OVER the past month, several articles were published in the letters to editor column regarding the LNG project and I refer to the one titled “LNG project is good for Hela and PNG” (The National, Sept 14) by William Pando.
Many of the writers commented about the good things that will come out of this project such as employment and business opportunities, more than doubling of the gross domestic product and so forth.
I agree with the positive externalities and the on-coming improvements as forecasted statistically.
However quantifying economic variables and demographic indicators do not guarantee its materialisation and that is for sure as history has taught as well.
We know from past experiences and learnt from other countries where similar investments were undertaken.
The term “Dutch disease” described well the paradox of LNG project and it has been discussed well by academics and qualified economist since the inception of this project.
I write not as an academic or a professional but as a simple citizen who has lived long enough in Tari to see and feel the effect and impact of this project.
Some of the things I observed that would contradict claims by writers like William Pando and others are:
1. Applicants from Heal are marginalised and disadvantage because they do not have the necessary facilities, such as post office, fax and e-mail to expedite their applications. Failure by the landowners and our elected leaders to negotiate recruitment avenue and recruitment consultants had given us no choice but to apply back in Port Moresby;
2. Most of the sub-contracts are given to foreign-based companies, the five EPCs and subcontracting of small scale consultancy works by the EPCs have all been taken up by people from other provinces;
3. Only the landowners will have access to funds such as royalties and equity while the bulk of the population will continue to live their normal lives;
4. Inflation caused by the massive cash flow will affect the bulk of the Hela population severely than the landowners and the so-called middle men feeding from scraps of the capitalist cowboys;
5. There will be an unprecedented increase in disease and social-related problems due to uncontrolled influx of people. The foreseeable benefits of the LNG project have attracted people from all over the country; and
6. Innocent Hela people will be the target along the Highlands Highway and other provinces as people will think they are all landowners.
Let me remind you that I am not being pessimistic about this project.
I fully support this project but I believe in a pragmatic approach.
However, let us not be over excited and build castles in the air, rather we should put our heads together to ensure that the foreseeable benefits materialise.
We should also be prepared with counteractive measures to ramify the negative externalities.