Islands Post

Tuesday 14th August, 2001


Shell money 
‘may’ save LLG

By wesley Bunpalau
THE difficult economic times and the National Government’s cash flow problem has taken a toll on local-level government operations in the East New Britain Province.

Even at the village level, the ordinary villagers are also feeling the pinch.

The problem is so serious that some local-level governments do not know whether to “float or sink” before the end of the year.

But Balanataman LLG believes it has a formula, which the other LLGs and the provincial government administration could adopt as fallback mechanism to keep the administration afloat.

President John ToPeono has instructed his administration and the people of Balanataman LLG to start using the tolai shell-money (tabu) to pay court fines, head taxes, compensation, and even PMV and trade licences.

The shell-money would then be converted to cash and fund the local-level government operations.

So far the LLG has collected more than K10,000 worth of shell-money. In Tolai calculation, it is equivalent to two tabu wheels, which is the size of two tractor wheels.

Mr ToPeono said the cash-flow problem has become so serious that he has no choice but to recognise the value and uses of the shell-money “to keep my government floating”.
“You see, we took on a system of government, which was promised with lots of money. We were told that the new reform would come with a lot of political and financial powers. Today, as many of us are finding out the hard way, the promised powers and the honey, milk and wine are not there,” he said.

“Waigani doesn’t know what to do with us, so where do we go next? Who and what do we turn to for survival?,” Mr ToPeono asked.

He suggested that as a fallback system, all LLGs and the provincial administration should start implementing a government policy, which was passed in 1995, to recognise and use the values of the traditional currency.

He said the policy was already in place and should be implemented, but it appeared the administration had not seen its importance and therefore not attempted to implement it.

Balanataman started collecting shell-money for head tax, court fines and compensation fees from taxpayers in 1996, but the system was not fully implemented until last year and the first six months of this year.

Mr ToPeono said his LLG was not receiving adequate cash from head taxes and other revenue raising areas because villagers were facing difficulties in raising enough money from their cash crops because of “very low” commodity prices.

“Instead of allowing our LLG to close down, we had to raise money somehow to keep our administration in operation. The ‘tabu’ then becomes our only means of survival,” Mr ToPeono said.
Another LLG president Henry Ningo (Toma/Vunadidir) has also said his LLG was facing financial difficulties.

He said he had been forced to lay off staff and might shelve projects to save costs.

“We have no choice but to cut our overhead expenses for the sake of saving our government. We have laid off drivers, clerks and typists and are using our ward councillors on voluntary basis,” Mr Ningo confided.

“The situation is bad. We are not getting our grants on time as expected.”

Mr Ningo suggested that Governor Leo Dion asks the National Government to suspend all LLGs in the province to avoid embarrassment when the LLGs are forced to close operations.

He said many LLGs were suffering silently because the National and Provincial Governments have failed to honour their commitments.

“I do not want to continue pushing my people to keep our LLG going if the two higher levels of government are not honest in honouring their part of the deal,” Mr Ningo said. 

“I will be inhumane to even to resort to taking the individual family’s shell-money for conversion into cash for my government’s survival.
“Why should the ordinary villager continue to honour his or her part of the deal if the national and provincial governments cannot honour their part of the deal?”


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