Opening Address to Parliament – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill
Address to Parliament by
Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP
22 August 2017
I thank His Excellency, the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, Grand Chief Sir Bob Dadae, for his opening address to this Honourable House this morning.
Please allow me to express the Government’s appreciation on this occasion, and at the same time Mr. Speaker, to take this opportunity to welcome all Members of Parliament on both sides of the House.
Our people have placed their trust in all of us to represent them in this House so we can continue to stand-up for the interests of our great Nation.
Now is the time to be united behind this common trust that our people have place in us.
Now is a time to put aside personality politics.
It is a time to debate policy and ideas that will advance the interests of all Papua New Guineans.
As a Government, we will continue to build on the foundations that we laid over the past five years.
We went to elections with a core set of policies, and the voters embraced these policies.
Working with our coalition partners in Alotau, we have further strengthened these policies, and this going to be is the agenda that we bring to this Parliament.
We have the mandate of the people, and we will honour this mandate given to us through our words and through our actions.
As a Government we must maintain focus on strengthening our economic foundations of our Nation.
We will review the revenue that our Government currently generates.
Through this process we will identify areas where we are not reaching our true potential, and to increase these revenue streams.
This will involve the development of a comprehensive Medium-Term Revenue Strategy to stimulate revenue-led growth for our economy.
REVENUE AND DEBT REVIEW
Alongside this assessment of revenue, we will undertake a very comprehensive review of expenditure and our debt management strategy.
We acknowledge that debt is an essential part of life for Government and business alike.
We must continue to think long-term and continue to apply sensible debt management.
Our economy is in a strong position compared to similar economies around the world, and we will continue to review this position and make positive change.
EXPANDING ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION
An important element in facilitating true economic growth is sharing the gains so that all people benefit.
Our Government, working with our agencies of Government and international partners, will expand the delivery of economic inclusion programs.
We will continue to increase financial literacy and access to credit in the formal economy.
Over the last 40 years, one key business short-falls has been our country’s ability to grow the SME Sector.
While we are open to inviting more foreign direct investment, we need there to be a more level playing field especially in the SME sector.
We are delivering a comprehensive strategy that will grow this sector into the future.
When it comes to large-scale projects, global companies continue to maintain the highest level of confidence in our oil, gas and mineral sectors.
We are working with TOTAL from France, ExxonMobil from the United States, Oil Search and other companies so that we can develop the next level of LNG production in our country.
At the same time, we know that our value-add strategy coming from this is one that we must advance so that our people and our country continue to benefit more.
We will advance plans to establish a petrochemicals industry in our country over the coming years.
We also need to work harder so that we can continue to support land ownership and equitable benefit sharing that our people are demanding.
We want to ensure that traditional owners can truly benefit from the resources that they and their communities have possessed for thousands of years.
To this end, we are committed to a review on ownership rights of resources in our country.
Our forestry sector is another resource where we can value-add.
For far too long, Governments have had a less than transparent visibility of this industry where a blind-eye has been turned to issues blatantly before Government.
In this term of Government we will legislate for sustainable forestry development, and we will continue to increase landowner participation in this industry.
A further area of great potential for our people is tourism in this country.
There is so much that we have to offer the world tourism market, and to offer to our own domestic tourist market.
We must strengthen tourism infrastructure, this includes not only building hotels, but other infrastructure like sea ports and air ports.
As agreed in the Second Alotau Accord, we will promote and establish associated infrastructure for the tourism Hubs in our country.
The economy of our nation can only move forward if we have the right infrastructure in place.
Over recent decades, infrastructure has been left to ruin, and has not kept pace with a growing population.
Through the Second Alotau Accord, we have committed to opening up missing links, especially road and bridge links between many of the isolated communities right throughout the country.
We are determined to bring other infrastructure such as power and telecommunications, and make them cheaper.
LAW AND ORDER
Over recent decades, Papua New Guinea has suffered from a negative reputation because of Law and Order issues.
Through the policy initiatives of the Second Alotau Accord, we will create safer and more secure communities.
Our Government is committed to continuing the recruitment of well-disciplined police men and woman, and also other disciplined forces, and equipping them properly so that the can do a fair job.
We will also review legislation that governs all of our disciplined services, to ensure far better accountability so that there is far better command and control structures in place.
Today, in many parts of the country the judiciary and legal system are also gaining access to better infrastructure.
At the same time, our judiciary and legal infrastructure will continued to be enhanced and updated.
Free education for our children has certainly changed the Nation and launched a new path for many Papua New Guineans.
Over the past five years we have placed more than one million additional children in school.
The first five years of free education has come with a lot of challenges, we are the first to admit this.
Our clear focus now is on improving the quality of education for all of our children.
We also need to keep increasing the number of Papua New Guineans who are getting trade qualifications, as well as expanding their academic qualifications through universities.
We are committed to establishing of an Education Endowment Fund that will further enhance quality education being delivered throughout our country.
Providing healthcare to remote and rural areas remains a core Government policy.
Access to hospital care should not be restricted to urban areas only, and in this term of Government, we will continue to build and rehabilitate district and provincial hospitals.
We will continue to work with churches, NGOS and partner Governments, to strengthen our healthcare services.
We will subsidise specialised healthcare, and we will improve the collation and use of health data and wellbeing indicators.
We really do not know how many people live in our country.
We have estimates, but these are not accurate enough.
We need to re-establish a National Data Collection Centre so that we can plan better and we can develop policies that better reflect the population distribution in our country.
Accurate population data is key for proper Public Policy planning and monitoring.
We must aim to keep our economic growth above our population growth, and we can only do this by having access to reliable data so that we can monitor these very indicators as we move forward.
We live in an ever-changing and globalising world, it is essential that we position ourselves to be a functional and respected global citizen.
We will continue to grow our trading opportunities and partnerships with many other countries within the region.
We will continue to build our multi-national relations that we already have.
Papua New Guinea is now the incoming host of APEC.
In November next year, the twenty Presidents and Prime Ministers of APEC’s other Member Economies will visit our country.
This is an opportunity to showcase our country to the world.
It is an opportunity to change the way the world views our country.
Papua New Guinea’s APEC will have very Pacific-style Hospitality along with world-class security arrangements.
CONCLUSION – POSITIVE FUTURE
We will continue to be a Government that Governs for all Papua New Guineans.
We must unite all of our people for the betterment of their lives and our country.
We will execute the mandate that has been entrusted to us with diligence and compassion.
We will work day-and-night to deliver the infrastructure and the services that will continue to strengthen our economy and our communities.
This is our pledge that our Government makes to our people.
We thank our Nation and this Honourable House for the mandate that has been bestowed upon us.
We will certainly not let you down, and we will deliver to your expectations.
God Bless Papua New Guinea.