By MALUM NALU
PRIME Minister James Marape, pictured, is meeting all his Cabinet members today to brief them on their tasks and what he expects from them to deliver to Papua New Guineans.
He said he would soon name the three vice-ministers to help Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Simon to implement policies and projects aimed at boosting the agriculture sector and industry.
Marape stressed that the agriculture sector would be his Government’s development focus to drive Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s economy to benefit the people nationwide.
“Agriculture is PNG’s biggest economic sector involving the majority of our citizens. Transforming it into an efficient, productive and robust global revenue earner will naturally benefit them and country.
“This, we can achieve with competent, effective and aggressive policies and projects that stimulate and complement agriculture activities and growth,” he told The National in his maiden exclusive media interview yesterday.
Marape said PNG’s law-and-order woes would also need to be addressed with significant success “if we want to grow our tourism industry and boost our international forex standing”.
He also revealed that his Government would prioritise the revival of PNG’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO).
“NIO has been dormant for far too long. We need to consolidate both domestic and international security,” he added.
Marape said he was implementing an immediate and unprecedented three-pronged initiative to boost the agriculture sector and industry by appointing three vice-ministers to back the task of Simon and his ministry.
“I will be naming the vice-ministers for coffee, livestock and the other crops such as cocoa and copra,” he said.
Simon has been advised to fast-track the appointment of a permanent secretary for the department.
The position had been vacant since the term of former secretary Dr Vele Ila’va expired last year
Marape said the Government’s other key economic focuses for PNG’s socio-economic growth would be tourism, forestry and fisheries but “my view is that agriculture is the biggest driver with majority and direct participation of the people”.
“It is not rocket science and our people have been agriculturalists for centuries. It is just about changing, adopting and implementing modern effective and realistic commercialisation measures,” he added.
“In short, it is about building and developing a supply chain system to optimise the returns from our fresh agriculture produce that Papua New Guineans worked on their land.”
“PNG can be divided into an agricultural map. Some areas have coffee, some have cocoa, copra, good food, and there is also livestock.
“Many of the coffee plantations in the Highlands are rundown right now. It is the same story for cocoa and coconut plantations in the coastal areas.
“My No1 task as PM is to obtain the European Union grant to develop the cocoa industry in Mamose. Into the future, this (agriculture) is the strength of our country.”
Marape said industrialisation would take place eventually, “but we need to have an economic case to provide the impetus for progress”.
“We’ve been an agricultural nation long before the arrival of Kutubus, Ok Tedis, Porgeras and Lihirs.
“While coffee, cocoa, copra and oil palm were the mainstay of agriculture, organic food and livestock had huge growth potential, especially to the lucrative Asian market.
“These are agriculture produce and products that can put PNG in the international market or world map. It is a no-brainer, just a little training and education, and our people will be on the ground to contribute to nation building and themselves.”
By MALUM NALU