The National, Monday May 18th, 2015
IT IS imperative that cabinet ministers take the lead in driving the Government’s development agenda.
This will ensure that policy initiatives and programmes are fully implemented and that the bureaucracy walks the political talk.
It is a fact that many senior bureaucrats and technocrats are average performers who lack the vision, initiative and motivation to take their departments and agencies to higher levels.
It is therefore encouraging to note that several cabinet ministers have realised that unless they follow Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s lead and aggressively push their Government’s initiatives and programmes, little or nothing will be achieved during their term in office.
At the forefront is Public Enterprises and State Investments Minister Ben Micah, who has been spearheading key reforms for state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Since assuming the ministry in 2012, Micah has been looking for a commercial structure or model that can work for all state businesses.
He has looked at models in several countries and finally settled on Singapore’s Temasak model to maximise wealth.
The state’s commercial assets are currently valued at K20 billion with new business opportunities arising from the liquefied natural gas and mineral resource projects.
Micah realised that SOEs missed out big time during the construction phase of the PNG LNG project and therefore wants to make amends by making their balance sheets stronger through the proposed reforms.
As part of the SOE restructure plans, the Government has recruited former ExxonMobil PNG managing director Peter Graham, former Digicel PNG chief executive John Mangos and former corporate banker Gary Hersey to provide top management expertise to three key state businesses.
Graham has been appointed managing director of Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML), Mangos is now executive director of PNG Power Limited (PPL) and Hersey now heads the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC).
It is Micah’s strong desire to make SOEs more efficient and profitable so the seven million people can fully benefit and not be mere spectators in their own country.
The minister has designed the Kumul structure legislation in such a way that the SOEs can raise funds in the international financial markets.
Micah intends to get the National Executive Council to approve the sale of non-performing assets and invest in good strategic investments that will benefit the people and country.
It is crucial that Micah be given the opportunity and support to deliver the Kumul structure reforms.
He is expected to start with Air Niugini, Telikom PNG and PPL, which turn over roughly 65 per cent of total IPBC consolidated revenue, excluding OTML and National Petroleum Company PNG (NPCP) revenue of more than K1 billion. The time has come for the people to be excited about these reforms, a paradigm shift from the way PNG has been doing business.
Besides the Kumul structure and SOE restructure plans, Micah has been busy globe-trotting to harness international expertise in geothermal and hydro power development.
He is a strong advocate of hydro and geothermal power generation and believes that PNG has great potential to develop this clean, renewable, cheap and reliable energy source.
He admitted last year that the country did not have a clear policy for developing geothermal energy.
“PNG does not have a clear blueprint on energy that we have.
“We don’t have clear policies to develop our resources like geothermal into energy sources.”
According to Micah, the country’s potential geothermal power capacity was 5000 to 6000-megawatts, while hydro was more than 10,000-megawatts.
He is proposing an Islands grid that will fully utilise the geothermal energy sources in East and West New Britain and will focus on providing electricity for the region.
It will join into the Momase and Highlands grids.
He proposes to amend the laws to enable landowners to become shareholders of hydro and geothermal power projects.
So far so good, but Micah is one minister who will not rest on his laurels.
With his finger on the pulse, he is focused and determined to see that all his projects and programmes come to fruition.