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BY: Loop Author 08:57, July 9, 2018
1541 reads

The Shadow Minister for Treasury Finance, Ian Ling-Stuckey, has expressed concern following the outcome of the recent UPNG/ Australian National University conference.

“Economic academics from both the University of Papua New Guinea and the Australian National University say that the PNG economy had negative growth of 5.9 percent in 2015 in the non-resource sections of the economy,” Ling-Stuckey said in a statement.

“This is an extraordinary result confirming the economy went badly backwards. It would confirm what business people and the people of PNG have known for years – 2015 was a year of severe recession in PNG.

“Yet the government continues to hide and delay the official National Statistical Office accounts to confirm the recession. More honesty is needed from the government, as a first step in addressing the economic problems facing PNG.”

The UPNG/ANU 2018 PNG Economic Survey covers the year to June 2018.

The survey said the underestimation of the severity of the economy’s contraction has contributed to an absence of an appropriate policy response to what can only be described as an urgent economic crisis.

Ling-Stuckey said for all of the 100 Day Plan and the measures in the 2018 Budget, the view is still that “there is an absence of an appropriate policy response”.

“This is the latest independent assessment of how serious things have become in our economy. And the lack of data makes it uncertain to know if there has been any recovery – the UPNG/ANU survey states ‘Whether the economy has started to grow again since 2015 is unclear’. The 2015 drought has ended, but the poor economic performance reflected much more than the drought.

“As other papers at the UPNG/ANU update conference highlighted, the key new economic challenge being talked about in PNG is the Clearance Latest Collections Robert Clergerie Woven effect mules Sale Inexpensive Professional Sale Online i5XQOIZz3l
– now by far the greatest concern to business.

“This is a problem created by this government, and one that has seriously hurt PNG’s growth. However, PNG’s central bank continues to promise that things will improve just around the corner. But businesses have been waiting too long.

“We need to get a better understanding about exactly how our exchange rate is regulated. There should be a review of the central bank’s performance in managing the exchange rate and interest rates more broadly,” said Ling-Stuckey.

“Of course, the government does sometimes indicate that there are some economic issues, usually blaming external circumstances such as the fall in commodity prices. But the fall in oil prices happened over four years ago! The 2015 drought has passed, and the earthquake was devastating for the highlands but will have little impact on revenues and exports as oil prices have gone up strongly this year. The government needs to , eat some humble pie and be more open about domestic economic mismanagement rather than blaming outside forces.

“An example of this failure of honestly acknowledging the government can do more to fix the errors that it has and is making, was the Treasurer’s presentation to parliament on 5 April 2018. In this presentation, Treasurer Abel refused to acknowledge the concerns being raised by Moody’s when it moved PNG onto a negative watch, only the fourth time this has happened since 1999. Instead, he just talked about how the outlook for PNG is very positive.

“The outlook is positive, but only if the right economic policies are put in place in an environment of increased honesty.

“Possibly because he failed to even acknowledge the problems, another major credit ratings agency called SP actually downgraded PNG’s credit rating on 16 April 2018. The two major external credit ratings agencies moving us down or on negative watch in such a short time has never happened before in PNG’s history,” said the Shadow Treasurer.

“As we prepare to go into Parliament on 17 July, let me be more specific of examples of recent developments that mean PNG’s economic leaders must be more honest in acknowledging their mistakes to our people:

“Now I want to be careful in commenting directly on statements by our generally professional public servants. However, Secretary for Treasury’s response to the SP credit downgrade was frankly, poor. As explained by SP, there were three major reasons for the credit downgrade.

“First was the unmistakable increases in government debt and debt interest costs – who could disagree with that fact? In March, even the Treasurer admitted that even in 2017, debt interest costs have soared to over K1.6 billion.

“Second was the drop in revenues – how could anyone dispute this – even the 2018 Budget acknowledged revenues had dropped dramatically as a share of the economy.

“Third was PNG’s poor economic growth rate relative to peers – PNG is sitting at the bottom of the growth rate chart in all years from 2017 to 2019 for major countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including projections, according to the World Bank.

“The 2018 budget tried to present a rosier picture, but as I said at the time, these international agencies such as SP and Moody’s are smart enough to look through fake budget figures with excessively optimistic forecasts.

“The downgrade, despite the government’s actions in the 100 Day Plan and the 2018 Budget, indicates that the international community just does not trust the government’s figures,” said the Shadow Treasurer.

“There were some positive starts in the 2017 Supplementary Budget and some elements of the 100-Day Plan, but things have gone seriously off-course over recent months. The Treasurer talks in very condescending terms to these agencies – saying that they are ignoring all the good things being done.

“These agencies, with their armies of highly skilled and experienced personnel actually know really well, the things that are being done, and they have the skills to look through many of the fake stories that have been included in recent government documents, including the 2018 Budget and the 2017 Final Budget Outcome (FBO).

“This poor economic performance is now clearly affecting even our banks, with BSP’s credit rating also having just been downgraded on 30 April 2018 from B+ down to B, and the ANZ has decided to leave large parts of the PNG market,” said Ling-Stuckey.

“The government simply didn’t want to tell the people in the lead-up to the election that apart from turning on the PNG LNG gas taps, the rest of the economy was in a severe recession. And now it is trying to hide the true state of the economy in the lead-up to APEC!

“Indeed, it seems too much effort is going into planning for this big international meeting rather than in fixing PNG’s true economic problems hurting its people.

“We need to be balanced when we talk about the economy. It is important that we do not talk it down, but we also just can’t hide from the truth with good stories.

“PNG has a bright future, but it needs an Alternative Government to help acknowledge our problems, to reach out for friendly foreign support, to genuinely start living within our means, to urgently review our foreign exchange policy and release more foreign exchange reserves, to take some tough medicine but then to rebuild our non-resource growth rate back above 5 percent again, the minimum we should be aiming at to start improving the jobs and income opportunities of our people.”


Shadow Minister for Treasury Finance
Ian Ling-Stuckey
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Australian National University
Press release

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