Community Development Minister and Lae MP, Loujaya Toni, has defendedthe Papua New Guineagovernment’s decision onthe Asylum Centre dealthe second time this month sayingthe government had to cater for a budget shortfall.
Toni’s comments follows intense pressure from a group of pastors from church groups in Lae calling for the government to scrapthe deal.
Loujaya Toni met withthe group late Monday. Apart from social reasons,their reaction has been largely a hard-line religious stance calling for asylum seekers to renouncetheir fait’s or be prevented from enteringthe country.
Whilst addressing those concerns, Minister Toni also drew attention tothe economic benefits ofthe deal and, more particularly, tothe government’s budget shortfall in 2013.
“The government has made no secret ofthe fact that this year’s budget is a deficit,” she said. “They sawthe opportunity to getthe money to fill that deficit.”
Forthe next three years, Papua New Guineawill continue to have budget shortfalls that will be met through concessional loans – a large chunk is coming fromthe Chinese government. Last month, after Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Peter O’Neill, signedthe Asylum Centre deal, Australia also increased funding tPNG.
The “PNG’solution” is designed, basically, to keep unwanted asylum seekers out of Australia by paying anther country – in this case Nauru and Papua New Guinea- to accommodate and processthem.
According to Australian pre-election estimates, over 2 billion kina is being injected intothe development ofthe Manus asylum centre. The financial package also includes assistance to hospitals and universities for reconstruction and improverments.
One ofthe hospitals that is a recipient ofthe funding is Lae’s Angau hospital which will get over 700 thousand kina for its reconstruction.
On Saturday, Morobe Governor, Kelly Naru, expressed strong support for the deal sayingthe agreement is of mutual benefit and importance to Australia and Papua New Guinea
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