Treasurer is misleading the nation, say Opposition

After taking a close look at the Treasurer’s budgetary statement, the Opposition has concluded that Minister Ian Ling-Stuckey is ‘misleading the nation’.

Shadow Treasurer Joseph Lelang made this comment in response to Ling-Stuckey’s recent press statement that accused former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for digging a ‘very deep economic hole’.

In a recent statement, Minister for Treasury, Ian Ling-Stuckey, said after eight O’Neill years of spending well beyond our income, PNG’s debt has jumped by 248 percent per person to have reached the illegal level of over K33 billion.

In response to this current economic situation, a Supplementary Budget will be introduced next week which will involve cuts of K1,132 million. Ling-Stuckey says these cuts will be shared equitably across the budget. The cuts of K1,132 million are half the K2,263 million increase in the 2019 estimated budget deficit as a result of the Due Diligence check and the IMF double check.

Shadow Treasurer Joseph Lelang countered Ling-Stuckey’s statement by saying the situation is not as bad as what the Treasurer has been painting.

“Parliament in December last year approved the 2019 budget of a deficit of K1.8 billion,” said Lelang. “In the first half of 2019, the Department of Treasury looked at the actual fiscal and budgetary performance of 2019 so by June, this year, they produced a report called the ‘Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook’ or ‘MYEFO’.

“This report showed that there was a budget blow up of about K500 million. So if you add K500 million to K1.8 billion – that was in the original budget deficit – Treasury revised their forecast to the next six months, to end of this year, of about K2.3 billion. That’s K1.8 billion plus K500 million budget blow out.”

Lelang further questioned the composition of the Treasurer’s due diligence team, asking if they have the expertise and skillsets to determine the actual budgetary situation.

“The question is, have they been sanctioned by Cabinet? Have they been sanctioned like the Taxation Review Committee?

“This due diligence team did not get the mandate of Cabinet. This due diligence team, we don’t know who they are. What are their terms of reference? What are their remuneration?”

Meantime, Prime Minister James Marape says he will support his Treasurer, Ian Ling-Stuckey, in the delivery of correct economic numbers that have lately been debated.

(From left: Shadow Treasurer Joseph Lelang and Minister for Treasury, Ian Ling-Stuckey)

Carmella Gware