By DALE LUMA
PRIVATE investment drives economic activity and generates jobs, says the Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker.
Barker told The National that unduly restraining it with unproductive red tape and unrealistic impositions on the part of the Government would merely drive off investment.
He said addressing PNG’s economic woes over the next few years would require investment and growth with government emphasis on economic diversification and broad-based opportunities in the formal and informal sectors, in old and new industries, including new agricultural activities, greater value adding and improved supply chains and activities such as e-commerce.
Currently, the Government has good relations with a wide range of development partners, according to Barker.
“This has seen it securing major grant funding from Australia, the European Union, Japan, the US and New Zealand and critical concessional finance from the World Bank, ADB (Asian Development Bank) and potentially the IMF (International Monetary Fund), as well as China, South Korea, Ifad (International Fund For Agricultural Development) and others,” he said.
“The support is going to both budget assistance as well as core programmes in agriculture, governance, the environment and administration.
“These are critical in this difficult time, but with the major revenue shortfall, even with their support it will be a difficult year, including for the government in playing its part in easing the economic burden.”
Barker highlighted that the Government had to make substantive moves to improve:
- The use and accountability over public funds and removes some of the serious prevailing impediments to sound business investment, related to corruption (including over secure land title, and in public procurement);
- Access to foreign exchange;
- Reliable and affordable infrastructure and services, including telecommunications;
- Realistic requirements, including costs for investment entry;
- Proactive measures to encourage employment generation;
- Support for startups and use of local business skills, including in ICT; and,
- Support for infrastructure and skill development relevant for the formal and informal sectors, especially agriculture and post-harvest, and nutrition. Barker
“That’s all a big ask, and in recent times we seem to have been moving in the wrong direction,” Barker said.
“However, the Government has been driving some critical policy and legislative reforms in the governance area in recent months.
“But these won’t be effective unless there’s a much more concerted government and public demand and willingness to actually implement positive and urgent reform, and curtailing some of the more unrealistic or strident demands to locally control most businesses, or to impose burdensome impediments to genuine foreign investment.”