Maru firm on trade agreement
by PNG Business News - September 19, 2022
Photo: Richard Maru
According to Richard Maru, the minister for international trade and investment, the feasibility study for a free trade agreement with the People's Republic of China should be carried out before the end of the year.
Maru reiterated PNG's commitment to a potential free trade deal with China during a meeting he conducted with Chen Jiliang, the charge de affairs of the People's Republic of China embassy.
The cost and advantages of such an arrangement would be determined by the study, he claimed.
“Both parties need to agree to the terms of reference for the study and agree to hire a neutral independent global expert to undertake the study. Without that, we cannot proceed with the study,” he said.
He anticipates that the two nations will be debating the adoption of the study's findings by January or February of the following year.
It was a result of discussions between Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier, and former prime minister Peter O'Neill in 2016.
During a trip to Beijing last year, Prime Minister James Marape repeated it.
Maru praised the Chinese government for contributing K1 million so that Papua New Guinea could hire a consultant to carry out the study's PNG portion.
Additionally, he is pleading with both domestic and foreign investors to collaborate with the government in the downstream processing sector.
“We need local and international investors to support the government in aggressively pursuing its new policy direction of replacing all food imports by investing in the downstream processing industries,” he said.
He said that before they are shipped, PNG must prepare fish, coconut, cocoa, and coffee.
“(They should) also invest in large-scale oil palm plantations in the savannah land especially in the Sepik Plains, Western, Madang and Morobe, and in cattle and other agriculture projects as well, and in the PMIZ,” he said.
Reference: The National (9 September 2022). “Maru firm on trade agreement”.
PNG Business News - November 15, 2021
PNG, China Hastens Deal
Photo credit: China Embassy in PNG - On 2 November, Chinese Ambassador Zeng Fanhua held a virtual meeting with Minister for State Enterprises William Duma. Both sides exchanged views on further deepening practical cooperation between China and PNG. The Chinese ambassador to PNG, Fanhua Zeng, said the process of hastening a free trade agreement between the two countries has begun. According to Fanhua, this would assure that the two nations' commercial relations would improve following the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. PNG exports roughly 300 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas to China each year, as well as other goods including lumber. “It is important that even in this time we give some impetus to our trade relations,” Fanhua said. “For example, we want to have this free trade agreement with PNG. It’s a process we have to negotiate but we want to accelerate it (so that) when the pandemic is over, we can have (better) trade relations. “PNG is rich in resources like gas, oil, timber and fisheries and China has a big market. “So we can cooperate very closely and both countries can benefit from it.” Because of climate change, on timber, he said, “we have to do something in the area of forestation”. “We know that PNG wants to do something in that area so we can cooperate not in direct import and exports of timbers but we can cooperate in the production (of timber) we can export to China. “There is a big market in China and the products of PNG are very important and very good. “I see great potentials in trade and economic relations between our two countries.” Reference. The National (10 November 2021). “China, PNG ‘fast-tracking’ deal”
PNG Business News - November 18, 2021
Trade Between PNG and China Totaled K11 Billion Last Year
According to estimates provided by the Chinese Embassy, last year's trade volume between PNG and China totalled US$3.21 billion (about K11 billion). PNG's exports to China totalled US$2.29 billion (K7.85 billion), while imports from China totalled US$920 million (K3.1 billion), indicating a trade surplus. In order to boost bilateral commerce, the two nations are also discussing a free trade deal. Fanhua Zeng, China's ambassador to PNG, had stated that the free trade agreement process should be expedited. He said that as a result of this, the two nations' commercial relations will improve following the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. China imports a large amount of PNG LNG, believed to be over 300 million tonnes per year, as well as other items including lumber. “It is important that even in this time, we give some impetuous to our trade relations,” Zeng said. “For example, we want to have this free trade agreement with PNG so it’s a process we have to negotiate. “But we want to accelerate this process so that when the pandemic is over, we can have better trade relations. “PNG is rich in resources like gas, oil, timber and fisheries, and China has a big market. “So we can cooperate closely. We import a lot of LNG gas from PNG and a lot of timber.” Reference: The National (16 November 2021). “PNG-China trade volume reached K11billion last year”.
PNG Business News - June 07, 2021
New Chinese Ambassador Begins PNG Position
Zeng Fanhua, the People's Republic of China's new ambassador, recently submitted the letter of accreditation to Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae, the country's head of state. Ambassador Zeng succeeds Ambassador Xue Bing, who was recalled after completing his service in Papua New Guinea. Ambassador Zeng stated the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping, who visited the nation in November 2018, offered greetings to the Governor-General, the Government, and the people of Papua New Guinea while handing the letter of credential to the Governor-General. He described Papua New Guinea as a significant Pacific island nation that has gone a long way in preserving its sovereignty and independence while advancing socially. Ambassador Zeng stated that China and PNG are members of the Asia-Pacific region and that the people of the two countries have had a long-standing relationship since the establishment of diplomatic ties in October 1976. During President Xi's state visit to PNG in 2018, the two countries established a comprehensive strategic partnership based on mutual respect, ushering in a new chapter in bilateral relations with fruitful outcomes in the areas of energy, resources, infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and other practical cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. These, he noted, contributed to the people's well-being as well as the region's economy and stability. Ambassador Zeng stated that in the battle against Covid-19, China and PNG have stood united in their efforts to strengthen bilateral relationships. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve as the 15th Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, saying that he will do all possible throughout his term to foster a win-win partnership between the two countries. Ambassador Zeng stated that he hopes to work with PNG to execute major agreements reached by the two countries' leaders, enhance friendly interactions and cooperation in a variety of sectors, and help the China-PNG Comprehensive Strategic Partnership continue to thrive. He also stated that he would require the assistance of the PNG government. Reference: Elapa, Jeffrey. Post-Courier (2 June 2021). “New Ambassador For China Takes Up PNF Post”.
Paul Oeka - September 29, 2022
AGRICULTURE HAS HUGE ECONOMIC POTENTIAL
Photo credit: Oxford Business Group The creation of the new ministries by the current government for both major agricultural commodities, Coffee and Oil Palm is a huge step forward in achieving the agriculture sectors economic potential. For the past years the agricultural sector had not been fully utilized by consecutive governments as the focus had mostly been centered on the extractive industry and Mining & Petroleum sector. This important and vital sector is eventually and currently being recognized as an economic pillar to boost the state coffers. Prime Minister Hon. James Marape said the allocation and restructure of the four newly created ministries concentrating on Horticulture (Fresh produce), Coffee, Oil Palm, and Livestock to the agricultural sector is a complete paradigm shift to get agriculture moving again. The focus of the Marape Government on ‘Taking Back PNG’ is deeply rooted and aligned with the mechanisms and functions of the agricultural sector as most of the country’s population are situated in rural settings and largely depend on subsistence agriculture to sustain themselves. Coffee, Cocoa, Oil palm and Fresh produce have been a mainstay that this rural population rely on for income for so many years. As far as many Papua new Guineans can recall and relate, Agriculture has always been the foundation and backbone of the country and it can surely drive the economy forward. Although the agricultural does not match in monetary turnovers for the country, it is an economic foundation and is here to stay. In comparison over monetary benefits with other sectors, Agriculture had not been performing to expectation due to so many underlying issues concerned and faced with the value chain of agricultural commodities prompting a decline in agricultural activities over the years. The Prime Minister said it was no secret that agriculture had declined since independence in 1975, and the current allocation of the four agricultural ministries was to revive the sector for it to be a major income generator for PNG. PM Marape said this when explaining the concept and rationale for his allocation of four ministries to the agricultural sector. This direction by the Marape/Rosso Government to emphasize more on agriculture will boost agricultural activities in and around the country. Mostly the sector had not been given proper recognition for decades and had been lacking government intervention from past successive governments. Now with the current Government’s backing, the respective agricultural ministries and its industries are expected to flourish dramatically and are likely to bring more benefits. The new ministries will also empower provinces that currently do not have mining and petroleum resources. This will certainly build stronger local economic activities for future generations. “We want to see import replacement and more exports within the agriculture sector, which is why we have allocated four separate ministries to agriculture,” PM Marape said. The recognition of this agricultural industries will also ease and slowdown rural-urban drift. The number of people migrating from rural areas into towns and cities in search for better opportunities have risen in the past couple of years due to inequality in the distribution of wealth and lack of government services. Thus, the governments focus on agriculture will encourage many unemployed Papua New Guineans living in urban areas to go back to their home Provinces or villages and be self-reliant. As economic opportunities arise in rural areas from vibrant and innovative policy interventions within these newly created agricultural ministries, it will attract many to contribute meaningfully and be productive on their own customary land. Prime Minister Marape said over the last three years prior to the creation of the new agricultural ministries, his government has given millions of kina to support agriculture through price and freight subsidies and SME support. “We are now targeting specific commodities through the establishment of the four ministries. Over the next term of government, we will give specific production targets for Coffee, Oil Palm and all other major agricultural Commodities” he said. The government also plans to revive and rehabilitate once thriving agricultural hubs in the country such as Cattle farming in the Central Province and the Coffee plantations of the Highlands region that produced quality organic Coffee and grew the fledgling industry pre-independence in the 1960’s. Now that the agricultural sector has been categorized into four industries, there will be room for much improvement in economic activity within the agricultural sector as people will start contributing meaningfully to the economy.
Paul Oeka - September 28, 2022
TREASURER WANTS REVIEW OF ELECTION FUNDS
Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey is dismayed at how the 2022 National Elections were conducted and is now looking forward to a complete review of the allocated funds that were spent on the elections. Ling-Stuckey recently stated in parliament that the government had allocated and funded enough money for the election process to be conducted this year. “We provided a further K50 million to cover the costs for the 2022 election, bringing the total funding for the election to nearly double the level of expenditure in the 2017 national elections. There was enough money to support a much better election this year, so I look forward to the proposed parliamentary committee examinations of what went wrong and what can be done better” he said. The Treasurer also expressed concern that there was a decrease in the public servants’ salaries. He explained that “Once again there is a salary cost overrun. This is K201 million much lower than in previous years, and out of this, over 70 percent is related to teacher wage overruns. We contributed to bring this area under control. After no pay increases during the latest part of the Covid-19 crisis, it is now time to start increasing some salary payments”. “There is also the need to provide additional funding for the seven new districts that have been created and K3 million each has been provided. There are also new members in existing electorates, and it is appropriate that they be given some funds for commencing programs through to the end of the year. For equity reasons all districts and provinces needed to benefit the same so an additional 2 million per district and province have been allocated bringing the funding back to 10 million per districts and provinces” he said. Meanwhile there was an announcement on Thursday last week that the Department of personnel management, Treasury and Finance are working together to ensure that there will be a three percent pay increment in the salary of public servants. This pay increment is to be adjusted and effective by December this year, the welcoming news for public servants was confirmed by the Secretary of the Department of Personnel Management, Taies Sansan.
PNG Business News - September 28, 2022
PNG’s minimum wage
Commentary by Stephen Howes, Kingtau Mambon and Kelly Samof The urban minimum wage has been an important part of Papua New Guinea’s economic history. In the last few years before independence (in 1975), it was greatly increased. In the decade or so after independence, it was widely regarded as too high. In 1992, it was slashed, merged with the rural minimum, and hardly increased again for more than a decade. We can compare the minimum wage in PNG today with other Asia and Pacific developing countries using International Labour Organization (ILO) data. As Figure 1 shows, PNG’s minimum wage is 18% below the average of the 19 countries shown if the market exchange rate is used to compare minimum wages. It is 37% below the average if differences in cost of living are also taken into account (with conversions made on the basis not of market exchange rates but so-called purchasing power parities or PPPs). The greater difference in terms of PPPs reflects PNG’s relatively high cost of living. Of the countries shown, only Samoa and Kiribati have a lower minimum wage than PNG when a PPP comparison is made. This is very different to the past. Raymond Goodman, Charles Lepani and David Morawetz in their 1985 report The economy of Papua New Guinea compared minimum wages in PNG with a subset of the countries above back in 1978. Then, the PNG minimum wage was about twice as big or more than the other comparators. Today (using market exchange rates, and the earlier authors do), PNG comes in the middle of the pack, as Figure 2 shows. So far, we have shown that around the time of independence minimum wages were very high in PNG by international standards, and that they no longer are. Figure 3 shows how this change came about – also, for interest, comparing trends in PNG with those in Australia. Both the PNG and Australian weekly minimum wages are shown in Figure 3 measured in Australian dollars. The PNG minimum wage is converted into Australian dollars using the current exchange rate. Both wages are then adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2021 prices. The two series follow diametrically opposed paths. The Australian minimum wage fell with the high inflation of the 1970s and industrial relations reforms of the 1980s, and by the early 1990s was little more than half its value in the 1970s. It then increased in the late 1990s and 2000s during the resource boom, and has continued to increase. Adjusting for inflation, it is now almost back to where it was in the early 1970s. The PNG minimum wage does the opposite. It increased in the 1970s and was then held stable due to indexation, until the big bang reforms of 1992. Adjusted for inflation, PNG’s minimum wage continued to fall until 2004. There have since been some significant increases, but today PNG’s minimum wage is only about one-third of its value at independence, and below its value even in 1972, which is when the steep minimum wage increases began. The Australian minimum wage has always been significantly higher than the PNG one, but the ratio has changed a lot over time. The lowest that ratio has ever been is 2.2 in 1986, the highest 45 in 2004. The gap between the two wages is much higher now than at independence: the ratio of the Australian to the PNG minimum wage was 14.5 in 2021, compared to only 3.2 at independence (1975). This reflects PNG’s 1992 deregulation, and the faster growth in the Australian economy, which has enabled an increase in the Australian minimum wage. The solution to low wages in PNG is not necessarily to increase the minimum. In some sectors, where there is a lot of international competition, a higher minimum wage might lead to job losses. For example, in tuna processing, one of PNG’s main competitors is the Philippines. From Figure 1, we can see that PNG’s minimum wage is lower than the Philippines' on the basis of PPPs, but actually higher on the basis of market exchange rates. While the former is what matters for the welfare of workers, the latter is what matters for international competitiveness. Whether PNG’s minimum wage should be increased will require a lot more analysis. The point of this blog is simply that PNG’s minimum wage does not look high any more by international comparisons, as it has fallen a lot since independence. PNG is often described as a high-cost economy, and this is a fair description. However, with regards to unskilled labour, it is no longer a high-wage economy. Data note: The PNG Economic Database provides the weekly minimum wage of PNG going back to 1972, and the PGK-AUD exchange rate. Wikipedia provides the Australian weekly minimum wage data (hourly and weekly, on the assumption of a 38-hour week) starting from 1966. The Australian CPI is from the Australian aid tracker. There are some years where Australian minimum wage rates change more than once in a year. For such cases, we took the average as annual minimum wage rate. The data for Asia-Pacific comparisons are from the International Labour Organization and the World Bank. The different frequencies of minimum wages for each country in 2019 in the ILO’s report are adjusted to convert to weekly rates. World Bank data is used to obtain market exchange rates and PPP conversion factors. For the Goodman, et al., data go to Table 3.6 on p.61 in their report.\ Disclosure: This research was undertaken with the support of the ANU-UPNG Partnership, an initiative of the PNG-Australia Partnership, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The views are those of the authors only. This article appeared first on Devpolicy Blog (devpolicy.org), from the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University. Stephen Howes is Director of the Development Policy Centre and Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy, at The Australian National University. Kingtau Mambon is currently undertaking a Master of International and Development Economics at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, for which he was awarded a scholarship through the ANU-UPNG Partnership. Kelly Samof is a lecturer in economics at the School of Business and Public Policy, University of Papua New Guinea.