Peter O’Neill returns as Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister

Peter O’Neill has been returned for a second term as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea by the country’s 10th National Parliament. In his first speech to Parliament, he flagged a continued focus on education, health and infrastructure.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Hon. Peter O’Neill, signs his Oath of Office before Governor-General, H.E. Bob Dadae. Source: PM’s Office

O’Neill won the vote on the floor of Parliament by 60 votes to 46 last Wednesday.

In his opening speech to Parliament, O’Neill flagged the agenda for the next five-year term of government, identifying education, health and infrastructure as key areas of focus.

Second Alotau Accord

‘In Alotau, this week, members of our Coalition have developed a Second Alotau Accord,’ he told MPs.

‘Under the theme “Strongim wok na Sindaun bilong ol Pipol,” we have agreed upon a substantial set of policies that will advance our Nation.

‘They want a Government that will delivery of quality services in education, healthcare and infrastructure.

‘And our people want improved security, and the highest level of good governance and transparency.

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‘We promise to continue improving the quality of our free education program, and to the continued expansion of universal healthcare.

‘We will build capacity in our disciplined services by strengthening their leadership, and we will further improve law and order around our country.

84 commitments

‘Our Government will maintain focus on the critical infrastructure in the country that must be delivered if we are to move our country forward in terms of development.

‘We will build and maintain more roads and highways, more hospitals, airports and sea ports, and other public infrastructure.

‘We will facilitate greater decentralisation and autonomy, by devolving more power from Waigani to our districts and provinces.

‘These are all some of the central pillars that bind together the 84 commitments, that our Government makes to you, through the Second Alotau Accord.’

Parliament earlier elected Job Pomat as Speaker.

Caretaker Cabinet

An interim ‘caretaker’ Cabinet has been announced, pending the appointment of National Executive Council (cabinet) portfolios, expected soon.

Charles Abel, Minister of National Planning in the previous O’Neill Government, has been announced as Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister.

Abel says he wants to lay foundations for a more sustainable economy in the longer term and he will soon announce a 100-day plan on management of the economy, possibly in the form of a supplementary Budget.

He said business and social commentators regarded last week’s Treasury Department Mid-Year Economic Update (MYEFO) as ‘an honest assessment of the Government’s fiscal and financial operations’, and it was necessary to respond appropriately to the report.

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook Report says that, since the start of the year, PNG’s public debt has blown out from K21 billion [$US6.5 billion] to K25 billion [$US7.7 billion]. That represents an increase from 29 per cent of GDP to 34.5 per cent. According to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, PNG’s debt ratio limit should not exceed 30.0 per cent of GDP.

The MYEFO also reports the budget deficit is nearly K1 billion larger than forecast just seven months ago, increasing from K1.9 billion to K2.8 billion.

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