President Ishmael Toroama: Parliamentary Address, June Parliament Session
Mr Speaker, Honorable members of Parliament, much has transpired since the formation of my Government and I am happy to brief this House on some of these achievements in the 10 months that we have been in government.
Mr Speaker, I will start by making a few statements about the important work on “Independence Readiness”.
Mr Speaker, as all members know, we came into this house on the back of the 97.7 percent Referendum Vote for independence. And as a deliberate intent, one of the key strategies that ABG has embarked on, is the Independence Readiness program which comprises of three Prongs.
We are all currently actively engaged in the “Internal Prong” of getting all our communities ready for independence. Last week, we had the opportunity to engage with the Ramu and Lato constituencies of South Bougainville. Last month we met with the Halia and Nissan Constituencies. And everywhere we travel, we are met with high enthusiasm and spirit.
Mr Speaker, all members must familiarize yourselves with the program and the key messages, go out and make communities independence ready. The length and breadth of Bougainville must show a united stand to the rest of the world.
Mr Speaker, with regards to the International prong, BEC had recently approved a policy paper on cultivating international support under the leadership of the Minister for the Dept of Bougainville Independence Mission Implementation.
Mr. Speaker, under the National Prong, my Government and the Leaders of Bougainville, continue to consult with the PNG Government on the Referendum Result. We are on very cordial terms with the PNG Government with much good will and understandings on both sides as we journey towards our destiny.
Mr Speaker, Honorable Members, as you are all aware, at the Kokopo Consultations, I presented the Bougainville position based on the Oasis Resolution. Both parties signed a Joint statement agreeing to work on:
- Defining the meaning and process of Ratification
- The constitutional issues relating to the Referendum results and the tabling of the consultation outcomes in the National Parliament
- Developing a Joint Roadmap on the Post Referendum Consultations
- And to fully implementing the Sharp Agreement
Mr Speaker, the Bougainville Executive Council has recently approved a paper on the International Prong aimed at cultivating friendly relations in the pursuit of our course but through currently existing arrangements under PNG. There are a number of aspects to international relations such as political, social, cultural, economic and trade. We will have a bit more understanding on how these aspects will be managed within ABG in due course.
Mr Speaker, One final note on independence readiness is that “we, as leaders and as public servants, are the public face of Bougainville” and we must maintain ethical standards of behavior at all times. The kind of behaviors reported recently in the media should not happen again.
As your President, who is directly mandated into this chair by the people, I want all structures and systems of government, including all Committees of this House, to all be aligned and working towards our common goals and not be distracted by agendas outside of this Parliament.
Mr Speaker, at this juncture, let me announce and congratulate the new Minister for Public Service, the Member for Baba, the Honorable Emmanuel Kaetavara. Yours is a key Ministry that provides structural leadership and legislative oversight for the Human resources in the delivery of services and development. The challenge of your Dept is to reinvent itself and align its relevance in an evolving Presidential system of Government.
May I also thank the former Minister and Member for Lato for his services in the 9 months of his appointment. You will continue to serve the people of Bougainville through your Constituency and through this House.
Mr Speaker, I now want to highlight key achievements by my Government since our formation.
Mr Speaker, the Political Control agenda has already been noted above under the Independence Ready Program. I am pleased with its progress and much credit must go to the Minister responsible and to BIMAT. BIMAT is an example of thinking outside the box.
Mr Speaker, another achievement is the signing of the Joint Communique, which basically recognizes the historical journey undertake by the two governments under the Bougainville Peace Agreement and commits the two governments to jointly consult on the Referendum results for independence.
Mr Speaker, the Sharp Agreement, which was signed on the 13th of May, does away with the Constitutional requirements under section 295 (a) and (b) regarding the transfer of powers and functions under the Autonomous arrangements. This paves the way for the consultations to focus on the political agenda while the Administration deals with the implementation of the remaining powers and functions. This is a challenge in itself and I urge the administration to rise up to the task.
The Bougainville Position tabled at the Kokopo Consultation presents a detailed five-year timeline from 2021 to 2025. Each year comprises a number of key Milestones to be achieved with independence fully declared during 2025 (and perhaps set 1st September 2025 as the date for declaration). The Kokopo Resolutions now provide the strategy for both parties to consult over the Bougainville position through the coming consultations. This will need careful analysis and planning going forward.
Mr Speaker, in this regard, my Government has established two secretariats specifically to attend to the intellectual and strategic needs of our political journey. The Bougainville Independence Mission Advisory Team (BIMAT) under the Dept of Independence Mission Implementation is providing the intellectual grunt in our political engagement with PNG.
The other Secretariat established is the Bougainville Strategic Research Planning & Monitoring Secretariat (BSRPMS) which will take lead on the higher level Long -Term Vision and Development Strategies and the review and restructuring of Government in line with emerging scenarios.
Mr Speaker, it is very pleasing to note the capabilities and institutional memories housed in both Secretariats, which complement the Public Service and I ask the rest of the administration (especially the Finance Dept) to accord timely support to these two bodies.
Let me now make a few statements about the Economic Control Pillar – State Owned Enterprises and Internal Revenue
Mr Speaker, since the formation of the post crisis Bougainville Government, a total of 20 Government owned Business Enterprises have been set up. As of this year, only 4 of these businesses are operating while 16 have closed. Out of the four that are still operating, only two are contributing revenue to ABG. This is a failure rate of 80% and is a serious indictment on the performance of past governments.
There are a lot of lessons to be learnt going forward in how we plan, manage and conduct business. We currently only generate 24% internally of the revenue needed to run government and to deliver services and development.
Mr Speaker, in order to avoid the problem of poor business performance in the future, my Government is working on setting up Business management systems that will uphold good management principles against the pilfering of funds in the past.
My government will also soon announce new business ventures to the value of US$19m (about K68m) and announce investments totaling US$100m (K400m) by early 2021 creating employment of about 2,000 jobs to the economy.
Mr Speaker, with regards to Panguna, the Veterans Association of Panguna, under the Leadership of the Vice President is preparing the ground work for the removal of the remaining bones in and around Panguna. This will clear the way for any talks relating to the possible reopening of the mine.
An overall Economic Development Strategy is being formulated for presentation at the Economic Summit which is now postponed to November this year.
Mr. Speaker, whilst I am on the subject of Government revenue, I am happy to mention to this sitting, that the PNG Government has released K40m to ABG as first instalment of the K100m per year promised by Prime Minister Hon James Marape at the February JSB in Arawa.
Mr Speaker, for the information of members, funds owed to Bougainville by PNG Government include:
- The K1billion over a ten-year period (K100m per year)
- The PIP K100m per year under BPA section 50
- The RDG outstanding grants of K624m up to 2019
- The K81m currently outstanding since 2018
Our officers need to engage constantly with Waigani to draw this money down.
Mr Speaker, on Taxation matters, the Arawa JSB, also agreed on a new Taxation arrangement for ABG. The Bougainville Peace Agreement stipulates for 70 percent of Taxes collected from business conducted in Bougainville to be held in Trust by the PNG Government and 30 percent to be allocated to Bougainville annually. The February JSB agreed with the Prime Minister Hon James Marape, to reverse this situation in Bougainville’s favour by now allocating 70 percent to Bougainville and keeping 30 percent in Trust by PNG IRC. When effected, this will contribute further to increasing our internal revenue.
Mr Speaker, under Law and Order, the Law and Order sector through the Dept of Law and Justice continues to make headway in “institutional strengthening” to better position itself to deliver on its mandate. We have recently witnessed the ground breaking for its new office building in Kubu. It has also recently held consultations with its PNG counterparts to strategize on legislative matters relating to the powers being transferred under the Sharp agreement.
Mr Speaker, on Corruption or perceptions of corruption continues to be a major stumbling block to the government both at the leadership and administrative level. Some of the practices, like officers hiring their own vehicles for project monitoring visits must stop. At the Leadership level, we must focus on legislation and policy making and leave matters of implementation to the appropriate bodies. A key point to highlight here is the ABG owned enterprises with 80% failure rate because of political influence.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy that BSP has recently paid K500,000 to the ABG revenue but this announcement should not shroud the monies previously diverted by the trustees of this shareholding. ABG through the relevant agencies should recover these monies.
The key approach to combatting corruption is to follow proper systems and processes that exist or to create new systems where none exist. There will be many changes as Bougainville transitions from an Autonomous Government to a future sovereign state and there will be times when we have to think “outside the box” to find solutions because the normal way of doing business will not be adequate.
Mr Speaker, however, in saying this, I am not advocating “a free for all situation”. We must still be strategic, coordinated and systematic!! The ABG Administration will still take lead in implementing normal delivery of “services and development” whilst BIMAT will take lead in any forward thinking and implementation on the political consultation front and the Bougainville Strategic Research Planning & Monitoring Secretariat will take lead on the higher level Long -Term Vision and Development Strategies and the review and restructuring of Government in line with emerging scenarios.
Mr Speaker, on the 2022 Budget, the Administration has just concluded the formulation of the 2022 Budget at its workshop in Arawa. This will be the first budget that will reflect the Six Strategic Priorities under my Government. As noted elsewhere in this speech, my Government has already progressed most of my Governments priorities except for the Long-term Vision and Development Strategy and Mobilizing Civil Society and the Private Sector.
Plans are underway for an extensive Bougainville wide consultation process, beginning in July, at the districts & communities regarding the Bougainville Long term Vision and Development Strategy. It is my intention to present the final product to Parliament in the first quarter of 2022.
Mr Speaker, the Long-term Vision and Strategic Plan will be the Blue Print providing the Framework for subsequent Medium and Short-Term Development Planning by the Administration under subsequent governments. It will also provide the framework for mobilizing the Private Sector and Civil Society.
My Government, intends to conduct a comprehensive “resource mapping”, using the latest modern technology, of all our resources (natural or man-made) on which the detailed Long-Term Plan will be based. A knowledge of the resource inventory and its monetary value will be fundamental to the economic growth of an independent sovereign Bougainville. We will not be fooled by any external interests once we complete this exercise.
Mr Speaker, the concept of Regional Development Authorities (RDA) was also legitimized at the recent Budget Planning meeting in Arawa. It must have the capacity and ability to deliver on its mandate and should not simply be another government office that will chew up scare resources.
Mr Speaker, the challenges are many and obvious as we transit into a future political status. As we have experienced so far, the consultation timeline and process are going to be quite intensive. Both the leaders and public servants will need to balance the domestic responsibilities of providing governance, services delivery and development with that of participating in the political agenda. Ministers and Heads of Departments should pay particular attention to this challenge.
Mr Speaker, another challenge is “funding”. Both Bougainville and PNG are being assisted in the consultations by the donor community through the United Nations. We will need to manage expectations of our various stakeholder groups in how we all participate in the consultation process through fair representation whilst travelling on a crowded journey. It will not be possible to take large delegations to all consultations.
Mr Speaker, there are many other challenges which I am sure all levels of Bougainville society are well aware off and are taking appropriate remedial measures.
Mr Speaker, the journey ahead is not going to be easy on all fronts as we play catch-up on missed opportunities over the last 15 years. All we ask for from all our citizens, through your respective leadership positions, is their patience and support.
Ishmael Toroama – President
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