After Apec: Where to now, PNG?


PAPUA New Guinea recently hosted one of the most expensive and lavish events since our independence, last year’s Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM).
We have argued over the costs and benefits of this event, especially the opportunity cost to improving basic government services and infrastructures in the rural and provincial centres.
The immediate benefits of hosting Apec were to be felt by those clustered to the hosting process.
However, the real and desired benefit is envisioned to be in the medium to long term and is a process which will involve policy and institutional reforms to create a more conducive environment for business and investment to thrive.
Let us not forget Apec is all about trade and investment. And how PNG as an economy can attract the right types of investments or have ease of trading products across the borders within the Apec region and beyond.
Given the huge cost implications one would expect the government to be serious and critical of reforms that undermines PNG’s position as an attractive place to do business and investment as business and investment are the prescribed ways we can reap the rewards and benefits that will presumably outweigh the costs.
This brings to fore my dismay of news coming from the corridors of Waigani about a proposed bill that will overhaul the FDI (foreign direct investment) landscape in PNG.
This is the Foreign Investment Review Authority (FIRA) Bill that when passed will dismantle the functions of the IPA.
The intention and focus of the bill on SMEs and national content is noble and responsible by the government.
The question is how much has the government done in terms of supporting SMEs to develop and prosper under the SME policy.
We cannot restrict foreign direct investment and at the same time not do enough to develop our SMEs.
It leaves a vacuum and missed opportunities.
The IPA is already a capable institution that is one of the best-performing institutions in the public sector.
I cannot fathom the idea of creating new institutions, especially at a time when the government is rolling out the Public Sector Reform Agenda aimed at removing duplication of functions and improving service delivery.
We carried significant costs in hosting Apec last year so why politicise domestic reforms that will have a negative effect on our economy and eventually deny the flow of post-Apec benefits?

Desmond @ Konedobu