Move to reclaim small businesses

Main Stories, National

The National, Monday 13th Febuary 2012

THE National Development Bank, backed by multi-million kina funding from the government, has launched a new campaign to return control of the nation’s small business sector to Papua New Guineans.
Bank managing director Richard Maru said in a statement it was an “eye sore” and a crime against the people that 90% of retail shops, particularly trade stores and food bars, were being run by foreign nationals and migrants.
“These foreign nationals are now going into districts, including remote districts to run and operate shops while our people remain spectators because of a lack of empowerment and encouragement from successive governments,” he said.
Maru, who has a distinguished business career since earning a Masters in Business Administration from Bath University, Britain, said the situation was compounded by a lack of clear laws and policies against such takeovers of what was once a restricted business.
Indigenous concerns about the near monopoly of the formal business sector by foreign nationals were highlighted at a small businesses summit attended by more than 800 people in Kokopo last year.
Prompted by this, the bank, with the government chiming in K130 million, made a decision to reintroduce the Stret Pasin Stoa scheme.
“This scheme is about how we will reclaim our birthright and get back what we should rightfully be getting as Papua New Guineans,” Maru said.
“What we are saying now is our citizens should not be leasing their shops to foreigners, we should not allow them to come in and build shops or give our land away.
“Those sorts of businesses in the small enterprises sector should be left to Papua New Guineans.”
The aim of the bank is to replace all non-citizen trade stores and kai bar operators by citizen ow­ners and operators through encouraging Papua New Guineans not to lease their properties to non-citizens.
Maru said in a radio interview last Friday that “we should be encouraging government to de-licence them, and we are even looking for laws to restrict these businesses to only Papua New Guineans”.
Under the scheme, successful applicants will receive up to 100% funding for them to take over or build new shops, bakeries and kai bars, restaurants or lease existing kai bars.
Maru said the bank would bring in experts to write up manuals, train the successful applicants and mentor them for six or seven years until they paid off their loans and took over the shop.
With the scheme now being available, Maru said “hundreds upon hundreds of Papua New Guineans are now raising their hands to go into these businesses”.
“We may not be able to get rid of all our foreign friends overnight but we are going to make a start.
“For those who want to go, we will have the money to fund the takeover of their shops and there are some who want to go.”
He said foreign nationals running small businesses needed to accept the idea they needed to leave and “they need to accept that and understand that”.
“These are businesses which should be left to Papua New Guineans to run.
“Now that we have the empowerment, we will have to ask them to graciously leave over time.
“We cannot go to China tomorrow (as) Papua New Guineans (and) just walk in and start up a trade store there tomorrow.
“They need to understand that. That’s the wishes and aspirations of our people.
“We can no longer accept this anymore,” Maru said.
To enrol in the scheme, applicants must be aged between 25 and 45 years, have at least Grade 10 education, been running their own businesses or in employment for at least five years, have sober habits, show drive and ambition, have a stable family history, be a husband and wife team, have no previous criminal record and be medically fit.