by Scot Waide – EM TV News, Lae
Local Level Governments (LLGs) in Morobe province will be hit hard in 2016 by drastic cuts to national government grants given annually to the province.
The downward trend became evident in 2015 when LLG funds in Papua New Guinea were reduced from K500,000 to K100,000 per LLG.
What was obvious in Tuesday’s budget presentation in the Tutumang was the K28 million cut in the national government grant being provided to the Morobe province.
K326 million was awarded in 2015, with the grant which making up a significant portion of the provincial government budget, has been reduced to K298 million.
And that’s not all. Morobe’s budget has seen most of its financial arrows pointing downward in 2016.
After funding allocations for each LLG were slashed in 2015, the Provincial Services Improvement Program (PSIP) funds which were used to prop up LLG budgets in 2015 have also been drastically cut from K45 million to just K10 million this year.
“When the national government cut the LLGSIP funds, the provincial government stepped in to assist,” said Morobe Governor, Kelly Naru.
“We used some of the K45 million in PSIP funds to support them.
“Now that too has been cut. There is inequitable distribution of funds,” he said.
For those who are closest to the people in the villages, the LLG Presidents, the pain is evident. Local Government President for Morobe Patrol Post, Oti Bagiro, sees disappointment mounting in an LLG area that has seen little in terms of law and order funding.
“Policing houses need maintenance. We have increasing reports of sea piracy,” Bagiro said.
While the national government attempts to talk up the economy at various forums, the evidence of belt tightening has become obvious in various sectors in the country.
Last week, National News Minister, Nick Kuman, announced the government’s decision to relax the ban on school project fees imposed previously after the government’s Tuition Fee Free (TFF) policy was put in place. The decision was made to cover the void expected from the “late arrival” of this year’s TFF.
Critics, meanwhile, have pointed out the TFF has not worked because funding has never arrived on time since the policy was introduced.
In Jiwaka province, funding woes have also hit the Nazarene Church Hospital in Kujip after K15 million was cut from the national Church Health Services Budget – a budget that also covers health services provided by Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist missions.
Culturally and geographically, the Morobe province is a cross section of the entire country. There are highland, coastal, islands and grassland regions each with their own unique service delivery needs.
How the budget cuts affect those various regions of this province, is a relatively accurate gauge of the impact of national government budget cuts.