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Foreign Exchange Liquidity Is Expected To Rise In 2021

by PNG Business News - February 15, 2021

The foreign exchange liquidity in the country is predicted to increase this year. According to the Bank South Pacific, this could happen although the first quarter may be tight.

In the BSP Economic and Market Insight December 2020 quarter publication, group general manager treasury Rohan George said that the foreign exchange inflows were expected to decrease by 13 per cent with the support of the Bank of PNG (forex) intervention and 20 per cent without its forex support, from levels enjoyed in the last quarter of 2020. He predicted that these were all because of the effect of the fire at Ok Tedi, the Porgera mine shutdown, Government businesses and State-owned entities strong end-of-year inflows “are likely to be partially offset by increased forex intervention by the Bank of PNG”.

“The Kina is likely to continue its gradual fall against the US Dollar (10bps/month), while persistent Australian dollar strength will see larger falls in the Kina against the Australian dollar cross-rate,” he said.

The high import demand is also on downward pressure on the Kina exchange rate against the US dollar.

“A look ahead into 2021 is promising,” he said. “For instance, Japan has committed to a K1 billion low-interest loan to help finance PNG’s budget deficit. Further, the Government has provided assurances regarding multi-billion Kina resource projects like the Wafi-Golpu, Papua LNG, Pasca offshore, and the re-opening of the Porgera mine. A successful conclusion of negotiations will provide foreign exchange relief.”



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PNG Business News - February 09, 2021

Kina Drops By 2.9 Per cent Against the US Dollar

According to the Bank South Pacific (BSP) chief executive officer Robin Fleming, the kina depreciated by 2.9 per cent against the US dollar in 2020.“During the course of 2020, the Kina depreciated by 2.9 per cent against the USD, therefore, the cost of goods increase associated with the exchange rate for USD denominated imports would have been around 2.9 per cent,” he said. “For Australian dollar imports, this may have been somewhat higher as the Australian dollar appreciated by 16 per cent against the Kina from last June, predominantly due to movements in the USD and AUD cross rates. In respect to inflation, the most recent publication from the Bank of PNG (BPNG) released in January was that its September 2020 monthly economic review suggests overall inflation is still low.He added, “BPNG’s September 2020 monetary policy has inflation around 3.3 per cent and the Department of Treasury 2021 budget papers indicated inflation for 2020 around four per cent. The BPNG Sept 2020 monthly economic review showed that inflation annual headline retail price index (RPI) to Sept 2020 increased by 0.5 per cent.”This was driven by price increases in alcoholic beverages, among others. According to the BPNG statement, the annual headline inflation decreased from 4.8 per cent in December 2018 to 3.1 per cent in March 2020. This was due to stable or low-income prices in seasonal produce, low imported inflation and high competition. BPNG Governor Loi Bakani said that the import of costs was below 25 per cent.

Finance

PNG Business News - February 04, 2021

Barker Says Forex is Very Tight

According to Institute of National Affairs (INA) executive director Paul Barker, foreign exchange (forex) has stayed very tight since 2017, considered to be one of the major hindrances to investments and businesses in PNG. He added that his concern was the imbalance in the markets, partly linked with rigidities in the setting of exchange rates, and the unusual scene of a strong positive current account balance where a section of exports get remitted to PNG. “While servicing major commercial overseas debt prevails, it combines increasingly with the need for servicing the growing foreign public debt,” Barker said. “The foreign exchange that has been available has effectively been rationed, with priority expenditure taking precedence, including fuel, food and debt servicing, while remitting dividends overseas has largely been on hold for several years.”On “certain privileged persons able to secure precedence, Barker said he won’t comment further on that.He said that most businesses need foreign exchange for different reasons.“Even exporters needed to pay for replacement plant and equipment, sometimes for technical inputs,” he said. “And undue constraint can also handicap their capacity to produce and export. It becomes a vicious circle.”Although the situation was improving in 2018 and 2019, Barker said, “But 2020 saw the collapse in prices of several major export commodities. This included liquefied natural gas/oil, copper and vegetable oil at the start of the year. It was associated with the severe fall in demand linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and was not balanced by the strengthened gold prices, particularly following the closure of the country’s second-largest gold mine, Porgera.”

Finance

PNG Business News - January 22, 2021

Budget Management Committee Meets with Department Heads to Resolve Issues

To work out outstanding issues with government payments, the Budget Management Committee (BMC) met with department heads, the Bank of PNG Governor, Loi Bakani, and BSP CEO, Robin Fleming.The BMC is composed of Chairman and Treasurer, Ian Ling-Stuckey, Finance Minister John Pundari, Planning Minister Rainbo Paita and his Vice Minister, Dr Kobby Bomareo.Ling-Stuckey said, “We have heard the frustrations of our local businesses, Members of Parliament and Government agencies, with late and declined government payments. This has to stop if we are to deliver services to our people. Extraordinarily, as the meeting explored deeper into the underlying issues, there were three main factors that contributed to the bouncing cheque’s issue.”“First, over the last decade, with growing concerns about corruption and new anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing laws, there has been an increasing but seemingly, uncoordinated practice to double and triple check the authorisations of payments made by the government,” he said. “More and more of the underlying documentation to authorise payments has had to be sent to both commercial banks as well as BPNG. Second, the updated Kina Automated Transfer System (KATS) introduced by BPNG has modernised many elements of banking in PNG. Cheques used to take 14 days to clear. Now, if they are not cleared in 2 days, they are dishonoured. This means that if all the increased documentation is not provided in only two days, then the cheque will automatically bounce.”He continued, “Third, from September last year, the meeting heard for the first time on Tuesday that the email from the Department of Finance that used to provide the necessary documentation within two days broke down since about September last year and for all of the 4th Quarter, and this was apparently, the primary reason for bounced cheques, according to frank advice tabled by the Deputy Governor of the Bank of PNG (BPNG). So the breakdown in the Finance Department email system, combined with the reduction in the cheque clearance time to two days, combined with the increased duplication of documentation requirements, appears to have contributed and resulted in the recent experience of bounced cheques,” explained the Treasurer.”“In the month of December 2020, government cheques valued over K500,000 that were dishonoured totalled K200 million, of which K74 million were rewritten but dishonoured again. This is clearly unacceptable,” he added. “More needs to be done to deal with the underlying issues. The Budget Management Committee meeting on Tuesday resolved to modernise the government payment system and was advised that the primary solution to ending bounced cheques included adopting electronic transfers for all government payments. It was the view of all BMC ministers and their departments that the very long checklist, adopted by the Bank of PNG, should be reduced, if not, perhaps eliminated altogether, and that oversight of a checklist be transferred back to the Department of Finance and/or the originating source of the funds.”He said, “It is embarrassing that the Government of PNG is unable to meet its bills reliably and on time. Our SME’s are crying out for money they are owed, and all they receive are bouncing cheques. The BMC meeting directed the Secretary of Finance to ensure that the documentation process from the email system does not break down again. I have also asked that a backup system, perhaps a consideration for an encrypted system like WhatsApp that is user friendly, is made to ensure information can get through to BPNG.”“More fundamentally, we must address the underlying issues. Our meeting agreed the multiple document checklist culture must end,” Treasurer Ling-Stuckey said. “Our departmental heads have been tasked to work with the Bank of Papua New Guinea and the commercial banks to do away with outdated practices. We can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our Anti-Money Laundering Laws. Australia and New Zealand manage government payments and their international obligations successfully without needing additional oversight by third parties. It is time we modernised our systems to bring them in line with international best practice. Countries like Fiji have used electronic transfers for years. It is embarrassing that PNG is still stuck in 1975 issuing a very large share of payments through paper cheques. Cheques create opportunities for corruption and slow down our financial system.”Meanwhile, Minister Pundari said the Department of Finance need to review the Financial Management System and come out with a plan to move towards electronic transactions. He stated, “This will stop the perennial problem of bouncing cheques. You can’t electronically transact funds that you don’t hold. Our private sector relies on electronic transactions. It is time our public sector moved to a modern payment system suitable for a rapidly developing country like Papua New Guinea.”

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Company

PNG Business News - June 15, 2021

PNG Vanilla Company Partners Expo2020 Team

Dr. Nancy Irwin (left) with the Deputy Commissioner General for Expo2020 and Head of the PNG Expo2020 Secretariat, Mrs. Jacinta Warakai-Manua began the partnership to tell the PNG Vanilla story in Dubai, by exchanging ideas in Port Moresby last week. A vanilla production and export company is partnering with the PNG Expo2020 Team to promote their products in the Dubai World Exposition that starts in October this year. KAMAPIM, a company working with landowners in the Madang and Morobe Provinces produces top quality vanilla beans and is already exporting to the EU market. The Managing Director of the company Dr. Nancy Irwin, met with the PNG Commissioner General to Expo2020 Ambassador Joshua Kalinoe and his Deputy Mrs. Jacinta Warakai-Manua in Port Moresby last week to firm up the arrangements. Dr. Irwin said Kamapim (pidgin for develop and to improve) concentrates its efforts in producing the best quality bean for the international market through quality assurance production methods. “PNG farmers can grow anything, they have instinctive ability to grow well any crops. When I first started the project, the quality of the beans were poor, full of fungus due to lack of processing knowledge. We saw huge potential of the organically grown beans and started working with landowners through a cooperative production and marketing structure to improve quality” “The company provide extension services to farmers and buy the beans directly, ensuring farmers are paid a fair price for their efforts”, she said. Dr Irwin said the beans are tested internationally and are consistently classed as the top-quality A grade level. “While PNG has a good perception of growing environment friendly organic vanilla beans, the challenge is for the relevant Government authorities to work with farmers to improve quality. I believe the cooperative production methods applied by our company, Kamapim, could be used nationally as one of the models to improve quality for the export market as well as to maximize revenue gain for farmers”, Dr. Irwin said. She said the company is looking forward to partnering with the PNG Expo2020 Team to tell the PNG story and to connect with niche importers in Dubai and the Arab world in general. Dr. Irwin said the company would promote its products in specially branded PNG Expo2020 containers to create visibility for the country as well as to preserve quality at the company’s cost.

Mining

PNG Business News - June 15, 2021

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The PNG Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PNGEITI) has praised the open stakeholder dialogue culminating in reaching consensus to re-open the Pogera Mine in Enga.  Parties in April this year sanctioned a “Framework Agreement for the New Pogera Project” which spells out the roadmap to reopen the mine. Mark Bristow, CEO and President of Barrick Gold last week explained key elements of “Framework Agreement for the New Pogera Project” at a public forum at the Piam Oval in Pogera witnessed by PNG Prime Minister James Marape, landowners and other leaders. In the new agreement, PNG stakeholders will together own a 51 % equity stake in the mine while Barrick Niguini Limited (BNL), a joint venture company in which Barrick and Zijin Mining Group each own 50% will hold 49 %.  BNL will remain the mine operator. At the end of the first ten year period, the PNG stakeholders will have the option to purchase BNL’s 49 %    PNGEITI Head of Secretariat Lucas Alkan remarked that the open discussion throughout the negotiation process on the part of the mine operating lead, Government and landowners has culminated in this agreement signed happily by all parties.   “We at the PNGEITI congratulate the Government and the project lead Barrick Gold and other stakeholders for reaching a consensus decision to reopen the mine. “Pogera has been an economic powerhouse for many years and people in the country have been waiting for the outcome. “We commend the Prime Minister, the President and CEO of Barrick Gold Mr. Mark Bristow for the leadership in ensuring that the negotiations were done in the transparent and open manner. “PNG Extractive Industries Transparency highly encourages such openness in the negotiating process for resources benefits and importantly the responsibilities that each stakeholder must take on to ensure smooth flow of proceeds. “We look forward to working with the Government and the project operator in the areas of transparency and accountability to help derive best value for all stakeholders. PNGEITI commitment to reporting on developments in the mining and petroleum space is becoming stronger with new reporting dimensions taking shape as we making progress in promoting transparency and accountability in the PNG mining and petroleum industry” Mr. Alkan said.

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PNG Business News - June 14, 2021

BPNG Goes For Review

Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey has revealed the terms of reference for a review of the Bank of PNG, as well as the members of the review panel. Former Chief Secretary Robert Igara will lead the study, which was planned in the Supplementary Budget for 2020. Former central bank governor Sir Wilson Kamit and Australian professor Dr Stephen Howes are the two members. “These very eminent people, all of whom have detailed experience of the PNG financial system and reform, will be working to a term of reference approved recently by the NEC,” Ling-Stuckey said. “It is the first review of the central bank and the Central Banking Act 2002 since Sir Mekere Morauta’s financial system reforms when he was prime minister from 1999 to 2002.  “Much has changed since then, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, along with substantial technological advances, have made the need for a review even more urgent.  “The aim is to modernise the bank and the legislation in line with international developments, and make it more responsive to prevailing circumstances while preserving its independence.”  The study is scheduled to be finished in time for Parliament's November session. “An independent advisory group was also established by the late Sir Mekere when looking at the changes that led to the Central Banking Act 2000,” he said. “Igara, currently the University of Papua New Guinea chancellor, was chief secretary at the time, and Sir Wilson was the governor of the Central Bank. “Prof Howes, head of the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University, has long been involved in PNG research and advice and consultation, particularly in relation to national development.”   Reference: The National (8 June 2021). “BPNG going for review”.

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