PNG government curbs travel

8:36 am on 18 March 2016

The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff in Papua New Guinea has told public servants that all overseas travel for government business must now be approved by him.

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Photo: Koro Vaka'uta / RNZ

Pacnews reports Isaac Lupari made the announcement at the Public Service Executive Leaders Forum in Port Moresby on Wednesday.

Mr Lupari said PNG's overseas missions would attend conferences and heads of departments would have to justify to him the importance of any trip and how it would benefit the country.

He said the overseas travel of departmental heads and ministers cost the government about $US20 million last year.

Government ministers had been instructed to justify their travel to the Prime Minister.

With the money saved by reducing travel, Mr Lupari said the government could deliver better services.

In 2013, Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, imposed a similar moratorium on overseas travel for government ministers and top officials in the hope of saving about $US 20 million that year.

This week's travel restrictions follow complaints from public servants about not being paid wages and warnings from economists that PNG's debt management was out of control

While official government debt was estimated at US$ 2.2 billion when Mr O'Neill took office in 2011, commentator Michael Passingan recently claimed debt has climbed to $US 8.7 billion.

In February, Mr O'Neill said government debt was about US$ 5.7 billion, or 39.4 percent of Papua New Guinea's GDP.

The slump in global commodity prices particularly in the mining and forestry sectors had an impact on PNG's revenues, but Mr O'Neill claimed the economy grew by 10 percent last year.