State entities challenged to serve 7.5 million people

The 7.5 million people of Papua New Guinea are now expecting with assurance from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s a year old government that their most wanted but very delayed essential services will be provided.

Apart from the services like health and education which are existing but struggling to meet growing demands, people mainly in rural areas can expect “luxurious services” like electricity, telecommunication, water, and postal services.

They can anticipate these services with high confidence as O’Neill has declared 2013, the year of “implementation” and his minister Ben Micah has given an absolute undertaking-challenging state owned entities to deliver the “luxurious services” to the whole country.

State owned companies will be expected to serve all of Papua New Guinea,” Micah, the State Enterprises and Investments Minister said in early this year.

The catch word “implementation” is now being reverberated by almost every government minister, ordinary politician and bureaucrat in public gatherings- including Prime Minister O’Neill.

It could well be stressed in executive office meetings as well.

O’Neill has challenged his government ministers and public servants who are the key agents of this “implementation” to shape up and execute or “ship-out” if they were incompetent.

We will also revamp the public service to get people who can deliver,” O’Neill said when meeting with boards and CEO’s of state entities in January this year.

He said in October this year, there would be a conference for all public servants to evaluate their achievements for the year.

If we have heard it right, the goal has been spelled out and it is very ambitious, never pronounced at such level and intensity since independence in 1975.

For a rural Papua New Guinean, who lives without electricity, walks kilometers to fetch water to cook and drink, does not ride in a car and there is no adequately resourced hospital available- this will be like a dream that is in fact manifesting into reality.

Minister Micah has told CEO’s and boards of state owned entities that they would have to provide services to everyone from now on, not just the urban population as has been the trend.

This he said would be driven by a policy to be approved by cabinet.

The state entities who should be looking at shifting their focus, expanding their market niches and delivering services include Air Niugini, Eda Ranu, PNG Ports, Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited (MVIL), Post PNG, PNG Power, Telikom PNG and Water PNG, Micah said.

Their respective boards and CEO’s would report on their progress in achieving “nationwide service delivery” to minister Micah by October this year before he briefs Cabinet and the next 2014 budget is tabled in Parliament.

Micah has also told the newly appointed boards of all the state companies and their CEO’s about his ministeral plan.

This was during their first ever induction and orientation meeting in Port Moresby in January 2013.

We are going to embark on a very ambitious plan,” he said.

Micah said 90 per cent of the population has been left out of the luxury of services like water, telecommunication, electricity and proper sewerage and after 37 years, it was time they benefited from the government through service delivery interventions by state companies.

He stressed that the government was now placing emphasis on state entities to make money, sustain their operations, pay dividends to the state and not become heavily dependent on government funding.

 “I will now be putting out my hand to receive revenues from you,” Micah said.

He said state companies were much like the left arm of government to deliver services.

Micah admitted there were complaints from consumers about ineffective services being provided by some entities, identifying telecommunication and electricity as few, and he said these should be improved.

On a positive note he said companies have been able to operate despite constraints.

Micah admitted there were some companies struggling and a way to go about would be for each entity to form partnerships and assist each other because they all represented the people of PNG.

Post PNG is suffering but Air Niugini is giving priority to DHL and TNT,” he said.

Micah told the new boards that “many were recommended but they were the ones chosen” after a thorough screening process boasting a wealth of experience and qualification in both the public and private sector.

He said in order for a company to prosper, it needed good board members not CEO’s.

O’Neill has said there is no time to play “blame-games” about what is not working right today.

He said it was time for the country to make a drastic change and one approach to achieve it will be to rid incompetent public servants occupying offices.

 “I know that it is a great honor to serve our country. I want to urge you to take it seriously. Let’s forget about the past and look towards the future,” O’Neill told new boards of state entities.

 He said the government will be introducing cost control measures while embarking on implementing service delivery.

He wants state enterprises to be innovative in approaching service delivery and if initial capital was an issue, he urged boards and CEO’s to look outside-take the private sector partnerships.

Our government will support you to deliver the best outcomes,” O’Neill said.

There will be meetings to asses this.

Before the next budget process, we will see which state entity does well and which does not.”

It would be interesting to note by the end of the years how state entities have progressed in providing the services to the 7.5 million people.

It would be a dream-come true for many in the rural areas if the “luxurious services” were delivered to them.