PNG's Morauta slams O'Neill on the economy

7:54 pm on 24 May 2016

A former Papua New Guinea prime minister says the government is ignoring evidence the country's economy is in serious trouble.

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Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

Sir Mekere Morauta has taken issue with Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's dismissal of concerns raised by university students that the economy was in crisis and that this was one reason they wanted him to resign.

Sir Mekere said that only by Mr O'Neill acknowledging the problem and sharing it with Papua New Guineans could solutions be found.

He said families were seeing the cost of food skyrocketing, students had few job prospects after graduation, public servants knew their pays were often late, and businesses struggled to get foreign exchange, while the economy stagnated.

Mr O'Neill has recently defended his government's handling of the economy.

Echoing this, the Central Bank governor Loi Bakani last week said that foreign reserves at present were $US1.7billion or 10 months total import cover.

However Sir Mekere said there was likely to be a hole in the Budget worth hundreds of millions of dollars because of lower economic growth, poorer commodity returns and the failure to secure additional loans.

And he claimed government's debt was far higher than it is admitting, at about 50 percent of GDP.