The National, Monday July 22nd, 2013
WESTERN Province is among the least developed regions of Papua New Guinea although it hosts one of the largest copper mines in the Southern Hemisphere.
Despite the billions of kina that the Ok Tedi mine has contributed to the national coffers over the years, economic development has come in dribs and drabs for this large and isolated province.
While other resource-rich provinces are undergoing socioeconomic transformation, time seems to have stood still in Western with the majority of its people continuing to live as their ancestors did.
There is little tangible development throughout the province with hardly any road networks, bridges, sea ports and other key infrastructure. Even the provincial capital of Daru, in the underdeveloped South Fly district, is little more than the government outpost it was during the colonial era.
It seems that successive national governments have only been interested in reaping the benefits from the giant Ok Tedi mine without giving Western a bigger slice of the national cake.
Amid this doom and gloom, the PNG Sustainable Development Programme (PNGSDP) has been a shining light for the province and its people. And this bright star is now shining on other provinces around the country.
PNGSDP is a unique organisation that is directing the substantial profits from the Ok Tedi mine into a range of short, medium and longterm development projects in Western and other provinces.
It promotes development that meets the needs of the present generation and establishes the foundations for future generations of Papua New Guineans.
PNGSDP derives its income from 63.4% of the annual dividend of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) to which it is entitled as its major shareholder. One third of this income goes into its development fund while the remaining two thirds are placed into a longterm fund for use after the eventual demise of the mine.
PNGSDP is a national entity but incorporated in Singapore as a not-for-profit limited liability company. It operates in PNG as an overseas company.
Its three main functions are:
- To support and promote sustainable development through projects and initiatives to benefit Papua New Guinea, especially the people of Western Province;
- To prudently manage its long term and development funds in order to maximise development expenditure, and;
- To ensure the sound commercial operations of OTML, manage related environmental and social issues and sustain the infrastructure established by OTML for broader social and economic development beyond the closure of the mine.
PNGSDP’s vision for Western is for it to be recognised as a model for equitable socioeconomic development in PNG by 2020, and for new industries to replace the mine.
PNGSDP’s projects must be sustainable and benefit the majority of people; its projects must be in partnership with government, non-governmental or donor agencies and projects must be located in provinces with good governance status.
PNGSDP has spent K1.3 billion, or one-third of its total income, on impact projects throughout the country.
The balance has been locked away in low-risk investments.
This is indeed a massive investment that will enhance development and growth within the country.
The board and management of PNGDSDP must be hailed for its outstanding efforts that complement the government’s development plans and budget.
Naturally, Western has been the largest recipient of PNGSDP funding assistance totalling K718 million for impact projects that range from communication and rural electrification to rubber and barramundi fishery projects.
Among the current major projects in the province is the K40 million Daru Port development and the K60 million Purari River hydro electric scheme on the border of Western and Gulf.
Other provinces that have benefitted from PNGSDP project funding are: Central, K75 million; Bougainville, K62m; East New Britain, K50m; Gulf, K16m; West Sepik, K16m; Northern, K14m and Madang, K13m.
Indeed, PNGSDP has become a shining example of a development fund that is truly at the heart of this nation.