David Conn says uncertainty to be dessipated

Business, Normal

The National, Tuesday 3rd January 2012

AS we start another year, it would be fair to say the Port Moresby business community has never quite seen a year that ended as 2011 did. And also fair to say hopefully will not see its like again, although that is by no means certain.
Businesses have, on the whole, remained calm through what have been some of the most tumultuous times in our short history. \
But it is the calmness of the duck swimming on the pond, calm on the surface but a lot of anxiety, strategi­sing and risk planning under the water to stay afloat.
The current scenario is simply not good for business.
It is unsettling even the long termers who thought they had seen everything. Well, our leaders certainly showed us we had seen nothing yet!
PNG faces the challenge of delivering its first LNG project in 2014 and if this industry is to grow and the country to flourish on the back of it, we must deliver.
The reputational risks and potential costs are just too great if we do not. We have several hurdles to get over as an economy until first real revenues come towards the end of the decade-many seem to forget that that is still six to eight years away.
More than ever, we need steady hands on the wheel.
For those who say we have had no constitutional crisis, well the lawyers can debate that ad nauseam.
But it is as close as many of us would want to get.
Very soon in the New Year, we would expect parties who now seem intractably opposed to come to some compromise for the good of the nation.
Some egos need to be subsumed to allow us to move forward. Going into an election with some of these issues not resolved will create havoc in some electorates.
Popular support, much of that within the business community admittedly, is one thing, but it is often fickle and not fully informed and when all else fails we must have our institutions, the pillars of our democratic society, to fall back on.
Mistakes have been made, on both sides of the current political fence, and it is hard to fathom the reasoning behind some of them.
The attempt to call the army out when it was obvious the police force was facing a serious fracture begs belief, given the past levels of animosity that have flared between the two forces.
PNG can be very grateful for the level heads of Commissioner (Tom) Kulunga and Brig-Gen (Francis) Agwi.
The deportation of a prominent businessman just before the Christmas holiday has not sent encouraging signals to the business community. Many of us consider it a shot across the bows of those non-citizens in business and one would have to wonder why the government thought such an action necessary.
The vast majority of our businesses stay a million miles away from PNG politics, most of them do not vote, so what was the fear?
The Migration Act, as many like it around the world do, gives governments draconian powers in dealing with foreigners, but all governments are judged by how they exercise their power.
Where are we heading – is it to be walked softly and carry a big stick or is it power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?
The full facts in the Osborne case will come out in due course hopefully, but the fact remains the heavy-handed and prejudiced way in which his deportation was handled gave him less rights than a bank robber or murderer .
We are better than this!
The last few weeks had created an uncertainty within the city’s business community and that needs to be dissipated swiftly.
In conclusion, one thing we should all take great heart from is the way the ordinary person in our country has reacted to this turmoil.
I doubt there is anywhere in the world where this sort of chaos would not have brought people onto the streets.
Congratulations PNG and we wish each and everyone one of you a safe, just, healthy and prosperous new year in 2012.
n David Conn is the chief executive officer of Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry’