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Toroama: Bougainville Must Achieve Independence In The Next Four Years
by PNG Business News - May 26, 2021
Photo Credit: Autonomous Bougainville Government (2020)
President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Ishmael Toroama, stated that Bougainville must achieve independence over the next four years, with members of the independent state's parliament being elected by June 2025.
This comment was made by President Toroama as he explained the ABG's official stance as Bougainville starts the first post-referendum consultations with the international community.
President Ishmael Toroama and Prime Minister James Marape recently met with their respective consultation teams to discuss Bougainville's political future.
Following the overwhelming result of the Referendum in 2019, in which 97.7% of Bougainvilleans voted in favour of separation from PNG, the two governments are meeting to negotiate on the results, as mandated by the Bougainville Peace Agreement and Part XIV of the National Constitution.
The systematic consultation process started just 5 months ago, on January 11, when both governments signed the Joint Communique on the Bougainville Referendum Outcome.
“When both governments signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement in August 2001, we committed ourselves to a “deferred 15-year referendum” period.” President Toroama said.
“This was to allow time to our people, on both sides, to heal the wounds of the conflict, and ponder over what we need to find as a final solution for Bougainville and Papua New Guinea,” President Toroama added.
“For those who fought for independence we wanted independence at that time of our negotiations over the Bougainville Peace Agreement; but in all fairness to our people, we were prepared to wait 15 years, to allow our them to have their say, through a free and fair referendum vote, at some later stage,” he said.
President Toroama stated that both governments have worked together in good faith for the past 20 years to enact the BPA with the expectation that a referendum will be held.
In understanding the referendum results, President Toroama stated that Bougainvilleans have clearly opposed greater autonomy, having already existed, observed, served, and witnessed the slow development of autonomy under the existing Bougainville Peace Agreement arrangements for the past 16 years.
He stated that autonomy, under current or future arrangements short of independence, is not a choice for Bougainville's solution.
“All we have done in the last 20 years, whether in the weapons disposal or autonomy space, were intended to bring us closer to this day, when we should consult over the outcome of the referendum, and reach an agreement on the future of Bougainville,” President Toroama said.
“Our position on the future political status of Bougainville is clear and that is independence,” President Toroama said.
Autonomous Bougainville Government Website (18 May 2021). “Toroama Outlines ABG Position.”
Autonomous Bougainville Government Website (18 May 2021). “PM Marape at Joint Consultations.”
RNZ (19 May 2021). “Bougainville's president seeks independence by 2025”.
PNG Business News - March 19, 2021
Early Investments are Critical to Expanding Bougainville's Tax Base
According to a study by the National Research Institute (NRI), the investments needed to increase the tax base for the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) require significant upfront investments. The report said that increasing revenues for the Bougainville Government, public expenditures also necessitate capacity to prepare, budget, execute, and track them: Bougainville is on the verge of collapsing. “And absent such large and lumpy investments early, Bougainville will not be able to acquire fiscal independence,” it said. “ABG will need foreign funds and expatriate expertise to create the conditions for a transition to economic independence. Bougainville will need visionary leadership and considered support from the PNG Government. There is hope on both these fronts. Bougainville is rich in natural resources and can use that to attract foreign investments for technology transfer, capital injection, employment generation, market access and exports. Several water fishing nations are already operating in Bougainville waters. Attracting a foreign investor to engage in onshore tuna processing, as undertaken in Wewak on the mainland and across in the Solomon Islands, has the potential to generate much needed formal sector employment. Richer still are the known mineral deposits that have the potential to attract foreign investment. But that would be tricky given the history of Bougainville Copper Ltd, and the issues of the compensation for the environmental damage done and compensation for the decade-long conflict. Leadership and planning is necessary to navigate these obstacles to restarting the mine, that could boost revenues for the budget and provide returns to the people who ultimately own the resources.” According to the report, Bougainville should concentrate on: Introducing land administration systems and town planning; Enhancing contract protection, including land titles, mining leases, and potential income from private investment; and Lowering sovereign risk with regard to investments in Bougainville in relation to the rest of PNG.
PNG Business News - March 19, 2021
NRI: Bougainville has Vast Mineral Potential
According to the National Research Institute, given Bougainville's position within the Pacific Rim of Fire, the possibilities for mining various minerals, especially gold and copper, are vast (NRI). Following the collapse of the Panguna mine, NRI noted in a recent report on Bougainville that regaining foreign investor trust in mining in Bougainville was proving difficult. “Even more difficult is the effective management of the revenues from the sale of public resources such as minerals, forestry and fishing, which has long been a challenging problem for developing countries,” the report highlighted. “The primary management problem has been with the effective expenditure of resource revenues. Therefore, a major issue for discussion in Bougainville should be on whether institutional arrangements can be devised that will ensure that the resource revenues collected by the ABG – from, say, fishing, forestry or mining – will be put to good use in developing the economy.” It continued, “We have argued for a management system where a share of mineral rents are directly paid to the public in the form of compensation for the sale of their asset. This has several advantages, including the fact that such transfers will bind the public across space and generations, concentrate attention on the returns from publicly owned assets, and create economic spillovers in the form of increased output and revenues for the budget. The model used in Alaska to manage the collection and distribution of its oil and gas revenues seems to be very worthy of consideration by Bougainville. This regime establishes a political constituency with an interest in protecting the revenues from corruption, waste, and so forth. If Bougainville is to adopt a policy of this kind, the nature of politics dictates that it should be done as soon as possible. Otherwise, if an alternative policy is adopted, it will be impossible to dismantle later as it will have formed its own constituency by then.”
PNG Business News - March 09, 2021
Grants Benefit Farmers and Women
The grants coursed through the Bougainville partnership commodity support facility will benefit cocoa farmers and women. An initiative of the Autonomous Bougainville Government supported by Australia through the PNG-Australia partnership, and the New Zealand government, the grants range between K300,000 and K500,000 benefitting. Some of those selected include Kukurina Business Group which will use the grant to improve crop quality and rehabilitate cocoa blocks, among others. Jonathan Kopas head this group, with support from treasurer Larry Augustine, secretary Hilda Kopa and vice-secretary Peninah James. Meanwhile, Australian High Commission’s counsellor for Bougainville Clayton Harrington said that obvious were the economic benefits of the programme. “Australia believes in the future of the Bougainville cocoa industry to improve livelihoods,” he said.
PNG Business News - July 22, 2021
Oil Search Considering Merging with Santos
Santos, an Australian oil firm, announced its plan to combine with Oil Search Limited. Santos proposed a non-binding indicative merger last month with the goal of making the two companies the regional energy champions. The proposed merged entity has a market capitalization of A$22 billion (K56 billion), putting it among the top 20 ASX-listed companies and the top 20 global oil and gas companies. This means, among other things, that the merger will have a diverse portfolio of high-quality, long-life assets spanning Australia and Papua New Guinea, a solid balance sheet with ample cash to support expansion choices, and an investment-grade credit rating. The merger plan, if approved, would be conducted through a Scheme of Arrangement in which Oil Search shareholders would receive 0.589 new Santos shares for each Oil Search share held, according to Santos in a market disclosure to the Australian Stock Exchange. Following the scheme's acceptance, Oil Search shareholders would control 37% of the combined company, while Santos shareholders would own 63%. Based on Santos' closing price on June 24, 2021, the ownership ratio suggested a transaction price of A$4.25 (10.92) per Oil Search share. This was a 12.3% premium to the Oil Search closing price of A$3.78 (K9.72) on June 24, 2021, and a 9.8% premium to the Mubadala block trade selling price of A$3865. (K9.92). Kevin Gallagher, managing director and chief executive officer of Santos, said the merger will bring more alignment to PNG, allowing for the development of important projects such as Papua LNG, as well as the creation of new employment and support for the local economy. Santos, according to Gallagher, has proposed a true merger in which ownership of the combined firm is based on proportionate contribution and value. “The strategic rationale for a merger is clear and offers superior value to Oil Search shareholders rather than continuing on a standalone basis. “Santos continues to believe that the Merger Proposal represents an extremely attractive opportunity to deliver compelling value accretion to both Santos and Oil Search shareholders.” Oil Search stated in its ASX market update that it is open to receiving and engaging with any proposal that is in the best interests of its shareholders. While the company's board of directors agrees with Santos that combining the two firms makes strategic sense, the conditions must be fair to the company's shareholders, which the terms proposed by Santos are not. Despite Santos shareholders holding 70% more shares than Oil Search shareholders, Oil Search maintains that the proposed conditions provide just a 6.8% premium based on Friday's closing share prices for Oil Search and Santos. According to the firm, no such proposal has been made at this time. Reference: Post-Courier (21 July 2021). "Oil Search Open To Merger with Santos".
PNG Business News - July 21, 2021
Study Says Sweet Potato Growers Have Received Significant Insights into Customers Buying Habits
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), sweet potato (kaukau) growers have received significant insight into customer buying habits, which is assisting them in identifying new market possibilities. The recent market analysis, which was supported by the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership and conducted by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, revealed that an increasing number of consumers in Port Moresby prefer to buy fresh produce from supermarkets, citing convenience and safety as reasons. While this trend may result in fewer consumers at conventional farmer markets, PNG and Australian experts believe it may open up new marketplaces for rural people. “Farmers are looking for stable markets where they can receive more consistent prices for better-quality produce,” said Professor Philip Brown from Central Queensland University (CQU), who is leading the research project. “The research shows that consumer behaviour is likely to support an expansion in the supermarket sector in large urban centres and this is positive news for the farmers. This could allow commercial focused farmers to secure more stable market access.” The study of 353 customers was conducted as part of ACIAR-funded sweet potato research sponsored by CQU and the PNG National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI), which aims to improve sweet potato value chains by increasing the quality of harvested roots. Sweet potato quality and production are improving, resulting in increasing supplies to retailers eager to provide better fresh produce. “The project, with support from the Fresh Produce Development Agency and NARI, is helping farmers to build their business skills and connect with emerging supermarket opportunities,” said Professor Brown. Kirt Hainzer, a CQU researcher who collaborated on the survey alongside NARI researchers, said it was the first study to look at customer behaviour and see what role stores may play in the development of PNG's commercial sweet potato sector. “The research sought to better understand and compare how consumers buy staples from open markets and supermarkets and to explore the preferences for purchasing staple foods as supermarkets increase the availability of convenience staples like rice,” said Hainzer. “Although expanding formal sales represents a huge step forward in developing a commercial sweet potato industry, continued research on consumer preferences and the market for fresh produce will help better understand trends in staple food purchasing and what market opportunities exist for growers.” With over a hundred kinds of sweet potato in the nation, NARI economist Raywin Ovah said the study sought to find out which of these customers preferred. “Not all the varieties are preferred from a consumer point of view. There are only a few that consumers want to be based on the taste or health properties and that is what we want to also find out. Farmers can be provided with that information, so they produce those varieties that the market wants.” One of five initiatives under the Transformative Agriculture and Enterprise Development Program is a project to increase commercial sweet potato production and commercialization in the PNG highlands. The ACIAR program, which is funded by Australia in collaboration with the government of Papua New Guinea, aims to improve the livelihoods of rural men and women through private sector-led development, increased agricultural productivity and quality, and the development of individual and institutional capacity. Reference: Loop (20 July 2021). “Study looks into sweet potato industry”.
PNG Business News - July 21, 2021
Garry: MRA Evaluating K50 Billion Worth of Investments
According to managing director Jerry Garry, the Mineral Resources Authority is evaluating more than K50 billion in investments in the country. Wafi-Golpu, Frieda River, and Woodlark are among them. “We are also looking at the Central Lime and Cement,” he said. “If that project comes on-stream, it will be one of the first industrial mines ever built in the country.” Garry was speaking at a Port Moresby consultation session on the Mine and Works (Safety and Health) Bill 2021. PNG, he added, was home to some of the world's largest mines. “We have grown from strength to strength,” he said. “If you compare the Bank of PNG statistics, the mining sector alone, in terms of production, has exported over K17 billion in 2020 and 2019. “So it’s a huge industry that we are trying to regulate and manage.” Garry expressed gratitude to the industry for making safety a primary priority. “They have been taking health and safety at the workplaces very seriously,” he said. “We must not only consider (the workers) and the environment but also people living around the (areas) we operate in. “And if we are using any hazards, we must also take responsibility.” The newest mining methods in Wafi-Golpu, known as block cave mining, are one of the new things to expect, according to Garry. “New mining hazards will come with this new mining method,” he said. Reference: The National (20 July 2021). “Authority assessing investments worth K50bil”.