FORMER Papua New Guinea prime minister and now the holder of the resource-rich country's purse strings, Finance Minister Sir Julius Chan, butters another slice of village-baked bread, tops it with home-made chutney and hunks of sausage and continues our interview around the luncheon table. ''We have come from Stone Age to now in 50 years. We have grown up, matured, but our rate of growth has been slow. I believe in the next generation we will almost catch up with the developed nations of the world,'' he said. The phone rings - again - and the Minister of Finance dressed in blue shorts and sports shirt attends to the affairs of state between bites of his sandwich. We are in Rabaul, an 80-minute flight from the capital of Port Moresby, and Sir Julius is en route back to his office from a weekend retreat in his constituency of New Ireland where he has been catching up over the weekend with his backlog of work. He arranges a meeting with the Israeli ambassador with his staff and organises a car to meet him in Port Moresby later in the afternoon. He returns to the table and butters another slice of bread. Earlier in the day, said his wife, Stella, they had had to delay the helicopter bringing them to Rabaul for 30 minutes because the bread had not been baked in time. You can do that when you own a 75 per cent share in a small aviation company which serves the many isolated communities in PNG. Sir Julius has been in politics for 25 years, about half of that time in government. Internationally he's the best-known PNG politician after the ''father of the nation'' Sir Michael Somare, who led the country to independence in 1975 with Sir Julius at his side. For some years they have been on opposite sides of the political fence. Right now, he says, its crisis government and he has never had to work so hard. It's a legacy inherited from the previous government which was ousted last year. Some, including his wife, say he is a workaholic. Part of the Chan plan, includes setting up a stock exchange, privatising government assets and selling the government's holdings in resource projects. The plan will allow money to trickle down to increase the delivery and effectiveness of goods and services to the people. Sir Julius is a supporter of the recent report presented to Parliament by the Bipartisan Parliamentary Committee on Provincial Government. If it is adopted, provincial governments will disappear cutting out, the committee believes, widespread corruption,political conflict and bureaucratic incompetence. The committee has said that the distribution of wealth in PNG is such that 85 per cent of the population is virtually excluded from the benefits of resource development. And those resources, gold, copper, and oil are immense. As Minister of Finance he is responsible for harnessing the income from the multi-nationals extracting the resources. And he sees where it is most needed, roads, schools, hospitals, a whole spectrum of social services. Sir Julius himself was brought up in one of the most isolated parts of PNG, the Tanga Islands. Today there are still no roads there, no cars, no electricity. The Catholic Church has a mission there where it runs a school and offers simple social services such as family planning. Family planning, that is, the natural way - although it is not easy for the locals to understand as families of 13 and 14 children are not uncommon. Sir Julius is well known in Tanga, his picture hangs in the mission house. He makes regular financial contributions and his aviation company, Islands Aviation, slashed air fares to affordable prices when it took over the route. ''We have got to bring the masses under one system,'' he said, ''which we have never had before. We can and must do better in every area. ''We are structuring financial institutions so that the people will have access to funds, so that they can help themselves by creating employment and we are injecting mining and oil profits into roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.'' Sir Julius believes PNG could be the food bowl for the Asia-Pacific region. ''We are rich in fish, agricultural produce and timber,'' he said. ''We are still short on investment, short in skills and the transportation system is outdated. We are dealing with a sophisticated world outside, people are talking via satellite and computers, we are still learning how to use the calculator. ''But the people in PNG will learn very fast from here on, and I believe we will catch up overnight which in real terms will be one generation.''