Investment Opportunities in Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY - Investment opportunities in Papua New Guinea was the flavour of the week at the various business-related conferences in Port Moresby but deteriorating infrastructure continues to be an obstacle to development.

Participants at the Australia-PNG Business Forum were given an insight on how the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG Project continued to be challenged by the appalling state of the Highlands Highway early in the week.

However Prime Minister Peter O’Neill seized the occasion to highlight the significance of his Government allocating a large chunk of its budget on infrastructure.

“We are committing K12.1 billion over five years, starting this year, towards a national building infrastructure investment program,” he said.“This is the first time any government has made a five-year commitment to developing vital infrastructure,” he told the conference participants.

Setting the scene at the summit for his ministers and the technocrats, observers said the Minister for Planning, Monitoring and District Development Charlie Abel and senior officials from the departments of Treasury, Transport and PNG Ports Corporation also “spoke the same language” in their presentations, but drawing from their own experiences as policy formulators and implementers.

There appeared to be consensus at the summit’s conclusion that the O’Neill Government was willing to work with the private sector to improve infrastructure as well as engage it in the development of Kumul Holdings Limited, the entity under which all state assets will be consolidated.

While infrastructure was the focus for the two-day Australia-PNG Business Forum, the arrival of a Fijian trade delegation that culminated with Vodafone Fiji taking over the management of Bemobile became the talk of the town.

Under the terms of the agreement, PNG’s Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC) and the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) will together inject $180.1 million into the local mobile phone operator, in a bid to capitalise on PNG’s lucrative and growing mobile phone market as well as compete effectively with Irish-owned Digicel.

Deluxe footwear, Fiji’s biggest shoe retailer which was part of the trade delegation that visited Port Moresby, also indicated that they are looking for a distributor in PNG.

Despite the Bank of Papua New Guinea (BPNG) recently forecasting a slowdown in the PNG economy with the construction phase and spinoff-activities relating to the PNG LNG Project winding down, the country’s unprecedented growth continues to attract global attention. PNG will be the backbone of a UK government-established ‘Pacific Business UK’, a business forum to unite entrepreneurs who have an interest in investment opportunities in Pacific Island states.

Hugo Swire, the UK Minister of State and Commonwealth Office, said a Port Moresby-based UK trade and investment officer will oversee the running of the forum, which besides trade can also act as a conduit to strengthen historical and cultural links between the UK and the Pacific. [IslandBusiness]
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