responsibility each of us has in contributing to its success, as well as, the success of things that will follow in its stead.
The year 2022 is a very important year. It is this year that Papua New Guinea will return to the polls to elect its 11th Parliament.
Only some weeks ago, your Government passed the 2022 National Budget at K22 billion, making this budget the biggest in the 46-year history of our country.
Never before had our country reached the K20 billion mark until now. It is not just our budget numbers and allocations that matter, but the policies behind it.
This is to allow for a greater impact for our country in not just 2022, but more importantly, a positive sustainable future, especially in our efforts to unlock rural Papua New Guinea and return our economy to being debt free
by year 2034.
Over the three years since coming into Office, your Government has successfully and steadily reduced our fiscal deficits from -8.6 percent in 2020 to a -5.9 percent projected for this year 2022.
This sets our feet onto an optimistic economic path where, at this rate of progress, we can easily see budget surpluses on the horizon, even as early as 2027, and a zero sovereign debt by 2033, and with our investments into
Sovereign Wealth Fund, we can be a lender to our neighbours by 2040.
To start this journey, the 2022 National Budget also captures the areas where, previously, various other governments have not given enough attention.
Health, holistic Education , Agriculture, the growth of small and medium businesses to create a bigger economy-supporting Middle Class for PNG, downstream processing of our natural resources, and infrastructure
development to connect rural PNG.
Let me touch briefly on each of this for more context. For Education, we are picking up on all school fees from elementary right up to high school, colleges and universities by allocating over K800 million.
All who have left schools have options of continual lower education on Flexible Open Distance Education and also a link to SME /TVET education.
We want no child to be left behind and to become a positive contributor to our country’s economy.
In Health, your Government has allocated K2.8 billion in the Budget to rehabilitate the decaying health system that has resulted from years of neglect by governments since Independence.
Beginning this year, your Marape-led Government is building 22 world class hospitals in each of our provinces, including the Special Autonomous Region of Bougainville, altogether totalling K470 million.
Another K60 million is going toward the construction of the heart and cancer facilities at PNG’s leading referral hospital, the Port Moresby General Hospital.
I do not want to see Papua New Guineans going to seek health services overseas, and I have directed that in our country, health service access must be within one hour reach by foot, by boat, by car or by a plane.
In Agriculture, K200 million is allocated to this sector to be within the reach of 80 percent of our rural-based population.
The Government initiatives of Price Support Programme and Agriculture Intervention are continuing, besides the direct support we are giving to the various cash crops areas.
In MSMEs, your Government is spending another K200 million to grow medium and small enterprises.
This follows through from the success of 2021 where over 300 small and medium businesses have started out of low-cost business borrowings Papua New Guineans have made.
This is from the K100 million the Government had installed at BSP to implement our policy on growing MSMEs.
In downstream processing – an area long talked about but hardly ventured upon, our Government begins with a K100 million allocation for the development of Pacific Marine Industries Zone (PMIZ) in Madang and Manus.
It is well overdue that PNG starts processing the fish caught in its waters onshore so we keep all the benefits in the value chain, such as jobs and other spin offs.
The PMIZ begin this year. Further more, our focus on downstream processing will be for all sectors in
mining, petroleum, forestry and agriculture too, so we can add value to our resources and create more ripple economic gains, including employment and Kina entrapment in our domestic economy.
With such focus, in Agriculture – for instance – we would like to put a ban on imports of foods like rice and beef, and those we can grow and process locally.
This journey has already started when we took Office and will be entrenched in 2022, and going into the future.
In continuing our efforts to build our economy bigger and our country better to make PNG the ‘richest black Christian nation’ as I envisaged, or ‘happy wealthy and wise’ as Somare’s Vision 2050 puts it, our signature Connect PNG programme puts in place, the country’s enabling infrastructure – roads, airports, wharves, jetties, airstrips, bridges, electricity, and telecommunications.
For instance, in two years between 2019 and 2020, we are building 323 roads covering over 1,900 kilometres into mostly rural Papua New Guinea.
We have secured funding programmes for all our ports and jetties; our power line programmes; we continuing the CADIP programmes for airports and airstrips that the Somare Government secured in 2009, so all our
airport and airstrip connectivity is reached.
All these will continue over the decade to achieve a 100 percent connectivity by the Year 2040.
As for our resources within the extractive industries sector, Porgera Gold Mine is set to fire in April 2022 with a far superior terms in our favour.
In terms of PNG content in extractive resource projects, Porgera sets the pace for every negotiation that follow – P’nyang, Wafi-Golpu, Papua LNG, and any others that will come in the future.
It is time to Take Back what is rightfully ours – a larger share in the benefits in our own natural resources God has blessed us with, but of course, with respect to our laws that allow our investors to make a return on their
investments in our country.
Why am I mentioning Budget 2022 all over again?
Because together with the National General Elections, this makes 2022 an absolutely critical year.
It is the year that will determine the leadership that will, not only carry the Budget to the end of 2022 and put in place the subsequent one, but more importantly, carry the country into its Golden Jubilee anniversary in 2025
when we turn 50.
The fiscal path the Marape Government has carved out is still a sensitive one, to be treated with care and respect, if we are to make more progress than we have so far made.
The economic hole that PNG has been plunged into over the last decade is so deep, any government taking the reins beginning this year must be just as smart or smarter to be able to rescue the country and bring its feet into
Vision 2050 also summons us to act prudently to reach the goal where as a country, we are all “healthy, happy and prosperous by 2050”.
That is why I appeal to you all, our voting population, to bear this in mind as you prepare yourselves for the National General Elections.
Remember the responsibility you carry as the true holder of democratic power.
You hold one of the greatest powers given to man; the power to elect into government a man or a woman to represent you.
Because of this, the responsibility that you bear is just as great. “With great power comes great responsibility,” it has been said. You must, therefore, exercise this responsibility with the utmost care and caution.
I appeal to you, my People, to elect your leaders this year, 2022 based on merit, and merit alone.
Make your assessments based on leadership qualities, standing in community, credentials, and strength of character of the candidate of your choice.
My People, we must rise above all the pettiness and self-centredness and greed that has for so long chained us to stagnation and repression.
I appeal to you all: no more voting on tribal lines, or because of money, or material things.This must stop.Enough.
The power you hold in your hand, the power to elect someone else in your place in a democratic government, is worth so much more.
It is a power that makes governments, moves economies, mobilises countries.
If only you realise how much you can move Papua New Guinea forward and make it a prosperous powerful country, as powerful as the United States of America, you will put to better use your power when voting.
As the Head of Government, I am totally committed to funding the National General Elections. We are committing K600 million to host the elections, to make it safe and fair so everyone of voting age can have a say and exercise their powers of voting.
Our Budget for this year is set, and I am very pleased with the Team headed by Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey, for putting together a very respectable budget amidst the challenges of COVID-19.
I am very mindful of the trajectory our country is on, especially with relation to key national milestones such as our 50th anniversary, which play essential roles in measuring our progress.
In no more than four years, PNG will celebrate its Golden Jubilee. It is, therefore, crucial that we elect capable leaders – women and men who would put their country ahead of self, like the team who stood with me at
Loloata when lust for power and money played out in 2020.
Leaders to be elected must not only be educated and aware of 21st Century expectations, but must be grounded in Christian and Melanesian characters of selflessness, love, caring and sharing.
They must have exercised integrity and wisdom in their lives to be able to serve our country.
Strong men and women who can deliver to our people “health, wealth and prosperity ” as espoused by Vision 2050.
2022 is the beginning of a new chapter in a lot of ways. This year, we stand on the cusp of history with new generation of leaders coming through.
We will have leaders, many of whom would have been born after 1975, the year our country gained nationhood.
And we have lost many of our founding leaders last year, 2021 – Great Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, Sir Mekere Morauta, Sir Silas Atopare,
Sir Paulias Matane, to name a few. These are leaders with impeccable qualities who brought our country to this
point, and they are passing on the baton of leadership.
The onus is upon us now to take Papua New Guinea further, and far. Let us make 2022 count during the National General Elections to bring in the next generation of leadership strong enough to move our country
forward beyond 50 years of our nationhood.
I appeal to our people to vote with power and purpose. Use your voting power wisely and do not sell your birthright for a plate of food.
Your country needs you to be wise in 2022. As I close, I make a final call to all our people including politicians and
residents, to respect each other and each other’s rights; to be law-abiding as we live through 2022.
Let us commit to respect the child and wife in your house, the women and children in your community and work place, the elderly, and those living with disabilities amongst us.
Be kind and warm to our foreign residents and visitors in our country. By doing these, you will have truly contributed to taking back PNG from the wrong road and putting our country onto the right road to economic
independence where we do not leave anyone behind.
I want to conclude by thanking all hands who helped our country in 2021.
Our people and the praying Christian churches for living through with understanding of the hard times we lived in 2021, our business and civil community, foreign investors, bi-lateral and multilateral partners, the
Judiciary, the Parliament, President Ishmael Toroama and our people in Bougainville, and our faithful public servants right across the country.
It was a privilege serving you all in 2021, and I look forward to your support and to work with you all again in 2022.
In conclusion, I thank our God once again for the blessings and protection in 2021, and I wish you all a Happy New Year as we look forward to our God’s continuing care in 2022 and beyond.
May God bless you all.