In August 1994 Sir Julius Chan once again became Prime Minister. He took time to reflect, not just on the past 10 or 20 years, but on the past 60 years.
Under the Department of the Prime Minister and National Executive Council fall several functions of government including the PNG Fire Services, National Security Organisation, National Intelligence Organisation, National Planning Office, the Office of the Legislative Council and the Office of Information and Communication. The Prime Minister is assisted in this by department Secretary, John Painap.
One of the biggest issues facing the government today, is the question of land — in particular land compensation. If this is not resolved then PNG could fall back on the old solution — tribal conflicts. There are still occasional outbreaks. In a country where 85% of the land is rural and the land represents the only wealth people have, it assumes enormous importance. A villager owns the land beneath his feet and, while customary laws might vary from district to district, there has been a need for some normalisation which will recognise reasonable rates of compensation for legitimate owners. Steps have been taken to prevent any possibilities of dispute.
In addition to accepting a Structural Adjustment Programme which applies stringent free market principles to the economy, PNG is committed to trade liberalisation. All export and import licensing requirements, import bans and quotas and other quantitative restrictions, particularly for cement, rice, sugar, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, will be phased out as soon as legal circumstances permit.
The restoration of government authority and services on Bougainville has cost Papua New Gui
nea considerable time, energy and money. But that is a price the government had to pay to ensure national unity, resilience and sensibility. Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, since taking office in mid 1994, undertook to resolve the Bougainville dispute and bring back peace and normalcy on the island, which once was a major contributor to the national income through the Panguna copper mine and the province’s cocoa and coconut produce.
In undertaking the settlement of the Bougainville dispute, Sir Julius not only committed himself and his cabinet, but also his department – the Department of Prime Minister and the National Executive Council. The department has the huge task of providing administrative services to the restoration exercise as well as advising the Prime Minister and other government leaders on the very difficult task of dealing with leaders on Bougainville, a task that has proven to require sensitive handling. So far there have been achievements, with over 80 per cent of Bougainville now under government control. Now, the only detriminents to lasting peace are the hard-core rebels and their leaders. Again from the Bougainville restoration, the department of Prime Minster has other major tasks which it performs to ensure smooth running of the government as well as other functions. After the July, 1995 cabinet reshuffle – the first by Sir Julius since taking over the reins the previous year – the functions of the department were upgraded, and in some cases expanded. Twenty five areas of responsibilities for the department have been gazetted after the change.
“PNG looks to a bright future”, says Sir Julius Chan. “We are looking to a rapid improvement in our overall investment picture with the Lihir gold project, the largest in the world outside South Africa, approved and ready to go. Development work on this project, along with work already underway, or about to start, on a number of other major infrastructure and development projects, will give our economy the injection that it needs”.