Feb 20, 2018 Last Updated 5:27 AM, Feb 19, 2018

PETER O’Neill starts 2018 on a high note with the country’s supreme court removing the threat of court action that has been hovering over his head since 2014. With his arrest warrant for official corruption quashed, the PNG Prime Minister can now concentrate on what is poised to be a crucial year with his hosting in November of APEC that is likely to bring to Port Moresby leaders of this 21-member organisation that will most probably include American President Donald Trump and Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe of Japan and Justin Trudeau of Canada.

Economists are attributing the flurry of construction activities in the lead up to the APEC Summit as a key contributing factor in the 2.2 per cent economic growth rate projected for PNG this year. The O’Neill Government is also hoping to see the progress of the controversial Solwara 1 seabed mining project this year. Despite opposition from local community groups who are backed by NGOs in Australia, the Nautilus Mineral owned project seeks to mine gold and copper in the Bismarck Sea, in PNG’s northeast waters. 

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Airports upgrade for PNG

Project opens up tourism possibiities

PAPUA New Guinea has embarked on an ambitious project to upgrade rural airports in an effort to develop the tourism industry and allow easier access for investors. This will include the construction of international airports at Mount Hagen in the highlands and Lae on the coast.

A new terminal building at Goroka Airport in the Eastern Highlands is nearing completion and with its associated runway improvements will be able to accommodate larger aircraft. International flights will also be possible from Goroka once the US$25million improvement project is completed by Chinese contractor, COVEC. National Airports Corporation, Chief Executive Officer, Richard Yopo, said NAC was committed to improving airport infrastructure throughout the country.

“The project will be funded by the Asian Development Bank and will see the upgrading of the aircraft pavement, a new terminal building and associated works,” he said. COVEC was awarded the contract despite a court action in which it was found guilty of illegally extracting road-building material owned by local landowners...

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PNG spending cutback

PNG spending cutback

STRUGGLING with cash flow problems and high debt burden, the Papua New Guinea government through its 2018 budget has announced new fiscal strategy to stabilise debts and recover from revenue collapse. The government wants to shift its debt from commercial to concessional loans to reduce its high interest costs and hopes the shift will help solve PNG’s longstanding problems with foreign exchange. It has again promised to pursue a US dollar sovereign bond issue, after difficulty finding any market appetite over the previous two years.

It has slashed spending over the previous two years, but is now introducing a 1 billion kina (US$311m) “stimulus package” with a US$31 million State Equity Fund to partner with private investors on agriculture projects. These measures it announced in the budget which it hopes to achieve under three pillars.

As highlighted in a budget analysis by Deloitte, the 2018 Budget is ambitious and looks to implement a medium term fiscal strategy, centred on the following pillars:...

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THE Papua New Guinea Government has finally decided to shut down illegal logging leases that have enriched foreign companies and dispossessed traditional landowners. The decision would put an end to a dubious agriculture and business purposes scheme where an estimated more than 5.2 million hectares of customary land around the country had been alienated for ‘special agriculture activities’ over virgin forest tracts containing tropical hardwoods.

It was estimated that more than 400 leases had been issued over customary land since the early 1980s to 2013. The country’s new Lands Minister, Justin Tkatchenko, has announced a committee to review the 175 controversial Special Agricultural Business Leases (SABL) with objective to cancel the leases. Mr Tkatchenko said a Customary Land Advisory Committee would deal with the SABLs which, he said, was a long-outstanding issue and one that was advertised all around the world.

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About to fall down

PNG - land of the mystic

PAPUA New Guinea marks its independence this month, just weeks after the end of elections. This land of contrast with vast amounts of natural resources has been plagued by corruption and violence for decades. As this edition goes to print, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill faces leadership challenges despite his reelection.

Veteran Pacific journalist, JALE MOALA offers this insight into PNG, Land of the Unexpected. Today I bring you two photos to illustrate the complexities of Papua New Guinea. The first is inside the first gate of our living compound in Waigani, a suburb of Port Moresby that is the heart of the government and city administrations.

I took the photo at about 7.30pm on Friday July 7, 10 minutes after men armed with guns had forced their way into the outer perimeter of our compound and held up our security guards while the rest went after my neighbour as he sat in his car waiting for the second gate to open. They forced my neighbour out at gunpoint, took the car and disappeared into the night as quickly as they had come.

The US State Department says that the crime rate in PNG is among the highest in the world. 

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