“PM: BILLIONS STOLEN” as the Headline News in yesterday’s Post Courier and the statement therein may appear to the ordinary and unsuspecting man or woman as positive news. However, the Opposition sees it as negative news and one that Papua NEW Guineans must watch very carefully.
The first point we must make, is that the present and past governments must take full responsibility for the legacy of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) because the lackluster performance of these companies are due to politicization of Boards and Senior Management positions. Incompetent and unqualified persons or persons with questionable backgrounds and reputations have continuously been appointed through political affiliations or ‘wantok’ system. As a result, you have poor and politically compromised Boards and Management decisions in matters of administration and investment. The Prime Minister’s statement couldn’t be anything more than the very classic example of “the kettle telling the pot, you are black”, as Peter O’Neill was once the Chairman of the former Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation which he ran down, resulting in the sale of PNGBC to the Bank of South Pacific.
The second point is that the statement by the Prime Minister is setting the stage for key state owned enterprises to be sold to private interests under the Private Public Partnership policy. We are not surprised that he has once again, come out with his usual concocted and convoluted theories of why he wants to make changes to present laws and systems. Here, he is accusing the management of State Owned Enterprises of stealing and misusing billions of tax-payers money, and because of that, it is time to SELL..!!!
We wish to warn the Prime Minister not to embark on a fire sale of state owned enterprises under the guise of misuse or abuse of billions of Kina. Some of these businesses are monopolies and can be very profitable when better managed. We do not believe the answer lies in whole or partial sale of government businesses. It simply needs smarter corporate governance and management practices.
The government must review the present structure and governance with a view to establishing more stringent checks and controls, including the appointment processes of members to Boards and senior executives.
We, as the Opposition are entitled to our apprehensions and speculations, based on Peter O’Neill’s style of conducting government business. We believe Peter O’Neill’s motives are hidden behind the curtain of ‘missing billions.’ If he, as the Prime Minister doesn’t want to fix the problems with SOEs, then he must come up with a very clear and credible plan of how these sales are to be managed.
We hope that the Prime Minister has not already lined up his cronies and associates to buy into these state owned enterprises. We hope there are no plans to under-value and under-price the shares and assets to suit certain buyers.
Unless the government comes up with a very clear and credible plan of how the whole or partial privatization of state owned enterprises will be managed, we see the Prime Minister’s grand statement as nothing more than a concocted and convoluted scheme designed and engineered to suit himself and his cronies to lay their hands on vital utility businesses.
We repeat, the solution is not found in selling, but in finding smarter and innovative ways of corporate governance and management. Setting up a holding company with a Super Board, constituted by foreign and local eminent persons, to oversee the management and operations of each state entity would be a way forward.
GOD BLESS PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Hon. Belden Norman Namah, MP
Leader of Opposition