The success or failure of an economy depends on the outcome of the national budget. The budget contains all the policy initiatives and visions of the government, and so affects all the people they govern. One of the most important functions of government, year in and year out, is planning, formulating and implementing that budget.
In Papua New Guinea, that unenviable task belongs to the Department of Finance and Planning. The Department plans and allocates funds to all the functions of the government and to public investment programs, depending on the priorities set by the government of the day.
Recently, and as part of a World Bank recommended restructure, the planning function of the Departments were shifted. The National Planning Office will now take charge of the initial planning of development policies to be pursued by the government. Finance Department keeps the role of allocating resources and managing the national purse. There have also been other changes in the restructuring exercise. The aid co-ordinating body OIDA (Office of International Development Assistance) is to be merged with the aid co-ordinating Branch. Staff ceilings will also be lowered.
In 1985, ten years after independence, Papua New Guinea’s first fully-fledged national development plan was set in place for the period 1986-1990. The objectives of the plan were mainly: economic growth that creates jobs, sustained development in the long term, making PNG more self-reliant, and equal opportunities for all in the country’s development. It was during that decade that PNG felt progress.
This year marks another ten years since that plan was set in motion. Ten years ago too, there was a separate National Planning and Development department and Ministry. The recent restructuring of the cabinet and public service sees the planning functions once again separated from Finance. Finance and Planning, together or otherwise, have called on the capabilities of Papua New Guineans to run and manage them. (Sir) Mekere Morauta set the pace. Morea Vele and the current Finance Secretary Gerea Aopi are among those people. Current Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, a highly regarded leader in the Asia-Pacific region, has also held the finance ministry the most number of times.
Under Finance and Planning fall the other important functions of National Statistics Office, OIDA, the Internal Revenue Commission, the Bureau of Customs and Excise, the Government Printing Office, the Consumer Affairs Council, the Central Government Supply and Tenders Board and a host of statutory corporations.
Some of these functions will be placed under the newly created Planning Department while the others will remain in Finance. The Department has also taken the lead in negotiating numerous loans, the latest one being with the World Bank. The bank has recommended major reforms to fiscal and structural operations of government which are being implemented. The department is overseeing the implementation of the reforms. The success of the reforms will determine PNG’s economic advancement.