Despite all the economic hardships we have faced, we must walk with optimism into 2023. With God’s mercy and grace, the future holds a brighter year for us. In this New Year’s message, this evening, I would like to take the opportunity to remind us all that this Government, composed of vibrant and dedicated leaders, will serve you to the best of our ability. Only some weeks ago, your Government passed the 2023 National Budget with a record total expenditure of K24.567 billion – a 10.8 per cent increase on the original 2022 Budget, making it the largest in the 47-year history of our country, Papua New Guinea. – PM James Marape.
MESSAGE FOR THE NEW YEAR 2023 BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA HON. JAMES MARAPE, MP, TO THE PEOPLE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA.
30th December 2022
My Fellow Papua New Guineans,
It is with warm and joyous greetings, I bring optimism for a better, happy and prosperous New Year - 2023.
As I look back on this year that we are about to transit from, I notice the many challenges we have encountered; but challenges we have managed to overcome.
As we moved beyond the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were hit by inflation triggered by the Russian-Ukraine Crisis, which took a toll on our goods and services, particularly our fuel and food prices.
If that wasn’t enough to bear, we encountered more challenging times during our 2022 National General Election, and the aftermath seemed unfortunate, yet we managed to pull through, regardless.
However, despite all the economic hardships we have faced, we must walk with optimism into 2023.
With God’s mercy and grace, the future holds a brighter year for us.
In this New Year’s message, this evening, I would like to take the opportunity to remind us all that this Government, composed of vibrant and dedicated leaders, will serve you to the best of our ability.
Only some weeks ago, your Government passed the 2023 National Budget with a record total expenditure of K24.567 billion – a 10.8 per cent increase on the original 2022 Budget, making it the largest in the 47-year history of our country.
2022 marked the first year our country reached the K20 billion mark. This is not just our budget numbers and allocations that matter, but the policies behind them.
Your Government stands ready to unlock rural Papua New Guinea and return our economy to being debt free by year 2034.
Over the four years since taking Office, your Government has successfully and steadily reduced our fiscal deficits from -8.6 percent in 2020 to a -4.75 percent projected for year 2023 and further aims to reduce it in the years to follow.
At this optimistic rate of progress, we can already foresee budget surpluses, predictably by 2027.
As we establish measures for a zero sovereign debt by 2033, your Government has recently made our first investment of K5.6 million into the long-awaited Sovereign Wealth Fund, enabling us to be a competitive lender to our neighbours by 2040.
The 2023 National Budget also continues to move forward into spaces, where previous governments have not given enough attention.
Areas such as Health, holistic Education, Agriculture, the growth of small and medium businesses to create a bigger economy-supporting Middle Class for PNG, downstream processing of our natural resources, and infrastructure development to connect rural PNG.
For Education, we recently paid the last tranche of K158 million from the K800 million allocated for all school fees from elementary right up to high school, colleges and universities.
All who have left schools have options of continual lower education on Flexible Open Distance Education (FODE) and also a link to SME/TVET education.
We want no child to be left behind. We aspire for our children to become positive contributors to the growth of our country’s economy.
In Health, your Government has allocated even more funding in the Budget to further rehabilitate the declining health system, consequentially from years of neglect by governments, since Independence.
As promised, this year, your Marape-led Government will continue to build the 22 world-class hospitals in each province, including the Special Autonomous Region of Bougainville, altogether totalling K470 million. Some of which will be opened this year.
Another K60 million has gone toward the construction of the heart and cancer facilities at PNG’s leading referral hospital, the Port Moresby General Hospital.
I do not want to see Papua New Guineans going to seek health services overseas, and I have directed that in our country, health service access must be within one hour reach by foot, by boat, by car or by a plane.
In the Agricultural sector, K200 million has already been allocated to be within the reach of 80 percent of our rural-based population.
Complementing your Government’s Price Support Programme and Agriculture Intervention, we have now created separate ministries for Coffee, Oil Palm and Livestock, respectively, for increased revenue generation and more efficiency.
In Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, your Government continues to support the growth of small businesses.
This follows through from the success of 2021, where almost 600 small and medium businesses have started out
of low-cost business borrowings Papua New Guineans have made.
This is from the K100 million the Government had installed at BSP to implement our policy on growing MSMEs.
In downstream processing – an area long talked about but hardly ventured upon, our Government has already launched Manus Province as a Special Economic Zone and is now focusing on opening the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ), in Madang, this year.
It is well overdue that PNG starts processing the fish caught in its waters onshore so we keep all the benefits in the value chain, such as jobs and other spin-off benefits.
This Government will also expand its focus on downstream processing for all sectors in mining, petroleum, forestry and agriculture too, so we can add value to our resources and create more ripple economic gains, including employment and Kina entrapment in our domestic economy.
With such focus, in Agriculture - for instance - we would like to put a ban on imports of foods like rice and beef, and those we can grow and process locally.
This journey has already started when we took Office and will be further entrenched in 2023, going forward.
As I have envisaged to build our economy bigger and our country better, our signature Connect PNG programme continues to put in place the country’s enabling infrastructure – roads, airports, wharves, jetties, airstrips, bridges, electricity, and telecommunications.
For instance, we are currently building 323 roads covering over 1,900 kilometres into mostly rural Papua New Guinea.
All these are currently underway and will achieve a 100 percent connectivity by the Year 2040.
For the extractive sector, it is time to Take Back what is rightfully ours – a larger share of benefits in our own natural resources God has blessed us with, but of course, with respect to our laws that allow our investors to make a return on their investments, in our country.
PNG’s Vision 2050 also summons us to act prudently to reach the goal where as a country, we are all "healthy, happy and prosperous by 2050".
Our Budget for this year is set, and I am very pleased with the Team headed by Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey, for putting together a very respectable budget amidst the challenges of economic hardship.
I am very mindful of the course our country is on, especially with relation to key national milestones such as our 50th anniversary, which play essential roles in measuring our progress.
In less than two years, PNG will celebrate its Golden Jubilee.
As I close, I make a final call to all our people including politicians and residents, to respect each other and each other's rights; to be law-abiding as we proceed through 2023.
Let us commit to respect the child and wife in your house, the women and children in your community and workplace, the elderly, and those living with disabilities amongst us.
Be kind and warm to our foreign residents and visitors in our country.
By doing these, you will have truly contributed to “Taking Back PNG” from the wrong road and putting our country onto the right road to economic independence, where we do not leave anyone behind.
I want to conclude by thanking all those who helped our country in 2022. Our people and the praying Christian churches for living through with understanding of the hard times we lived in 2022, our business and civil community, foreign investors, bi-lateral and multilateral partners, the Judiciary, the Parliament, and our faithful public servants, right across the country.
It was a privilege serving you all in 2022, and I look forward to your support and to work with you all again in 2023.
In conclusion, I thank our God once again for the blessings and protection in 2022, and I wish you all a Happy and Safe New Year, as we look forward to God’s continuing care in 2023 and beyond.
May God bless you all and may God bless Papua New Guinea.
HON. JAMES MARAPE, MP