PM O’Neill hits back at 2012 Budget critics

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has urged the public to be wary of politicians and would be politicians making false and confusing statements about the economy and the 2012 Budget while on the campaign trail.

The Prime Minister singled out Pomio MP Paul Tiensten, Hela Regional candidate Anderson Agiru, and Middle Ramu MP Ben Semri as agents of misinformation and false hope.

The three have raised concern in the media about claims byTreasurer Don Polye that the 2012 Budget would be in deficit by K500 million because commodity prices have fallen below budget estimates levels.

Mr Tiensten claimed in the Post Courier yesterday that the deficit might rise to K1 billion, and the government would borrow against future revenue from the LNG project to fill the hole.

Mr Agiru also claimed in the paper that PNG LNG project was his own and no one had the right to “commit our children’s future”. While Semri said government was committing funds not budgeted for.

The Prime Minister said: “It’s clear from their comments they understand very little about the subject.”

He said it was true the price of key commodities were dipping below 2012 Budget estimates. “Revenue may fall, but it is too early to tell. We are in the sixth month of the 12 month cycle, and prices may rebound. These swings are beyond the control of any government around the world.

O’Neill said “there is no K500 million deficits in the budget. There is no K1 billion hole in the budget. The financial commitments on projects I have announced to date are provided for in the budget.

“But the government did discover a K900 million hole created by Arthur Somare and Agiru when they negotiated the loan with the Arabs to fund the State’s equity in the PNG LNG project. Treasury had to dig deep to fund this miscalculation by Somare and Agiru, and this might create a deficit,” said O’Neill.

He said the government has announced a number of education, health and infrastructure initiatives like the free education. These will be funded within budget on an ongoing basis.

These initiatives will grow the economy and create opportunities for our people. When we get re-elected into office after the elections, we will ensure the future revenue from the LNG project are safe with the creation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, said O’Neill.

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