Photo: Peter O'Neill says he hopes to overcome many of the mistakes that the country has made in the past (AFP: Ness Kerton, file photo)
Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says his country has a golden opportunity to overhaul its crumbling infrastructure and improve services.
Mr O'Neill has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat with a loan from a Chinese bank and several major new resources projects coming on line, the time is right for change.
"I am trying to improve the quality of living standards of our people, where basic services have not reached the bulk of our population," he said.
"Eighty-five percent of our population live in the rural communities, they still lack basic educational services, they still lack decent health care, they lack the transportation to get their goods to market and law and order continues to become a major issue in some of those communities.
"Our government is very much focused on those areas that, we as a government, must make it priority that we deliver those services so that it will improve the standard of living for our people."
Some critics have raised concerned the $2.7 billion loan from China's Exim Bank is too big for an economy which is facing a $230 million deficit and weakening commodity prices.
Mr O'Neill says the loan is just a standby arrangement, and the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project, which is due to deliver first gas in 2014, and other major new resources projects will provide sufficient cash flow to finance the country's planned infrastructure overhaul.
"We expect our economy to double by 2014, [and] our infrastructure in the country is declining to a state where some infrastructures are not able to cope with the demands of our people and our economy," he said.
"So when you look at this what solutions do you have?
"[To] our critics we say this: 'Do you want us to allow our infrastructure to continue declining? Do you want us to allow the economy to slow down and that there is no economic growth in the country? Do you want us to allow the unemployment figures to continue to rise?'
"Because when the economy does not grow the unemployment increases, all the other social sectors will decline, [and] that is not a responsibility this government is prepared to accept."
Mr O'Neill was returned as prime minister after protracted political instability over the country's leadership and a drawn out election process.
He says that costly delay, and an expansion of the government payroll in some provinces, has put PNG's economy under pressure.
But Mr O'Neill says he hopes putting that instability behind them will allow the new government to avoid the pitfalls of previous economic booms.
"I think if we continue to provide good stable leadership at the political level and also improve on the performance of the public service, establishing laws that will protect the revenue stream of our country including, as I said, the Sovereign Wealth Fund, and making sure that we have prudent management of our economy, I think we will be able to overcome many of the mistakes that we have made in the past," he said.
"I strongly believe that this is the golden opportunity for our country to make sure that we correct the mistakes of the past."