The PNG National Road Network Strategy 2018-2037 was launched on September 2nd by Prime Minister James Marape.
The country has a national road network of 30,000km; 9,000km of which constitutes the national roads while 70 percent of the entire road network make up the provincial feeder roads.
Forty years on since most of the national roads were built, Department of Works and Implementation Secretary David Wereh says traffic demands have grown while investments in roads declined.
“As a result, the amount of funding we have received has been very low and we are sitting on a huge backlog at this stage,” he stated.
The main economic roads see about 2 million vehicles travelling on them per year, however their state have declined thus the urgency to develop the national road network strategy.
“Prime Minister, the best practice for road funding around the world is to have about 2-3 percent of the GDP put into road maintenance and capital works program. Over the last 10 years, figures show that we have been receiving something much lower than the minimum required and it is a very critical situation,” Wereh continued.
Since 2012, K3.2 billion has been invested in roads and bridges, contributing to the current 3,336km of roads, including urban roads. However, the Secretary says these investments will go to waste if not maintained.
“The national road strategy is about putting maintenance first, on those key roads that we have already existing in our country then look at opening up some of those major economic links.”
Funding for road infrastructure has been an impediment in the development of roads around the country.
Works and Implementation Minister, Michael Nali, said: “So when I came in in 2017, till now I have not built one single (new) road. And it’s not a good story for me. I don’t blame anyone for it.
“I’m just telling you that I don’t have the money to build roads. So with the 30,000km of road network that we have in the country and not getting the attention, it just makes it very tough, difficult. We are like the hospitals, the doctors are always on call. We the department of works are always on call. As soon as a bridge gets washed out we get telephone calls, text messages, what are you doing about it?”
Prime Minister James Marape says annually the country makes an average of K10 to K11 billion; 70 percent of which goes to salaries and re-current expenditures.
“So you are left with about K3 billion to ensure you dispense to other sectors ; health consumables, education demands of our country, roads, financing debts and so it starts to dilute the limited cash we have available to do business,” stated the PM.