Forestry Minister Says Small Island Developing States are Critical for PNG
by PNG Business News - October 11, 2021
Photo credit: Papua New Guinea Mine Watch - Walter Schnaubelt
Minister for Forestry Walter Schnaubelt stated that discussions on renewable energy transitions and financial access alternatives for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are critical for PNG.
Schnaubelt was speaking at the World Expo 2020 in Dubai when the Energy Transition Accelerator funding platform was launched.
He stated that Papua New Guinea, like other signatories to the Paris Agreement, is committed to taking action to address climate change adaptation while also contributing to global efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
“PNG submitted ambitious Adaptation and Mitigation commitments in its enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in December 2020 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Our mitigation commitments focus on the two largest emitting sectors and these are the Energy and the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sectors,” Schnaubelt said.
In terms of energy obligations, Schnaubelt stated, "We intend to generate 78 per cent of power from renewable energy sources by 2030."
“The plan has been revised and harmonised. It will be launched on October 8 2021, during this Climate change and biodiversity thematic week, back in Papua New Guinea.
The highlights will also include the launch of the Climate Change (Management) NDC Regulation (2021) and the NDC Implementation Plan Roadmaps for the Electricity and AFOLU sector,” he said.
He went on to say that these pledges represent PNG's efforts to address climate change consequences and that the country has identified a number of renewable energy projects worth more than USD100 million to help with sustainable development, especially in rural communities.
The issue, according to Schnaubelt, is to obtain money as well as the necessary technical assistance in the packaging and execution of these projects. As a result, the NDC pledges are conditional and contingent on the availability of international technical and financial assistance.
Reference: Post-Courier (7 October 2021). “Renewable Energy Transitions And Financial Access Options Important”.
PNG Business News - April 29, 2021
Parliament Passes Energy Bill
The National Energy Authority Bill, 2020 was passed by the National Parliament with an overwhelming majority of 73 to 0. The National Energy Authority Bill was created to control renewable and non-renewable energy production, storage, delivery, and retailing. The Act will also cover the following functions: Governing the oil market by overseeing the implementation and implementation of rules, legislation, and policies. Levies, fines, tariffs, and other charges are received and collected. Responsibilities for energy research and development in order to put energy policy and legislation into practice The aim of the Act Administer the National Electrification System is to approve the corporate policies of subsidiary corporations and affiliates Administrate the National Electrification Trust Funds The Bill for an Act to Reform the Electricity Industry Act 2020 was also passed. The National Energy Authority 2020 and the Electricity Industry Act Amendment Bill 2020, according to Minister for Energy and Rural Infrastructure Saki Soloma, are the culmination of the work undertaken so far in restructuring the energy market. He said that the passed Act of Parliament would create energy and electricity industry legislation for the energy sector in general. According to him, the National Energy Authority Bill 2020 establishes a robust and equitable legislative framework, with fines imposed on those that violate the Act and regulations. He went on to say that the Electricity Industry Act (Amendment Bill) contained consequential changes to the Electricity Industry Act, allowing the National Energy Authority Act, which was passed by Parliament, to go into effect right away. The National Energy Authority Bill 2020 is based on the same model used for the establishment of stationary authorities such as the National Fisheries Authority, National Information and Communication Technology Authority, and others, according to the explanatory notice. It specifies that the National Energy Authority is a policy and regulatory agency, not a commercial institution, as stated in the Act. PNG Power Limited will no longer be an economic or technological authority and the NEA will conduct the licensing and technical functions that were formerly handled by PNG Power Limited.
PNG Business News - May 04, 2021
Australia Supports Electrification for PNG
The Australian government has decided to contribute $US90 million (K315 million) to the Marape government's top-priority Edevu Transmission and Electrification program. The Edevu hydropower plant, which is based in Sogeri, is part of the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership, which seeks to reach 70 per cent electrification across the country by 2030 with the support of Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Japan. Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey praised the announcement, calling it a major step forward for the Marape government's electrification efforts. “With only 13 per cent of the nation connected to power, this is a very important and ambitious project,” he said. “We know that the original announcement was made at the APEC meeting. This was a good announcement. But it is one thing to make big announcements and cut ribbons. “Support from our international friends and allies is critical, and I am grateful that Australia, through the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, is coming to the party.” Ling-Stuckey stated that the discovery would be on favourable terms, with a $US18 million grant portion (K65 million). The money will be on-loaned to PNG Power Ltd, pending NEC clearance. The Edevu project would have the required infrastructure to link modern hydropower generation to the Port Moresby Grid, allowing diesel generation to be replaced at a lower cost and with less environmental impact. It will also allow for the upgrade of substations to improve grid stability. PPL will now be able to purchase and mount smart meters in consumer premises as part of the funding. Taxes, duties, levies, and fees on supplies, utilities, and facilities available for the project would be exempted as part of the Marape government's contribution.
PNG Business News - March 11, 2021
Puma Energy Concerned About Shortage of Forex
Puma Energy PNG Ltd is concerned about a shortage of foreign currency (forex) to import crude oil in a timely manner, according to country manager and director Hulala Tokome. The business paid for its crude supplies when forex was available on the market, he said. Tokome added that the availability of forex had influenced the crude oil purchase schedule, also commenting on oil prices, citing Platts as a source. According to Tokome, oil prices for February have been steadily rising. Platts is a source of benchmark price assessments in the physical energy markets and a provider of energy and metal knowledge. “Hence, we will have an increase in prices for March as the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) pricing structure is based on Mean of Platts (MOP) Singapore prices for the prior month,” Tokome said. “There is a one month lag on pricing effect. “All eyes will be on the Opec (Organisation of petroleum exporting countries) meeting. Their decision to increase crude oil production or not will determine which direction prices will go. There is strong market optimism around global demand returning on the back of vaccine rollouts.” Many countries have begun to announce plans to phase out lockdowns, he said, and the warmer weather could help support demand. “With this, prices should continue to trend upwards,” Tokome said. Brent rates are currently at US$64/bbl (K220.95/barrel of oil), according to Tokome.
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Australia buys Digicel, PNG’s mobile monopoly
Photo credit: Devpolicy by Stephen Howes Yesterday, Telstra announced that it was buying Digicel Pacific. Telstra itself is only paying $270 million, and the Australian government $1.33 billion. Yet, Telstra is obtaining 100% ownership. The deal is certainly an attractive one for Telstra. But does it make sense for Australia, and for the Pacific? Digicel has had a transformational impact in the Pacific, but now has too much market power. As the Telstra release explains, it holds the dominant position in all the Pacific countries in which it operates, except for Fiji, where it is in second place. In Papua New Guinea, which I know best, and which is by far Digicel's biggest market, the company has a 92% share of the mobile phone market. That makes Digicel effectively a monopoly in PNG. And that is why it is so profitable: like any monopolist, it exploits its market power. Australian and PNG researchers have been tracking mobile internet prices in PNG since Australia gifted it a new underwater cable . Their conclusion is that since the completion of that cable in December 2019 to today there has been no decrease in mobile internet prices. The reason is simple: the lack of retail competition. Michelle Nayahamui Rooney, Martin Davies and I last year exposed Digicel PNG’s predatory loan scheme. Digicel lends phone credit to its customers. They pay it back when they next top up. Our estimate is that Digicel made a 17% return from such loans every week, which is equivalent to an unbelievable 351200% a year. Is this really the way in which Australia want to engages in the Pacific – owning an enterprise that keeps prices high for consumers, and rips them off when they are desperate to make a call? Any monopolist is necessarily engaged in a battle between the consumer and their profits. At some point, Telstra will end up going toe-to-toe with the PNG telecom regulator, NICTA, as Digicel has done several times. It’s going to be awkward for both Telstra and the Australian government. Many will welcome the investment as a sign of Australian commitment to the Pacific. However, if we want to invest in the telecom sector in the Pacific, we should be backing alternatives to Digicel, to push prices down and improve services, not buying out the dominant player. Amalgamated Telecom Holdings based in Fiji is the Pacific’s second biggest telecom provider. It is currently planning to enter the PNG mobile market with support from the Asian Development Bank. This is the sort of investment we should be financing. That Australia has bought Digicel shows the extent to which the Pacific is now viewed through a China lens. That’s unfortunate. China is a massive economic power. Its companies will have increasing stakes in economies around the world. That is a fact we have to accept. The Australian government also needs to decide if its only goal is to counter China or if it is still seeks to promote Pacific development. When I was AusAID's Chief Economist, Digicel was the new kid on the block in the Pacific, and it was successfully challenging state-owned telcos that until then had been dominant. In 2006, in Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's flagship Pacific 2020 report, we wrote glowingly about the competition that various Pacific countries had recently started allowing in the mobile phone sector. Our analysis was right then, and remains relevant today. Yet here we are, in 2021, doing the opposite: rather than supporting greater competition in the telecom sector, subsidising the purchase of the incumbent monopolist. The decision to buy Digicel Pacific should be reversed. If it is too late for that, the Australian government should at least – in return for all its cheap and risk-reducing finance – oblige Telstra to operate Digicel for the benefit of the people of the Pacific rather than solely for its shareholders through an agreement that makes it clear that the Australian company is not only expected to return the cheap loan it has been given, but also reduce prices, and end rip-offs. This article appeared first on Devpolicy Blog (devpolicy.org), from the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University. Stephen Howes is the Director of the Development Policy Centre and a Professor of Economics at the Crawford School.
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Taureka Replaced As Managing Director
Isikeli Taureka's position as managing-director (MD) of Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH) was terminated by the National Executive Council (NEC) recently. Professor David Kavanamur has been appointed as interim MD until a permanent appointment is made, and Moses Maladina, the current chairman of PNG Power Ltd, has been named as acting chairman. Taureka was removed after 20 months, according to Prime Minister James Marape, due to poor performance by KCH and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and missed national project deadlines. “The reforms of the SOEs were endorsed by the Government in October 2019,” he said “We see it as the most-significant reform programme to be undertaken by any Government since the corporatisation of the state utilities and the creation of the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC), now KCH. “Building governance and accountability must go hand in hand with successful project execution. These are viable projects that can fundamentally change the accessibility and affordability of services and benefit the welfare of our people. “Extensive unexplained delays to major projects by KCH and SOEs are not acceptable. The Government understands that SOE issues cannot be immediately resolved as they take time. “That is why the NEC provided well over a year for KCH to work with SOEs to support the development and execution of strategies. We had hoped more would have been achieved during Taureka’s tenure. We regret to take the difficult step of severing the MD’s appointment. However, the NEC felt it had to be done. “The Telikom merger and partial privatisation with majority ownership and board control to be passed onto the super funds, for example, is one major issue the Government has been pushing since 2019 when we took office. “The merger of Water PNG and Eda Ranu is another matter that has been outstanding and not yet resolved. This merger is to take on a subsidiary structure where 20 percent of Eda Ranu is to be owned by Koiari landowners and 10 per cent each by Central Province and the National Capital District. “This decision was taken in 2019 but has not been implemented to date. “As for PNG Power and its continuous performance issues, these have been ongoing and evident. “These are badly-needed reforms within the SOEs and responsive policies have been launched by the Government, yet, very little or no progress have been made. “Out of respect to Taureka as a leading Papua New Guinea son, I had reached out to him for a meeting but there was no response forthcoming. Hence, the announcement of this decision (termination),” he added. Those nominated to crucial positions, according to Marape, must grasp the larger picture and act quickly to fulfill the government's goals.“For others in key leadership roles, whether as chair, members of boards, departments or agency heads, you are not here to pass the time or warm seats. Everyone must step up. “The Prime Minister’s Department is working to take stock of work done. So, if you feel you have not met your key performance indicators, I suggest you start thinking about resigning before the NEC asks you to leave.” According to Marape, Kavanamur had previously served as the chairman of KCH and had a thorough awareness of the organization's issues as well as the government's goals. Reference: The National (22 October 2021). “Cabinet Axes Taureka”.
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Digicel Pacific to be Acquired by Telstra
Telstra has announced that it will buy Digicel Pacific for $US1.6 billion, plus up to an additional US$250 million based on business performance over the next three years, subject to government and regulatory approvals. In its six South Pacific markets – Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu – Telstra, Australia's leading telecommunications and technology company, will continue to invest in and operate the business under the Digicel brand name. Telstra International CEO Oliver Camplin-Warner said the agreement will allow Telstra to expand on Digicel Pacific's regional leadership and increase mobile connectivity in Papua New Guinea. “Denis O’Brien and the Digicel team have built a phenomenal business that’s centred on providing exceptional customer service, the best coverage and leading digital experiences. Telstra will add to these strengths and the team’s local knowledge with our more than one hundred years’ experience connecting the vast expanses of Australia to continue delivering great experiences for Digicel’s customers across the Pacific.” “We have 19.5 million retail mobile customers in Australia and our 4G network is the largest and most reliable in country. It covers some of the remotest parts of Australia – from the coast, to the outback and the Torres Strait Islands, just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. And we’re in the process of building Australia’s largest 5G network that now stretches to more than 240 towns and 75 per cent of the population,” Camplin-Warner said. There will be no employment losses in the region as a result of the transaction, and the present Digicel Pacific team will continue to manage the company on a day-to-day basis. Denis O'Brien, the current owner of Digicel, will continue on the Board of Directors. “We will invest our know-how and capital to further expand coverage and over time bring the benefits of 5G to Papua New Guinea. But we’ll retain the same Digicel brand the people of PNG know and love today with the same team and services they have come to rely on,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. The purchase, according to Camplin-Warner, is in line with Telstra International's expansion plan, which now comprises operations in 20 countries outside of Australia and thousands of clients, including businesses, governments, and some of the world's largest technology firms. “Beyond Australia Telstra also has the most extensive subsea telecommunications cable network in the Asia Pacific. And we’re one of the biggest providers of voice and data services connecting the South Pacific to the rest of the world through our Southern Cross cable.” “Network traffic is growing faster than at any other period of time and digital technology is changing our world. We are at the centre of this, and so is Digicel Pacific. We are committed to delivering the best technology on the best network for PNG,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. The people and businesses of PNG will benefit from Telstra's experience rolling out a world-class 5G network and connecting diverse geographies, according to Colin Stone, CEO of Digicel Papua New Guinea. “Telstra’s network innovation has played a critical part in Australia being ranked first in the global Mobile Connectivity Index which assesses networks based on performance, affordability and availability. We look forward to working with Oliver and the Telstra team,” Mr Stone said. The two firms' ideals, according to Camplin-Warner, were likewise matched. “Digicel Pacific and Telstra are both committed to building a connected future so everyone can thrive and this includes supporting some of the most vulnerable in our communities.” “Digicel Pacific has taken community development to the next level through the Digicel Foundation’s investment in health, education and community-based programs. We look forward to continuing this work, just as we do today with the Telstra Foundation and its commitment to using technology to support young people and help to reduce the digital divide.” “We will also bring a commitment to addressing climate change to help drive better environmental outcomes for the people of PNG,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. Despite the fact that the transaction is funded by the Australian government, Telstra will remain the only owner and operator of the company. Reference: Loop (October 25, 2021). “Australia’s biggest telecommunications company to acquire Digicel Pacific”.