Prime Minister Hon James Marape has announced that he will not be attending the 74th United Nations General Assembly in order to remain in country to attend to urgent domestic issues.
The Prime Minister told the media at a press conference today that he called the press conference was to provide an update on his proposed attendance at the UN General Assembly later this week, and to outline continued work of the Government to progress budgetary, economic and social reforms.
“You will by now have heard that I will not be attending the UN General Assembly this week,” Prime Minister Marape said.
“This is because there are a number of pressing issues domestically that require my attention.
“These include the need to focus on revitalizing our economy, addressing the current budget emergency, dealing with continued law and order matters, and focusing on social issues, including the upcoming referendum in Bougainville.”
Prime Minister Marape said he is also of the view, that in fiscal terms, having large delegations attending these types of meetings is not the best of use of the country’s precious financial resources at this time.
He said he was informed that the delegation that had been proposed to accompany him to New York comprised of some 55 officials at a cost of more than K1.2 million kina.
“That is not acceptable, and I have personally directed that travel for the majority of the delegation be cancelled.
“Just five or six essential staff members will travel with Foreign Minister, The Hon. Soroi Marepo Eoe, MP, who I have every confidence, with the assistance of our highly capable team at Kundu New York, will represent our interests when the General Assembly meets.
“I want to place on record my belief in the importance of the General Assembly meeting and the role of the United Nations.
“This is particularly the case in relation to climate change, which remains a very real and urgent issue for PNG and the islands of the Pacific.
“Minister Eoe will address the General Assembly on my behalf and use the opportunity to re-state Papua New Guinea’s call for developed nations to do more to halt the effects of climate change, and to adhere to obligations under the Paris Agreement.
“The fact is that climate change is impacting our country and our people as I speak.” Prime Minister Marape emphasized that PNG can no longer be silent on this matter.
“It is a life and death situation, and we have an obligation to provide continued leadership in the Region and to speak up and ensure that the issue receives continued global prominence,” he said.
Returning to the issue of fiscal responsibility and travel, Prime Minister Marape announce that from now on, all official travel must be personally approved by his office and the office of the Chief Secretary.
He said this is to ensure that expenditure is reigned in and to eliminate the continued waste due to unnecessary travel.
“I also want to make it clear that it is my expectation that all Department and Agency Heads, and all Heads of State Owned Enterprises will remain in PNG at all times,” Prime Minister Marape said.
“Travel outside of PNG should only be for exceptional reasons, and only after the appropriate approvals have been obtained. In this day and age, the need for expensive travel must be re-assessed.
“With the advent of information and communication technologies, we have great capacity to communicate from PNG to anyone, anywhere in the world, by phone, internet and through video conferencing.
“The days of traveling for the purpose of face to face communication are gone. We must embrace and use these technologies.”
The Prime Minister said PNG also has a wide diplomatic network overseas and he is of the view that the Government and Bureaucracy must make better use of diplomats to engage and represent the interests of PNG across a broad range of portfolios.
He said this is about ensuring we achieve value for money and maximize our existing resources.
“I am focused on delivering for the people of PNG,” Prime Minister Marape reiterated. “My time is best placed here, with our people, addressing the challenges that we face.
“We are currently working on addressing issues related to the 2019 budget and preparing for the year ahead.
“The 2020 budget will require fiscal discipline, and must be focused on harnessing economic opportunity, eliminating unnecessary waste, and re-investing in critical services.