PNG ban on foreign workers unwise, says ANU academic

13 August 2015

A ban on foreign advisers working for the PNG government could cause problems in the delivery of Australia’s development assistance to PNG and reduce the quality of advice available to the PNG government, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific academic and former consultant Ronald May says.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told PNG’s parliament on 30 July that foreign workers were making local staff lazy, and that it was time to protect the country’s national security .

“Our government has taken a deliberate decision that by the end of the year, all foreign consultants and advisers, their contracts will end by 31st December,” he said.

Dr May, now an Emeritus Fellow in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program, believes outside consultants can sometimes act as a buffer between public servants trying to implement government policies, and ministers with personal or political agendas. PNG public servants who challenge capricious actions by ministers do so at the risk of losing their jobs, he said.

“In the past there have been instances where ministers have bypassed tender processes and appointed their mates as consultants,” Dr May added.

However, consultants contracted by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, along with other international agencies, are generally recruited through rigorous, competitive processes. 

The ban on foreign consultants will affect workers in the policing, law and justice, treasury, planning, education and healthcare sectors.

Australia is the dominant aid partner to PNG. Mr ONeill’s announcement comes at a time of tension between the two countries over the Manus Island detention centre and Australia's  plan to open a diplomatic post in Bougainville.



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