Professor Stephen Howes Addresses Foreign Exchange Shortage in Papua New Guinea
by PNG Business News - May 22, 2023
Photo: Professor Stephen Howes. Credit: Australia National University
Papua New Guinea is grappling with a foreign exchange shortage, resulting in higher imports and lower exports, according to economist Professor Stephen Howes from the Australia National University (ANU) Development Policy Centre. Speaking at the 38th Australia-PNG Business Forum and Trade Expo in Port Moresby, Professor Howes highlighted the country's loss of competitive economic gains from the 1990s during the resource boom between 2000 and 2014 as a major contributing factor.
"The country is faced with a foreign exchange (forex) shortage largely because PNG lost its competitive and hardline economic gains from the 1990s during the resource boom between 2000 and 2014," Professor Howes explained.
While the growth of the economy and forex was observed following the boom, the real exchange rate remained persistently high over the past decade, exacerbating the shortage. This high exchange rate has both boosted the economy and contributed to the scarcity of forex.
"The PNG Kina has depreciated from 2013 to 2020 according to statistics from the Bank of Papua New Guinea (BPNG), however the real exchange rate has remained high," Professor Howes stated.
The depreciation of the Kina was primarily driven by an increase in imports and inflation, impacting the country's forex reserves over the last decade. The highest depreciation rate, amounting to 14 percent, was recorded at the end of 2015, coinciding with Papua New Guinea hosting the 2015 Pacific Games, where significant infrastructure spending occurred.
"In the last three years, the kina had hardly moved against the US dollar, however it did appreciate by 17 per cent over other currencies on a trade-weighted basis, which included a depreciation rate of zero per cent from the end of 2021 to September 2022," Professor Howes noted.
The resource boom generated increased revenue for Papua New Guinea; however, the real exchange rate offset the economic shortages that followed, significantly impacting forex availability.
"The Kina was floated in 1995 to make PNG exports competitive on the international market. The Kina value is now determined by demand and supply in the foreign exchange market," Professor Howes explained.
Regarding the exchange rate policy of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, Professor Howes clarified that the central bank was not obligated to meet all market demands and did not require buyers to bid for forex or set prices. This policy primarily aimed to control inflation, limiting the growth of the country's forex reserves in preparation for future resource booms.
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.
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.”
PNG Business News - February 15, 2021
Foreign Exchange Liquidity Is Expected To Rise In 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.”
PNG Business News - June 05, 2023
PNG PM Marape Participates in PIF Leaders Breakfast Caucas
Photo: PNG PM Marape Participates in PIF Leaders Breakfast Caucas Prior to the Korean-Pacific Islands Leaders (Kor-Pic) Meeting, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Marape joined other PIC Leaders for a breakfast caucus Chaired by Cook Islands Prime Minister and current Pacific Islands Forum Chair Mark Brown, to discuss the agenda and a common position on shared development issues. Prime Minister Marape said climate variation, being the perennial issue including sourcing appropriate development assistance from the Korean Government was high on the agenda. He said the encouragement during the caucus was for all PIC Leaders to discuss their developmental challenges and put forward their ideas on how Korean Development assistance could complement the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy. Following this caucus, Prime Minister Marape, met with Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles. Their discussions were centered around progress of the proposed Bilateral Security Treaty (BST), the recently concluded Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, Visa issues and the PNG NRL Bid. On the BST, Prime Minister Marape mentioned that it was work in progress and required the PNG side to consult our domestic processes and sovereign laws in relation to certain wordings and provisions. He also conveyed his apologies to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for the delay in formalising this proposed Treaty with Australia. For the DCA with the US, Prime Minister Marape informed that it was centered around improving the PNGDF's capabilities and interoperability including protecting our frontiers and sovereignty. He said it was non-discriminatory and PNG was open to entering into similar arrangements with its bilateral partners. “In fact, the DCA would also complement domestic law enforcement,” Prime Minister Marape said. “The Ship Rider Agreement on the other hand was also vital in combating illegal fishing and transnational crimes.” For Visa issues, Deputy Prime Minister Marles informed that the current Australian Government was fully aware of the situation and following the Ministerial Forum in February this year in Canberra, had established a Joint Ministerial Team to work on bringing the Australian visa processing facility back on shore to PNG. Prime Minister Marape in his response said that all processes from both sides had to be attended to in order for smooth facilitation and for citizens and businesses to continue without much hindrance now and heading into 2050 when PNG celebrates 50 years of nationhood. On Papua New Guinea’s NRL Bid, Prime Minister Marape explained that PNG was still very keen as rugby league was a major unifying factor, bringing our 800 tribes together as one people. In closing Prime Minister Marape assured Deputy Prime Minister Marles that PNG in no way would compromise its excellent existing bilateral relations with Australia and further stressed that PNG was capable of managing its sovereign affairs on its terms, systems and processes.
PNG Business News - June 05, 2023
ADB Helps Launch Vocational Education Project in PNG
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) today launched a cofinanced project to improve the country’s technical and vocational education and training (TVET) program. PNG's Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso delivered a keynote address at the launch event at Port Moresby Technical College. PNG’s Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, and Sports Don Polye, ADB Country Director for Papua New Guinea David Hill, and Australian High Commission Minister Counsellor Paul Lehmann all spoke at the event. The Improved Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Employment Project financed by ADB and the governments of Australia and PNG will strengthen the country’s TVET program and help prepare students to be more competitive and responsive to employment and industry demands. “We hope this project will become a model for all vocational education and skills training in TVET colleges in the country,” said Mr. Rosso. “The beneficiaries of this project—young, skilled workers, including women and men—represent PNG’s future, and through this project, the future of vocational education in PNG looks bright.” This project aims to boost the numbers of skilled workers in the construction and agriculture sectors where demand is high. “We will work with our partners to help advance reforms in the vocational education and skills training space in PNG,” said Mr.Hill. “These sought-after skills in priority sectors will help grow PNG’s economy.” The TVET sector of PNG’s education system comprises public, religious, or private institutions, including technical and business colleges offering postsecondary courses and vocational training. “The Australian government is pleased to be supporting the Government of Papua New Guinea to achieve its reform goals in technical and vocational education and training to increase the number and quality of skilled workers,” said Australian High Commission Minister Counsellor Paul Lehmann. “My vision for the TVET for Employment Project is that it will perform as an innovation and technology business incubator across PNG,” said Mr. Polye. “The project is the embodiment of a new approach—building a culture of quality education and innovation in a renewed and revitalized TVET sector.” The Improved Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Employment Project is funded through a $50 million concessional loan from ADB and a $10.6 million grant from Australia. The Government of PNG is also contributing $5.7 million. ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.
PNG Business News - June 05, 2023
PNG Forges an Innovation-fueled Partnership with South Korea in Digital Transformation
Papua New Guinea was amongst seven other Pacific Island countries to sign a partnership statement of intent with the Republic of Korea to further cooperation and partnership in digital transformation. Information and Communications Technology Minister Timothy Masiu, who also was appointed co- chair of the just concluded Korea -Pacific Islands Digital Ministerial Conference in Seoul, South Korea, signed the statement together with the meeting chairman Korean Minister for Science and ICT Dr Lee Jong-Ho. The others who signed the partnership intent are Tonga, Nauru, Samoa, Palau, Cook Islands and Kiribati. Australia and the World Bank also attended the meeting as supporting partners. The Statement of Intent states; The partnership recognize digitalization has transformed not only daily lives but also shapes innovation in all sectors including politics, economy, society, culture and environment. Recognize and note that digital technology offers great potential to address various social economic challenges that come with rapid transformation of society. Agree on continued partnership in digital transformation inclusive of sustainable development will be the key to future prosperity of the people of Korea and the pacific. Agree on sharing digital vision of policies will pave way for strong partnership to digital co-prosperity. Mr Masiu expressed deep satisfaction that Korea , the global leading innovation country, has agreed to partner with Pacific countries including Papua New Guinea in digital transformation that will greatly enhance communication in a vast area like the Pacific and more so, strengthen supporting technology to better access to health, education and business. He told the conference that Papua New Guinea has begun the digital transformation with Parliament passing the Digital Government Act 2022 and relevant policies, and welcomed the partnership with the Republic of Korea, which he says, will go a long way in progressing the digital transformation agenda for PNG and the region. Mr Masiu had bilateral meeting with his South Korean counterpart, further seeking a stronger country to country relations in digital transformation and support to the National Broadcasting Corporation proposing a partnership between the NBC and the Korean Broadcasting Services. The Minister has formally invited the Korean Minister for Science and ICT to visit Papua New Guinea for the Pacific ICT meeting in August 2023 or to accompany the South Korean President who has been invited by Prime Minister James Marape to visit PNG. Mr Marape was in Seoul also this week for the Korea- Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting. Minister Dr Lee Jong-Ho acknowledges the leadership of Papua New Guinea in digital transformation and reaffirmed its support to PNG and the other Pacific Island countries.