Governors discuss ‘block grants’

‘Block grants’ should be made available to provincial governments so they can address emergencies and shortfalls in their respective provinces instead of waiting for Waigani.

During the 2nd Provincial Governors’ Conference in Lae, Morobe Province, governors discussed the lack of flexibility when it comes to budgetary allocation by the national government.

Minister for Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs and chairman of the governors’ conference, Soroi Eoe, drew attention to the need for “block grants” so provincial governments can deal with emergencies and shortfalls in their respective provinces, such as the critical shortage of medical drugs and consumables, instead of waiting for the national government.

“This is a big area of concern,” said Eoe. “Though it was not directly discussed by us, I think it’s the direction that we are moving towards. In the event that there is a medical problem…so these block funds that we are talking about, at the discretion of the governor and his provincial executive council, they can direct the money to buy the medicine so they don’t have to wait for the national government to respond.”

NCD Governor, Powes Parkop, said the procurement of medical supplies is managed by the Department of Health and 80 percent of the provincial budgets are predetermined by the national government, hence the lack of flexibility; except for the 20 percent, which may include goods and services tax. 

“We heard from our fellow governors that they try to intervene to support the national government like in the area of police or where there is a national road but there is a problem, they try to expand whatever resources they have.

“If we get the block grants, which you can say ‘unconditional grants’, we give it to the provinces so they decide their own priorities.”

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