Promoting Effective Public Expenditure Budget Forum

Implementing policies from the PNG National Budget: Evidence from PEPE Project

Following the release of the preliminary findings from the surveys in September, the Budget Forum held on the 10th April 2014 at the National Research Institute Conference Centre, NRI and ANU presented further analysis of survey data, related to key policies reforms aimed at improving PNG’s health and education services, especially the Tuition Free Education Policy and Free Primary Health Care Policy. The forum also presented analysis of the 2014 PNG National Budget, which has undergone major changes through in cooperating recurrent and development budgets. Below is a brief.

Treasury’s major reforms on PNG’s 2014 Budget are forward budgetary integration, integrating the Development Budget and the Recurrent Budget.  The former Development Budget (now capital expenditure) deals with project funding both PNG government funded and donor funded and the former Recurrent Budget (now operational expenditure) deals with general government operational expenditure (service delivery).

Treasury is also embarking on forward year budgeting or multiyear budgeting. Doing a budget for the current budget and future years. Still from consultation with the Treasury department there was no budget allocation for the ICAC for last year (2013) and still no money allocation for establishment process of ICAC in 2014.

The government is also in great support of the Free Education (being in its third term) and Health Policy and has embarked on a huge step forward.

The greatest benefit the policies would have on the population would be enabling a great majority of people to ensure ACCESS to free health and education as set out by the PNG Government in the Alotau Accord launched on the 24th February, 2014. Every individual in Papua New Guinea would have the equal chance and opportunity to access these services no matter the social or economic status they held. People would have the freedom to choose the health center they wish to seek medical care/treatment from and the institution to send their children to learn and even more it would give all girls the opportunity to attend school. However, this as outlined by Dr. Scott Doodley of the Nazarene church in Kunjip and representative of the CHS that the free health was not ideal as user fees were added means to pay for maintenance of health facilities, and other medical expenses that government could not holistically cater for.

Furthermore, as pointed out by Anthony Swan and Grant Walton (ANU) comparing with the 2002 Free Education policy, Free Tuition would mean teachers would be the ones who would suffer from overcrowding of students (with the cutoff mark being 1 teacher: 45 students) which at present has seen an aggregate of 1: 80 in one elementary class. This means more work for teachers with an unfavorable situation where their welfare is not being looked after (in terms of housing etc.) Moreover, As efficient as the TFF is designed to increase levels of basic education by reducing the financial burdens of tuition fees on parents for sending their children to school, there remains a dilemma of quality versus quantity. It is resourcefully important to elaborate to the government and policy makers that the QUALITY of education and health is more significant to the QUANTITY that it aspires to serve. It was stated that “everyone could be free to receive health and education but the question still remains, is it virtuous enough to enhance good quality of life.?”

Further studies into the Free Education and health will be carried out and a follow-up forum will be held in September 2014.