BY CLEMENT KAUPA POYE
Commendations are in order, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his solid People’s National Congress (PNC) party-led coalition government are in the running for the full term.
Though somewhat tilted, it was still a tremendous show of vibrant parliamentary democracy on the floor on Friday (July 22) capped-off by Morobe Governor Kelly Naru’s rousing explanatory speech.
Commendations also to Hon Don Polye and the Opposition for taking the Government to task when at the outset it was a clear case of young David minus the stones versus the mighty Goliath and his fearful arsenal.
The outcome was inevitable, but the symbolic gesture of the vote of no confidence (VONC) attempt in the O’Neill-Dion Government is not lost on the Nation.
Politics and World Bank generated statistics aside; the raw facts on the ground contradict what is and has been peddled to the outside world.
The 75-80percent of the population who subsist in the middle to low income earner brackets (includes the informal and rural subsistence farmers) are barely surviving in the present dire economic conditions.
Though thwarted, the VONC served to amplify their desperation as working class fathers and mothers struggle vainly against spiralling inflation and excessive taxation to put bread on the table.
It does not require an economist to acknowledge that the average Papua New Guinean worker is severely overworked, underpaid and overtaxed.
Or that the personal income tax exacted in Papua New Guinea is well above the acceptable threshold and the goods and services tax (GST) is an ingenious way to rob the already robbed pay packet.
The situation is worse considering the almost daily increase in prices of basic goods and services in reflection of the spiralling inflation that has shown no indication of improving anytime soon.
Needless to aggravate the situation any further than necessary, the crux of this commentary is to alert the O’Neill-Dion Government to the Nation’s plea for some measure of relief.
Unarguably this Government had done wonders in three (3) years which is more than any other past government can claim credit for.
But perhaps it is time (and I’m hoping the VONC made it apparent) to ease up on the almost exclusive infrastructure development agenda and refocus on the socioeconomic plight of the Nation.
A very good place to start is the pay packet and the food basket of the family.
The Government is commended for the significant increments to the public service salary structure this year (and previous years) and the notable increase of the minimum labour rate to above K3 but the personal income tax still defeats its better intentions.
It is definitely a killer when the government office worker or the company labourer forks out another additional 10percent GST on every purchase of rice, tinned fish and fuel.
Widely considered as double taxing, an urgent tax review with the view to axing it and downgrading the personal income tax threshold in light of the dire economic situation would be welcome.
Needless to say, it will be a significant relief for working class families and encourage a personal savings culture to replace the pay-packet to pay-packet existence that is prevalent in the Country.
Fact to bear, the Nation is stressed out and the Government will do well to heed the agitated distress signals not the least being the VONC.
Though conclusively defeated by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the PNC-led coalition government is safely transposed to serve out its full term, the message is simple- ‘put the people first’.