Bougainville autonomy ‘positive’ but improvements needed, says poll report

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PNG’s NRI researchers present Bougainville referendum reports. Video: EMTV News

By Meriba Tulo in Port Moresby

The autonomous arrangements for Bougainville have been described as positive.

However, there is also room for improvement – among these, the need for the effective use of knowledge, capacity and time.

These were points highlighted this week during a presentation of two draft research reports into Bougainville’s referendum for next year.

The research has been conducted by Papua New Guinea’s National Research Institute (NRI) through its Bougainville Referendum Research Project.

According to PNGNRI Director Dr Osborne Sanida, these reports highlight some issues that the institute believes need to be considered by stakeholders from PNG as well as from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

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The report on fiscal autonomy was spearheaded by Professor Satish Chand.

Professor Chand said an immediate need for Bougainville was to increase the capacity to fund its own budget – regardless of the level of autonomy it has now, or may have following the referendum.

Broader tax options
He said developmental taxation should be an option to consider in an effort to broaden the tax base for Bougainville.

Professor Chand said that given mining was still a controversial issue on the island – and that mining revenue might take a decade – the Autonomous Region should consider fisheries or agriculture as an alternative in increasing internal revenue.

Also released was a Draft Report on Political Autonomy presented by Martina Trettel.

This report considers the various forms of autonomy that are present in other jurisdictions, and compares these to the Bougainville experience.

According to Trettel, there is an imminent need for both the national government and the ABG to work an arrangement which may be beneficial for the island region in the immediate future, as well as post-referendum.

The report has highlighted the need for both governments to share the responsibilities of autonomy.

The research team has been presenting their findings to the Autonomous Bougainville Government this week.

Meriba Tulo is a senior reporter and presenter with EMTV and currently anchors Resource PNG and the daily National News. Asia Pacific Report republishes EMTV news reports with permission.

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