Overseas food bill to rise to feed LNG workforce

National, Normal


PAPUA New Guinea will continue to import foodstuff and vegetables to feed between 15,000 and 16,000 workers engaged in the multi-billion kina LNG project.
Small to medium enterprises (SMEs), which are set to mushroom during the construction phase and during the project life, will continue to be run by foreigners. Jobs will also be dominated by skilled foreigners.
These concerns were raised by the parliamentary bipartisan committee investigating the anti-Asian riots in May.
Committee members conducting the inquiry yesterday included chairman Jamie Maxtone-Graham, Lagaip-Porgera MP Philip Kikala, Sohe MP Anthony Nene and Wosera-Gawi MP Ronald Asik
Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) officials, in giving evidence, admitted that PNG was not ready in terms of taking up opportunities in SMEs.
SBDC, an organisation that comes under the Commerce and Industry Department, has been tasked to promote and empower Papua New Guineans in small business opportunities.
SBDC acting executive officer Kila Oli and caretaker managing director Diri Kobla made submissions that capacity and staffing issues had been an ongoing problem for them.
Mr Oli told the inquiry that SBDC lacked the capacity to carry out surveys on the number of SMEs in NCD and other centres.
He said although there was no data on the number of SMEs, it is common knowledge that Asians have taken over kai bars, tyre service and small businesses once reserved for Papua New Guineans.
He said the reserve activities list, which was done away with in 2004, should be reinstalled to protect Papua New Guineans in small business.
Mr Kikala raised the issue that the LNG project was coming on stream and SMEs would mushroom and asked whether SBDC was aware of this.
Mr Oli, in response, said the organisation was aware of the LNG project but did not have the funding, capacity and manpower to run with it.
He said Papua New Guinean small businesses were limited and the organisation was encouraging landowner companies into joint venture with foreign companies.
“We are not ready to work on our own, we have to work in joint venture with multi-nations.”
Mr Maxtone-Graham said State entities and Government departments had revealed that they also faced similar problems.
“Our people will continue to miss out and I believe priority should be given to your organisation (SBDC) to empower Papua New Guineans to grab the small business opportunities,” he said.