My simple answer is NO. It is avoidable.
I was laughing at the blind and poor explanations of Teaching Service Commission (TSC) chairman Baran Sori and PNG Teachers Association (PNGTA) general secretary Ugwalubu Mowana regarding cut on teachers leave fares by 30%. Neither of them challenged or opposed the selfish reasons coming out from the finance and treasury departments to cover O’Neill’s government wrong. Instead, it was like a YES MASTER case. They simply submit to the reasons like what most of the money and power hungry Members of Parliament (MPs) plus tea boys and brief case carriers are doing.
On 13th July 2015, I wrote an article with the attached photo and post it on various Facebook news outlets and print media (The National Newspaper) demanding the O’Neill Government to give the shares or reward the hardworking UNDERPAID (LOW PAID) TEACHERS and NURSES, simply termed as nation builder and life savers. My call came right after Sports and Pacific Games Minister Hon Justin Tkatchenko and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced the massive cash incentives for medal and non-medal winners. During the announcement of cash incentives, I felt as a teacher, the state of being ignored by the government of my tireless effort to serve this nation despite all the odds – teaching overpopulated classes due to the INEFFECTIVE implementation of free education policy, in the rundown learning infrastructures using limited teaching and learning aids.
TSC Chairman Baran Sori mentioned in yesterday National Newspaper that cut in the leave fares money to provinces is UNAVOIDABLE as the country is now experiencing the ripple effect of the global economic downward trend in commodity prices as advised by Treasury Department. His call was supported by PNGTA General Secretary Ugwalubu Mowana who called on teachers to MAINTAIN SOME LEVEL PATIENCE. I see deficiency of constructive rationalizing and interpretation from both gentlemen.
Let me in a nutshell, dispute and challenge the call made by Sori upon the advice or instruction from Treasury Department that the cut in leave fares is UNAVOIDABLE (impossible to be avoided).
Let me say this, the cut in the leave fares is AVOIDABLE as opposed to Sori’s shallow reasoning. How could that be possible? Look at how O’Neill government wastes public funds;
1. Ineffective and Inefficient Free-Education Policy resulted in waste of public funds. It was reported on Monday, 29 June 2015 in the various media outlets that K50 million stolen by ghosts in the education department. Education Minister Nick Kuman admitted that K50 million belonging to Tuition Fee Free (TFF) was paid into various ghost schools. It might be more than K50 million, may be K100 million. I personally cannot trust the words coming out from the minister because this O’Neill government has traced records of lying to its people. This shows that the minister himself, failed to put in place a tough control mechanism to control and facilitate the payments of school fees. The money is lost somewhere in the education department or given to the ghost schools. To this date, the missing K50 million still remain untraceable. The underpaid teachers are victims of this.
2. Expensive O’Neill’s court battles – trying to defend his LIE since 2013 till this date about his signature on the authorization letter for the payment of K71.8 million to the Paul Paraka Lawyers being forged, Peter O’Neill continues to buy time, space and escape justice through expensive court battles. This includes the pending costly court cases of police commissioners, past and current, Finance Minister James Marape, Attorney General Ano Pala and others, all to do with protecting and safeguarding their master –Peter O’Neill. Only a person with mental problem would do such. O’Neill has lied under the sun. He should simply turn himself in to face the justice and clear his name, instead of running away with expensive court battles. By then, PNG could have saved enough. The underpaid teachers are victims of this.
3. The secret transaction of K50 million through Bank of PNG to purchase two power generators from an Israeli Company LR Group on 19th of December 2013. The two generators are useless as they do not serve their purposes. Lae and Port Moresby continues to experience blackouts. Teachers are victims of this ill-advised loan.
4. O’Neill’s senseless and meaningless acquisition of UBS loan of US$1.2 billion to buy a 10.1% stake in Oil Search which was financed by the Australian arm of Swiss Bank UBS. The UBS arrangements were bulldozed through government agencies and exposed PNG to huge risk and cost. Meaning the transaction was unlawful (illegal) and corrupt in nature. As a common rule of O’Neill, when Poyle refused to sign some of the documentation because of concerns about the impact of the loan on the country’s budget and sovereign wealth fund, he was sacked. Teachers are victims of this injudicious loan.
5. Excessive borrowing and spending on 2015 BSP Pacific Games – while applauding the PNG Athletes for the successful outcome of the games, the alarming costs associated with this event has further widen our deficit budget. The questionable million kina contracts and dubious deals by O’Neill and Tkatchenko to certain contractors engaged in preparation of Pacific Games (most likely their business partners where they can milk the money through the backdoor as usual) through excessive borrowing have left scars behind PNG economic conditions. Also the O’Neill-Tkatchenko announcement of massive cash incentives of K20 000, K10 000 and K5 000 for gold, silver and bronze respectively to the medal winners as well as the K2 500 for all non-medal athletes and players have exhausted all the funds. The underpaid teachers are victims of this.
6. Overlooking Opposition’s view for a supplementary budget –even before the game and after the game, the opposition team leaders Hon Don Polyle and Hon Sam Basil have called on O’Neill government to draw up a supplementary budget to accommodate the deficit. Supplementary (revised) budget is usually drawn up when unanticipated needs arise to affect the government yearly budget. In response to opposition’s views, O’Neill continuously maintained that there is no need for supplementary budget nor to press panic button as the economy is well managed under his lying government. I remember O’Neill urging the opposition leaders (Polyle and Basil) not to panic the country. The following are certain parts of Basil’s post analysis of Pacific Games which are now becoming realities:
What the O’Neill government won’t tell you, is that most major sporting events like the Pacific Games are a very expensive exercise for the host country and a major financial loss to PNG. Since the O’Neill government has taken office, our budgets have exceeded deficit amounts, being paid off by exorbitant loans with no avenue to repay quickly, given the associated high interest rates. The large budget deficits and loans are a clear indication that the current government is not seeing the long term financial picture of the current state of economy because they were seeing the short term gain, from Pacific/international attention and major spending associated to hosting the 2015 Pacific Games.
Time to the next elections and beyond, will determine how far the 2015 Pacific Games has contributed to a financial situation PNG citizens are currently facing, with high inflation and high unemployment rates married with depreciating exchange rates and low foreign reserves.
With the 2015 Pacific Games gone, the O’Neill Government need to face the hard reality and put forth a supplementary budget, to factor in the economic shortfalls we are facing. But PNG is no longer earning the revenue that the O’Neill government has heavily relied and their heavy dependence on our oil and gas industry to prop up PNG’s economy made them borrow heavily, eg. The illegal UBS loan, and as Deputy Opposition Leader, I predicted these erratic forms of spending/borrowing has led to the financial mismanagement of an economy that is in the middle of a recession.
A call for the 2015 Budget to be reviewed and amended accordingly, must occur to cater for the losses in revenue PNG will experience, from the substantial decrease in international oil and gas prices. The loss in revenue from the fall in oil and gas prices will impact heavily on PNG repaying the loans the O’Neill government has exposed PNG to and even with no checks and balances or reconciliations on the financial balance sheet of PNG’s economy in 2015, Papua New Guineans should expect this to occur again in 2016 as most financial allocations have not been followed through.
There are many more down the road but I believe the 6 points mentioned above are enough to prove PNGTA and TSC that the economic down turn affecting teachers leave fairs is AVOIDABLE and teachers leave fares must be paid in full 100%. How can PNGTA and TSC simply submit to the half-baked and unjustified excuses from Finance and Treasury? The leave fares are teachers’ legal entitlements. There is no need for treasury or government to cut it by 30%. Teachers do not deserve such cut. They deserve yearly INCREASE in their pays. They are heroes and engine room of this nation. Be very careful when handling or dealing with their issues.
Sori tumas ol wan wok (teachers), we are now the latest victims of O’Neill’s reckless borrowing and spending.
I will run another article similar to this one capturing this theme – Do teachers really need to maintain some level of patience?