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PNG Prime Minister Bill Skate resigns.

SYDNEY, July 7 Kyodo

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Bill Skate announced his resignation in Port Moresby on Wednesday, saying he was stepping down to maintain political stability and assure foreign investors. Skate's resignation occurred just two days after he signed a controversial deal that accorded full diplomatic recognition to Taiwan. Skate denied that his resignation had anything to do with regional backlash over the deal with Taiwan. China and Australia objected to Papua New Guinea's switch to recognize Taipei and severe ties with Beijing. "I am resigning basically to stabilize politics," he told reporters in Port Moresby. "I am trying to give investors the confidence that the government does not need to be changed." Skate denied that he was pressured by members of his cabinet to step down. "We have looked at all the options, it is the best decision," he said. Skate faced a no-confidence motion when the parliament convenes Tuesday. He was widely tipped to lose. In announcing his resignation, Skate accused his political allies of betrayal. He mentioned the recent defection of the government's coalition partner, the People's Democratic Movement, to the opposition. On Monday, Skate and Taiwan Premier Vincent Siew met in Taipei and their foreign ministers signed a mutual recognition agreement. The agreement made Papua New Guinea the 29th country to establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Under the deal, Papua New Guinea is reported to have asked Taiwan for financial assistance of around 2.5 billion dollars. A Papua New Guinea government spokesman said Skate's resignation would have no immediate effect on the country's diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, which is a matter to be taken up by the new prime minister. In Taipei, Foreign Minister Jason Hu said Skate presented a different picture about his country's domestic political situation when secretly visiting Taipei earlier this week to finalize the diplomatic recognition agreement. Prior to the deal, Skate had been under increasing pressure to raise funds for the Papua New Guinea economy, which has been struggling under an enormous budget deficit, a severe drought and the impact of a devastating tidal wave last year. Both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have refused to lend money to Papua New Guinea, citing the government's failure to implement reforms tackling economic mismanagement and corruption. Papua New Guinea University Emeritus Professor Jim Griffin said in Canberra that while Skate's deal with Taiwan would have improved his numbers in the parliament, Skate must have realized he could not win the confidence vote. Griffin predicted Skate would be succeeded by People's Democratic Movement leader Mekere Morauta, a former central bank governor. Morauta will probably reverse the deal with Taiwan and try to re-engage the IMF, Griffin said. Skate said he would hand in his resignation to Papua New Guinea Governor General Silas Atopare at 10 a.m. Thursday and remain acting prime minister until a new one can be chosen by parliament when it resumes next week. Skate has been prime minister since June 1997, when he defeated Julius Chan in a general election.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jul 12, 1999
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