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Former PNG PM Mekere Morauta dies

Former Papua New Guinea prime minister Mekere Morauta, credited with introducing key financial and constitutional reforms in the Pacific nation, has died aged 74.

Morauta, who served as PM from 1999 to 2002, died in Brisbane on Saturday after fighting cancer.

Born in 1946 in PNG’s Gulf Province he became the University of PNG’s first economics graduate and filled key public service roles including Secretary for Finance and governor of the central bank.

He became the MP for Moresby Northwest in 1997.

When Morauta became prime minister poor governance and misuse of funds had left government institutions in disarray, while the kina currency was in freefall.

He introduced reforms in banking and the superannuation sector and restructured the public service, laying the foundation for economic growth through the 2000s.

After leaving parliament in 2012 Morauta continued to advocate fiscal prudence and warned about systematic corruption in government.

In 2017 he came out of retirement to again take the Moresby Northwest seat and oppose then prime minister Peter O’Neill who he helped oust in 2019.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape said Sir Mekere in his opinion was “the number one prime minister in the country” and his reforms were bearing fruit for PNG.

“Though his reign was short, his efforts in ensuring that the economy was brought back to life is now seen through the state-owned enterprises and financial reforms.”

Former prime minister Julius Chan told PNG’s Post-Courier newspaper that he had lost a friend and PNG had lost a visionary leader.

O’Neill said he had not always agreed with Morauta but “this does not diminish my respect for his commitment to public service.”

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