PM MARAPE MEETS WITH STEAMSHIPS OWNER JOHN SWIRE; INVITES COMPANY TO DIVERSIFY, EXPAND
by PNG Business News - September 21, 2022
PRIME Minister Hon. James Marape recently (20/09/22) paid a courtesy visit to John Swire of John Swire & Sons Ltd, the principal shareholder and parent of Papua New Guinea’s oldest company – Steamships Trading Company.
The meeting with John Swire & Sons at their London head office, was to thank the shareholder for keeping their investments going over a long time in PNG and still continuing in the face of everything PNG has gone through.
The meeting was also to reassure the investor of the current efforts the Marape-Rosso Government is now putting into expanding the economy through the development of enabling infrastructure, Agriculture and downstream processing.
PM Marape said: “Steamships has PNG truly at its heart. It has been operating in the country for over 90 years, with a history that is entwined with the country’s own history. Still, it is going strong.
“Swire is a big company globally, with substantial shareholding in Cathay Pacific also.
“My meeting with John Swire today was to reassure him that the future of PNG is looking up as we begin on the efforts to expand the economy toward the K200 billion mark within the next 10 years. We are doing this by opening up the rest of the country through infrastructure development, Agriculture and downstream processing.
“I also reassured him that my government is more than willing to work with companies that have stood the test of time with PNG, and Swire – through Steamships – is the longest and most loyal.
“The Government is looking forward to seeing Steamships and Swire consolidate their positions in PNG, and diversify and expand even further.
“Steamships has been with us long before our own Independence and knows the PNG business environment like no other. Nothing would make us happier than to see it expand into the areas we are working at such as Agriculture, downstream processing and building MSMEs among Papua New Guineans,” said PM Marape.
The Prime Minister said the Government was working at upgrading enabling infrastructure to support investors through the Connect PNG Program covering roads, bridges, wharves and jetties, airports and airstrips, including electricity which was mentioned by Swire as one of the challenges being faced by Steamships.
PM Marape said power supply should be upgraded to full capacity within the next three to four years in the Southern region, and the Lae – Highlands area all the way to Hides utilising gas (Western end) and hydro (Eastern end).
The Prime Minister once more gave credence to the link as established through the Commonwealth with the United Kingdom.
“The country would know my view by now on maintaining our arrangements with the Commonwealth, especially with UK. UK is just like the United States; it is the capital of the free world, capitalistic society. This is where commerce and trade took off from, with huge markets here. At the moment they buy our oil palm, tuna and exports that find their way into the European market,” said PM Marape.
Article courtesy of PMNEC
PNG Business News - March 05, 2021
Report: Strong Trade for PNG
Falling export earnings have impacted the external sector of Papua New Guinea. But surging gold prices and import compression contained the damage. According to the World Bank PNG’s economic update titled “Dealing with a triple crisis”, the current account surplus broadened in the first half of 2020, which increased by 14 per cent. This was supported by a strong merchandise trade performance. It said that even if prices for major exports were reduced, the earnings from the mining sector, especially gold exports, posted a surplus. In addition, continued import compression brought about an overall current account surplus. Meanwhile, lower export earnings were more than offset by a 24 per cent decline year-on-year during the first half of 2020. Negative was the trade services balance, caused by negative balances on education, transport, and other business services. The deficits in income and services narrowed. These developments led the current account into a positive area. Earning exports decreased by 14.3 per cent, and prices of major exports also dropped since the beginning of the pandemic. Exports from mineral resources - which includes LNG - went down to 15 per cent year on year, crude oil decreased to 22 per cent and copper, 18 per cent. In addition, agricultural commodity exports decreased by 9.2 per cent, caused by lower export values for coffee, cocoa, and logs - with a little bit offset from palm oil exports. In spite of this decrease, the increase in the cost of gold outweighed all of these impacts, giving rise to the total export earnings to 9 per cent year on year.
PNG Business News - March 05, 2021
Fleming: There Will Be Confidence in PNG Economy
There will be confidence in the PNG economy in 2021.According to Bank South Pacific Group Chief Executive Officer Robin Fleming, this was attributed to the resource sector with several major projects in the pipeline - such as the Fiscal Stability Agreement signed between the Government and Total and Joint Venture Partners of the Papua LNG Project. This also included the Environmental Permit awarded to Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture for the mine negotiations to gin on the Wafi-Golpu Mine.“Certainly we feel that by the end of this year there is going to be far more confidence within the economy. The Wafi-Golpu Mine, and there is a much higher level of confidence within Lae as well, that the business community is looking at further expectations of growth,” he said. Other drivers to this growth also included the ongoing investments in infrastructure and the improvement of State-Owned Entities. “The Government has indicated in its Budget that it’s looking to continue with some of the development of the road construction, for the business community as they know they (PNG Power) got the capability to put their capital to investments which are revenue-generating and not just investments which are protecting their own infrastructure,” he said. The World Bank Groups Papua New Guinea Economic Update of January 2021 said that the Papua LNG Project and the fast resolutions related to key mining projects can contribute to higher inflows of taxation revenue and foreign currency.
PNG Business News - March 05, 2021
PNGEITI Report: Need for Greater Awareness
As a need under the EITI 2019 global practice standard, the Papua New Guinea Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PNGEITI) has published its first Beneficial Ownership (BO) Report. Head of PNGEITI National Secretariat Lucas Alkan said that this has already been published on its website last December 2020. “All EITI implementing countries including Papua New Guinea are required to produce a Beneficial Ownership Report by the 1st of January 2020,” he said.Alkan said to fully comply with this requirement, PNG should have a public register that lists the beneficial owners of corporate entities who hold a particular interest in oil, gas, or mining contracts. This also includes the identity of the beneficial owner. Besides implementing the EITI Standard, PNGEITI is devoted to making sure Beneficial Ownership information disclosure is implemented through its role in; Open Government Policy National Action Plan 2018-2020; the PNGEITI Annual Workplan 2019; and the PNGEITI BO Roadmap for Implementing disclosure including existing legislation such as the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Act 2015.Alkan said, however, that reporting entities did not fully understand the meaning of Beneficial Ownership Reporting. “This is because they were unable to provide complete information of what was requested in the reporting template,” he said. “In addition to the challenges faced in obtaining information for BO reporting, PNGEITI still does not have a legal basis to collect the required BO information which makes it difficult to obtain complete information from the companies.”There are, of course, many challenges that the report found. These include unfamiliarity with the BO concept especially for non-publicly listed companies; several reporting entities did not attend the BO training workshop, and complex corporate structures especially where there are multiple layers of ownership involving several jurisdictions and different types of legal entities.With these many gaps, the report recommends to have a dialogue with the following organizations: the Financial, Analysis and Supervision Unit (FASU) of the Bank of PNG, Investment Promotion Authority (IPA): and the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA).
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.