By MALUM NALU
PRIME Minister James Marape has told the world that Papua New Guinea remains open for business and welcomes bona fide international investors to explore opportunities available.
He said this on Friday, Sept 24, 2021, when addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on the PNG economy.
It was PM Marape’s first ever address to the UNGA, and true to form, he made a speech that resounded on the world stage – first with Covid-19 and climate (covered in Part 1 last week) and the other issues concerning PNG.
His address came at a time when the global Covid-19 pandemic has had severe negative impacts on the global economy.
“Economic management for us involves taking stock of where we were, building the structures for reengagement with our international partners, and ensuring that the right enablers are put in place to build and sustain a robust economy,” Marape told world leaders.
“It involves taking stock of our debt portfolios, reprioritising our expenditures, and focusing on important reforms in the utilities sector, infrastructure, education, health and the natural resources.
“It also involved taking a closer look at specific projects in the extractive industry and working with their proponents to see them come on stream.”
Marape said over the last two years, the bulk of PNG’s effort was to ensure that it achieved a fine balance between adherence to all Covid-19 requirements, while at the same time ensuring that the economy was open and functioning.
“Our work in the transparent stock take of our debt portfolios have resulted in attracting strong support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and has provided a very important platform of support from Australia, Japan and other bilateral partners,” he said.
“We acknowledge their support to us at this time. We continue to advocate for the use of our natural resources.
“But the foundational tenet is that the development of these resources is to be done on the premise that all stakeholders have a shared interests in these developments, and these interests are to be fully satisfied within principles of ‘equity and equality’ where we leave no one behind.
“A key area of focus is the substantive investment and development of quality economic infrastructure to link the provinces throughout the country and deliver important services to our citizens countrywide and enhance their socio-economic opportunities.
“We have embarked on an important connectivity programme branded ‘Connect PNG’, which is building and expanding infrastructure assets such as national roads, wharves, jetties, airports, airstrips, punching new road corridors, information and telecommunication network and electricity access to the majority of our population.
“ … we have set targets to increase cash crop production by 30 per cent and also increase livestock production by 30 per cent by 2025 and develop taxation incentives for our local farmers.”
“This is the stimulus for economic transformation for our people. This is done as required by our national constitution and in alignment with the Eight-Point Plan, PNG Vision 2050, Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030, Medium-Term Plan III 2018-2022 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) to better deliver socio-economic prosperity for the country and become a middle-income country by 2050.”
PM Marape told world leaders that growth for PNG continued to be off the back of the petroleum, energy and mining sectors, which contributed around 60 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“We continue to advocate for these developments to take place, and do as much as we can, as hard as we can to advocate for important policies in those sectors,” he said.
“Our policies on developments in the extractive sector have begun to be cognizant of the diminishing financing envelope from external sources such as loans and grants.
“At the same time, we have had to move towards better management of our national public debt.
“We strongly recognise the importance of generating sufficient revenue from domestic sources, to complement external budget support, for our national development priorities, as called for under the General Assembly’s 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Financing for Development Framework.
“It is in this spirit that my government has embarked on reviewing and reforming our legislation and policies in the resources sector to ensure appropriate levels of national content in projects and to facilitate fair and equitable returns for all stakeholders with shared interests. At the same time, we continue to value, respect and uphold our partnership obligations with the private sector in our natural resources sector. We remain open for business and therefore welcome bona fide international investors to join us in exploring opportunities available in my country.”
Marape said PNG continued to enjoy the partnership with important multilateral financial institutions.
“Let me take a moment to thank the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank and our valued bilateral partners including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India, European Union and the United States for supporting my government’s development priorities,” he told world leaders.
“It would be remiss of me not to also acknowledge the excellent work undertaken under the leadership of the prime ministers of Canada and Jamaica, and the UN secretary-general, for financing for development needed particularly in developing countries to recover and build back from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“A call, Papua New Guinea strongly supports.”
PM Marape said his government had prioritised investment in the agriculture sector as an engine of economic growth and prosperity for the country.
“The strategic interventions are a combination of credit scheme, freight and price subsidies, which have helped broaden the scope and reach of agricultural production,” he said.
“This will not only help broaden the tax base and generate additional revenue the country needs for development, but also more importantly, improve our rural communities’ lives and livelihoods and enable them to be proactive nation builders.
“Our largely rural-based economy is dependent on subsistence agriculture. It is my government’s desire to transform the agriculture sector into a reliable, commercial, sustainable food system that will address food security and climate resilience as well as conservation and management of our vast biodiversity.
“To support this, we have set targets to increase cash crop production by 30 per cent and also increase livestock production by 30 perc ent by 2025 and develop taxation incentives for our local farmers.
“Additionally, these include the formulation of an agriculture and livestock diversification plan by 2025 and our efforts to increase down-stream processing by 30 per cent in 2025 and ensure local landowners and provincial governments participate in equity sharing and downstream business spin-offs.
Marape said PNG’s efforts in the agriculture sector tied in well with the important global efforts under the UN Food Systems Summit, convened virtually the previous day by the UN secretary-general.
“For Papua New Guinea, we have identified five key priority actions that forms our national pathway to transform our food systems in ways that will build a sustainable, equitable, resilient, and healthier food system in our country,” he said.
“These details were shared in our national statement at the Food Systems Summit.
“However, I would underline that my country with its arable and abundant land, has the potential to serve as a food basket for the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, particularly at a time when food security around the world is now being threatened by the ravages of climate change, sea-level rise and other crises.
“We therefore welcome multi-stakeholder partnership and investment to transform our organic food systems to support address the global challenges relating to hunger, poverty, malnutrition, and food security that foster better health outcomes for our peoples and communities and to deliver on the SDGs.”
The third and final part next week focuses on other issues raised by PM Marape at the United Nations General Assembly
- Malum Nalu works with the Office of the Prime Minister