By MALUM NALU
Government plans such as Vision 2050 and PNG Development Strategic Plan (DSP) 2010-2030 should not be considered “sacrosanct”, Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker said at the weekend.He was replying to a full-page advertisement in The National last Friday by National Planning and Monitoring Minister, Paul Tiensten, extolling the virtues of DSP and hitting back at critics of its highly-ambitious agricultural projections for 2030.
Barker voiced concern at a very personal attack by Tiensten on Coconut Cocoa Institute chief executive officer, Dr Eric Omuru, who has described the projections for copra and cocoa as a “joke”.
“If these are meant to be national plans, not just government plans, it is critical that there is wide public participation and endorsement,” Barker said.
“Medium and longer term plans are valuable tools if suitable resources are provided to enable their implementation, but it requires that the targets and forecasts are realistic and well-researched.
“ PNG has had many plans and strategies, but, as with the medium term development strategy (MTDS) 2005-2010, inadequate funding was provided to enable effective implementation, for example only K30 million for national road maintenance for the whole country, although access was the top priority in the MTDS.
“Unfortunately, also, the MTDS evaluation was not made publicly available and discussed to contribute to the development of future plans.
“It has been emphasised that the quality and implementation of plans is dependent partly upon both sound prior consultation with the respective stakeholders and their feeling ownership of the process, which they will be responsible for implementing.
“Unfortunately, it was widely perceived that the preparation of the DSP was undertaken discreetly by a small team in a central agency, with inadequate feedback from respective line agencies and non-government stakeholders. “
Barker said everyone would like to cooperate to achieve major economic development and particularly to ensure broad-based opportunities from this development, including through positive improvements in agricultural production, but to achieve that required a full understanding of the opportunities and constraints and the context of the industries.
“It is essential, therefore, to embrace the inputs of the industry professional s, including both public and private sector participants, who will have a better understanding of what is achievable, and who will, after all, be responsible for subsequent implementation,” he said.
“This embracing and respect for each others’ contribution - how government can assist the industry and vice versa - and recognition of considerable past experience provides the best opportunity for progress, rather than criticising the CCI director’s comments at a workshop.
“His comments were not isolated, but have been consistently expressed by sector professionals, if nervously, over the past year, since the DSP forecasts have been revealed.
“Discarding past experience and referring only to modelling is unhelpful, as models remain only as good as the inputs into them.
“Consultation, mutual respect and cooperation is a better way for all players to refine plans and move forward than mutual criticism, and will best serve the interests of the farmers and the wider community.”