By YEHIURA HRIEHWAZI
AUSTRALIANS were asked to help with the management of the large inflow of revenue from the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project because Papua New Guineans do not trust each other, Public Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare said.
“I’ve invited the Australians to look over my shoulders,” Somare told The National at Brisbane airport en route to Melbourne for the PNG-Australia LNG ministerial meeting last Thursday.
The meeting was held to discuss the establishment of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) as a vehicle to manage revenue flows to the government from the PNG LNG project.
He said Papua New Guineans were quite capable of managing the inflow of large amounts of revenue from 2014 but, for purposes of accountability and transparency, Australians were invited to “look over our shoulders”.
“The involvement of Australians would also help to further boost PNG’s international credibility rating.
“Papua New Guineans also did not trust each other to manage the funds. Therefore, the involvement of Australians should allay fears of inappropriate application and expenditures … I may not be around by then,” he quipped.
The official delegation to Melbourne included Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Sam Abal, National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, Public Services Minister Peter O’Neill, Commerce and Industry Minister Gabriel Kapris and a team of senior bureaucrats.
In a pre-talks statement, Somare said the ministerial delegation would discuss possible Australian assistance for the creation of a transparent governance regime covering taxes and dividends received by the PNG government from the LNG project.
“The government needs to have these measures in place before the LNG revenue starts to flow in about five years’ time,” Somare said.
Under a joint understanding signed with the Australian government late last year, PNG requested that Australia help set up an effective and transparent governance regime for the LNG project revenue to provide international credibility for a challenging undertaking.