Prime Minister says no regime change to happen without consultation with industry

by PNG Business News - June 11, 2021

Photo Credit: PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum - Prime Minister James Marape, presenting his closing remarks

Prime Minister James Marape has said that there will be no change in the benefit sharing regimes currently being used in the mining and petroleum sectors, without extensive consultation with all players in the resources sector.

Prime Minister Marape delayed his planned meeting in Porgera toward the end of last week to be present at the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Mines and Petroleum’s first Webinar Event for the year.

He delivered the keynote address with the reassurance of the government’s recognition that the mining and petroleum sector remains the number one economic sector in the country.

“On record, the mining and petroleum sector remains our number one economic sector in our country, and that is acknowledged, and will remain so, and our government will do everything possible to ensure that the sector is not harmed.”

On the back of industry having to cope with major uncertainty over proposed changes to the Organic Law on Ownership of Minerals and Hydrocarbons, and the introduction of a fiscal regime change for the sector for the past 12 months, Prime Minister Marape also reassured the sector, that all stakeholders would be consulted.

“Whether it’s a production sharing regime or a hybrid between production sharing and existing regimes, I think there is a view that I take from these presentations thus far that the signal we are giving is not absolutely clear, and so I will take the month of June to ensure that the clarity is made to the mining and petroleum sector with respect to the direction we are trying to go into but for this occasion and a taker right now let me inform every one, regime change is not taking place as yet, the intention is there but whatever form it will take place, as I said earlier, 2025 is an important benchmark date,” the prime minister said, after participating in the events three key presentations.

PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Council Member, John Chambers of Santos, presented discussions on the true value of the mining and petroleum sector.

“According to the World Bank, PNG is in the ‘Top Ten’ of most Resource Industry-dependent economies in the world. We cannot underestimate the importance of the resource sector to the PNG economy.

“Continued investment in resources, plus diversification of the economy, need to occur in parallel,” Mr. Chambers said, while highlighting that financial institutions like ANZ have estimated that the resource sector’s total contribution to GDP 1.3 times its direct contribution to GDP.

Mr. Chambers explained that fiscal regimes need to balance state and landowners’ interests with investment risks and returns. He stressed that higher taxed regimes, would result in no exploration or projects being sanctioned; that resource sector stability was important in the areas of policy and legislation; and that the current tax royalty system used in PNG is the only regime in the world, which provides landowners with a share of cashflows from resource projects.

The two other main presentations were from global industry research and analysis organisations, Wood Mackenzie, who explained that different fiscal system designs can be employed to deliver a ‘fair share of returns’ while stressing the point that governments and oil and gas companies are usually closely aligned in their objectives on return on investment.

MineHutte UK focused on the need for countries to achieve a balanced legal framework, and that reform efforts built around the introduction of Production Sharing Arrangements (PSAs) would not be viewed as balanced, and would hinder, rather than help a country’s mineral sector.

MineHutte presented world examples of countries who had tried using PSAs in their mining sectors, and who had all, eventually reverted to their previous regimes, because of the negative impacts they experienced.

Prime Minister Marape, in responding to the presentations, said he would ensure that there is stronger collaboration with industry on any and all proposed reforms.”

“I would like to encourage investors who are tuning in from across the world, in these times of COVID19 sensitivities, we have been, and are still open for business. I will bring further clarity to the reforms we have planned, and with consultation with the mining and petroleum sector in the next month or two.

“Toward the end of June or July, the industry will know with clarity, what the government wants for the sector. It does not dilute the fact that PNG remains a very robust place of investment, and we are open for business.”

Chamber Vice President Leon Buskens was sincere in his closing remarks, in recognizing the importance Prime Minister Marape had given to the event.

“Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your opening remarks, and for your closing remarks. We have listened, and heard loud and clear the assurances you have given the industry to work together, and importantly, you mentioned the deep consultation process.

“We are all on the same page, and the strategic intent of the Chamber is to ‘create understanding of the importance of the industry, and to build local expertise, to attract investment, and to empower Papua New Guinea to capture sustained, nation-building benefit from our natural resources’.



Related Articles

Business

PNG Business News - May 04, 2021

Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Appoint Kassman as President

The PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum has appointed Richard Kassman as its current president. Kassman, who has served as the chamber's vice president for the past three years, succeeds Gerea Aopi, who began his career in the industry in 1991. Following the announcement, Kassman praised the outgoing president, Aopi, for his extensive work and guidance. “My first task as president-elect is to thank outgoing president Gerea Aopi. A colossus of a man whose contribution to our industry and indeed his beloved Papua New Guinea is unrivalled. “Gerea always guided the discourse ensuring being cognizant with national interests, when the chamber represented its diverse membership and promoted the industry. He served with class and distinction. He was measured, thoughtful and compassionate, and when required, frank and direct. Hallmarks of a courageous servant leader,” Kassman said. In his final remarks, Aopi put the industry's attempts to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic into perspective. “Amidst the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the country last year, the chamber has been active in discussing legislation and policy that affects our industry. “Constant dialogue and discussion amongst council members representing mining and petroleum have been at the core of our engagement in the national and political space,” he said. Kassman, who works for Total E&P PNG Limited as the Public Affairs and External Communications Head, spoke about the mining and petroleum sector's future as well as the chamber's work. “The chamber plays a crucial role in providing discourse on major national issues. And it represents members who are always ready to step in to assist the national leadership in times of national calamity,” he said. The Chamber of Mines and Petroleum is PNG's apex body for the mining and petroleum industries, with a diverse membership that spans both the mineral and industry sectors. It comprises the majority of PNG's productive mining and petroleum firms.

Business

PNG Business News - May 18, 2021

PNGEITI Congratulates Richard Kassman as New Industry Chamber President

Richard Kassman was recently named President of the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, and the PNG Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (PNGEITI) congratulated him. He recently took over for Gerea Aopi, who had served in the role admirably. Richard Kassman is the Director of Corporate Affairs, Total E&P PNG Limited, and was vice president of the Chamber at the time of his appointment. He is an active member of the PNGEITI Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) and was vice president of the Chamber at the time of his appointment. Kassman is a member of the PNGEITI MSG, which oversees the Global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) implementation in Papua New Guinea. “As we all know Kassman is a dedicated professional with active engagement in both the Government and private sector in Papua New Guinea with deep commitment within those various roles he plays,” PNGEITI Head of National Secretariat Lucas Alkan said.  “His insights and contributions to the advancement of EITI reporting in this country have resonated with great value and the PNGEITI MSG is privileged to have him on board.   “At this juncture, we acknowledge his invaluable commitment and contribution over the years since PNG commenced implementing the EITI 7 years ago. Now as elected President of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, we look forward to a heightened working relation with regards to the role that the industry plays as the key stakeholder in implementing and maintaining PNG’s position as an EITI affiliated member country.” Kassman's expertise, according to Alkan, will significantly enhance the work of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum in representing the EITI in PNG, as well as giving the cause more visibility by building on the momentum of the campaign, which has generated many financial year reports from the extractive sector.

Business

PNG Business News - May 03, 2021

Chamber Calls On Government to Pay Its Dues

The Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry has asked the government to pay over K100 million in unpaid dues to its members in order to help them develop their businesses. Stacey O'Nea, the Chamber's chief executive officer, stated that they are not after free handouts or a stimulus budget for companies; rather, they want what is owed to them to be compensated so that their businesses can be stimulated. “Many of our members are starting to scale down and are letting go of their employees due to the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s economy, and businesses are unable to continue to save jobs in the current prolonged COVID-19 threat environment,” she said. “The sensitive issue of job loss also has an impact on livelihoods in PNG’s extended family system and has a direct spillover effect on social and security issues. “Coupled with ongoing concerns on revenue challenges, subsequent profit decline, depreciating kina, forex availability, increased fuel and security costs and COVID-19 restrictions are a myriad of serious challenges shared across our businesses and industries.” O'Nea stated that the chamber is in talks with relevant authorities over receiving government compensation owed to its members. “While we are thankful for the Government’s efforts this year towards settling a number of urgent arrears for rentals, goods and services, we urge continuity of payments for contracts that have satisfied the vetting process, as they will help act as a stimulus to sustain operations in these times for our businesses and industries,” she said. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Belden Namah has said that the economy is in free fall and has urged the government to ease controls on enterprises and social events as soon as possible while maintaining the new standard. Lockdowns, he claimed, are killing the economy by throwing workers out of jobs and forcing companies to close.


Recent Articles

Commentary

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.

Business

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”. 

Business

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”.

Join Papua New Guinea's

Business Community

Be the "First" to get our exclusive Digital Magazine & Weekly Newsletter.