PNG govt cuts hitting universities hard
Papua New Guinea universities are struggling to cope after big cuts in government funding and the prospect of further reductions.
A Papua New Guinea university vice chancellor says courses or teachers could go if government funding cutbacks continue.
Revelations in recent weeks show the PNG Government budget is in sharp decline although the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, says the criticism of his administration's management is from people with vested interests.
He is promising a supplementary budget but says there will be no cuts to key sectors such as education.
However the vice chancellor of the University of Technology in Lae, Albert Schram, told Don Wiseman their funding has been cut and greater reductions are likely.
ALBERT SCHRAM: All the university bursars this year were called to Treasury on the 10th of June and cuts of 40% for the rest of the year were announced. We understand that is in line with all the other state agencies. And of course we protested because we have students here on campus and we need to provide the teaching and services.
DON WISEMAN: You haven't had cuts of 40% yet?
AS: No, not yet, but we have had a cut of about 15% this month and we have reverted back to monthly transfers which makes it also very difficult to run the university. I can't speak for all the other agencies, but that is what has happened to us.
DW: What's your anticipation, do you think it's going to stay at 15% or get worse?
AS: Well, I don't know, and it's actually the uncertainty that makes it very difficult to manage the situation because if there would be clear prospects then you can adapt. But we simply don't know what's going to happen next month.
DW: So, the university has a substantial cut in funding from the government; most of your funding comes from government, so what does that do? You've got to start cutting back on the programmes, cutting staff, what are you doing?
AS: Well, we are making an analysis of the situation and we are leading by example so I am instructing all of the management and the heads of departments to foresake per diem allowances, we are cutting back on transport, unnecessary travel, that type of thing, but, you know, with these type of cuts we will have to go much further in our measures, that is quite evident.
DW: So are you going to be dropping classes or what?
AS: Well, our council met last week and they basically they said to the management that we needed to do what was necessary. And when we can't pay the water bills and the power bills, and the lights go out and the toilets start to flow over, evidently we can't continue with classes.
DW: It hasn't got to that stage yet but...
AS: No but it's something that is worrying us very much
DW: At what point do you think you will be likely to reach that breakdown point?
AS: Well, depending on what we get next month, if we get anything, that could be very soon.
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