The National, Monday 13th May 2013
AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Papua New Guinea is going through a period of unmatched opportunities in economic growth.
Addressing a Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby last Friday, she expressed great confidence in PNG’s future.
“Eleven straight years of growth, the third fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific in 2011, the fifth fastest in 2012,” Gillard told more than 350 people.
“This is a formidable record and perhaps one not widely enough appreciated in the wider world.
“The links between our business communities are so important to this success and where the work you all do matters so much.
“As the PNG economy has grown, the economic relationship between Australia and PNG has grown.
“Over the past five years, two-way trade has increased rapidly to more than K16 billion.
“The balance of trade stands by more than A$1 billion dollars in Papua New Guinea’s favour.
“Australian investment, which has grown five-fold over five years to more than K41 billion, shows the confidence Australian business has in this country.
“Perhaps no single project better symbolises the promise of economic development than the PNG LNG project.
“It is a K40 billion statement that our economic futures are tied to each other, a project which will create jobs and growth for our peoples for decades to come.
“For PNG, the project holds the promise of up to US$150 billion in returns over its estimated 30-year life.
“For Australian business, the project has already meant US$3 billion in new contracts.
“This is why both the Australian and PNG governments continue to work to get the greatest possible benefit for our peoples from our growing economic ties.”
Gillard said in 2011, Australia agreed to negotiate an economic cooperation treaty with PNG.
“The treaty – to be signed later this year – will place our economic relationship on a new footing as full and active partners,” she said.
“Our ministers also maintain a strong dialogue with our business communities through the Papua New Guinea-Australia Business Forum.
“Since 2012, officials and business representatives have met regularly to further strengthen business links.
“Of special importance was our agreement at the 2012 meeting to simplify the visa application process for Papua New Guinea citizens.
“The number of visitor visas granted has now increased by 25% in the past year alone.
“We regularly exceed our 10-day clearing time and we remain on track to deliver online visa lodgement for PNG tourism and business visitors to Australia by mid-year.
“This is a very important development for PNG and Australian business: the PNG online visitor visa will finally be introduced in a number of weeks.”