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PNG Business News - April 06, 2021
NSO: Census Report Available by Year’s End
By the end of the year, the much-anticipated national demographic estimates and common roll update will be available. The National Statistics Office (NSO) gave this assurance when confirming that 95% of institutional listing has been achieved. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Acting National Statistician John Igitoi stated that the NSO was committed to finishing the census and updating the popular roll by the end of the year. “We (NSO) have completed 95 per cent of the structural listing,” he said. “The remaining five per cent are the urban centres, including National Capital District. NCD will be hard because we have settlements and development all over the place.” He confirmed that structural listing for other cities would begin until the National Pandemic Controller has issued his approval. Igitoi reported that NSO field officers at the local government and district levels in the provinces have covered 95 per cent of PNG's rural areas. He stated that there was a recruiting campaign for enumerators in the provinces and that once that was completed, preparation for those field officers for the actual enumeration at the LLG level would begin. “The recruitment drive will be completed this month (April) and by next month, we will conduct training for master trainers, who will go to the provinces and conduct training-of-trainers,” Igitoi said. “These trainers will go down to their respective LLGs and train field officers, who are going to carry out the actual enumeration.” Despite COVID-19 interventions and financial constraints, he stated that the NSO would ensure that national population numbers are issued by the end of the year.
PNG Business News - April 06, 2021
Inflation Due to Covid 19's Effect On Agriculture, Health Services
The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the prices of seasonal produce and medical services pushed annual inflation higher in the second half of 2020. Loi Bakani, the Governor of the Bank of PNG, said annual headline inflation was 5.1% in the December quarter of 2020. The annual key indexes of inflation, he said, had also risen. According to Bakani, the bank predicts annual headline inflation to be about 4.5 per cent in 2021, based on slowing inflation feed-through and relative exchange rate stability. The underlying inflation indexes, he said, are expected to be mild. Upside threats to these estimates, according to Bakani, include the effects of disturbances in domestic and global supply chains. He predicted that headline inflation will be about 4% in the medium term, indicating the relaxation of containment policies. According to Bakani, the board money supply rose by 7.0 per cent in 2020, owing to rises of 19.5 per cent in net foreign assets (NFA) and 4.5 per cent in net domestic assets (NDA), respectively. “The increases in NFA reflected external borrowings for the National Budget,” he said. “The increase in deposits at commercial banks was from liquidity injected by the government expenditure and monetary policy measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The additional liquidity did not translate into increased private sector credit, which was instead reinvested in COVID-19 treasury bonds and through secondary markets trading with the Central Bank.” Due to the sluggish economy, Bakani said the private sector's demand for credit remained poor. “Therefore, the exchange settlement account levels of commercial banks and liquidity in the banking system remain high,” he said. “To minimise the potential threat to price stability in the meantime, the Central Bank is managing liquidity through secondary market reading and the TAP facility for government securities, which was set up to encourage a savings culture. For 2021, the Ban forecasted an increase of 6.2 per cent in the broad money supply. This is mainly due to an increase of 8.6 per cent in NDA, which more than offset a decline NFA of 4.5 per cent. The increase in NDA is due to an increase in net claims on the central government of 16.0 per cent, which reflects government debt issuance and an increase in private sector credit (PSC) of 6.0 per cent. This increase in PSC is driven by the expected economic recovery. He added, “In line with these developments, the monetary base is projected to increase by 3.9 per cent.”
PNG Business News - March 31, 2021
PNG Ports Explains Their Decision to Deal with Covid-19
COVID-19 had a major impact on Papua New Guinea's exports and port movement, but the PNG Ports Corporation had taken political decisions to handle the situation. In recent months, the world has seen and continues to see a significant shift in everyday lives, which has had significant implications for industry, commerce, and transportation. The pandemic's emergence altered both economic and trade forecasts for 2020. New predictions have reduced forecasts to negative 4.9 per cent, down from an estimate of 3.6 per cent increase in container trade worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 2.5 per cent in January 2020. PNG Ports chairman Kepas Wali clarified that the company's earnings were the result of tight cost-cutting steps and prudent decisions taken by management. Last year, he said, the closing of borders and prohibitions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic struck PNG Ports hard, which is dependent on trade. Despite COVID-19, PNG Ports has continued to operate all of its ports. “When COVID-19 hit the country and the world, the management of PNG Ports worked quickly and instituted certain protocols and prevention measures just so we can maintain our ports operations,” he said. “The management’s quick response to the situation has made it possible for all ports to operate during the hit by the pandemic through until now.” He said the pandemic's consequences on the company were expensive, but PNG Ports is happy with the positive results obtained by their management's swift reaction and aims to continue this going forward.
PNG Business News - March 31, 2021
BSP Changes Group Name
BSP Financial Group has replaced Bank South Pacific Limited as the company's name. Sir Kostas Constantinou, Chairman of the BSP, revealed this last week. The shareholders approved the name change, as well as other legislative amendments, according to Sir Kostas. BSP will now proceed with the filing of its application for listing on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). “The notice of the meeting is currently subject to advise and approvals, which are expected to be finalised during March 2021,” Sir Kostas said. According to BSP Group CEO Robin Fleming, the proposed ASX listing would provide access to new pools of capital on Australia's largest market. “While BSP has been listed since 2003 on the PNGX, there are a number of constraints that BSP faces in sourcing new forms of equity capital,” he said. “Accordingly, BSP is pursuing the proposed listing as a means of mitigating some of these constraints. Access to new sources of capital will allow BSP to explore future growth opportunities. Another benefit of joining the ASX is that it will facilitate increased liquidity for BSP’s shareholders (trading of BSP shares). The ASX is a much deeper (larger pool of investors) and (more) active market than the PNGX. Accordingly, shareholders will find it easier to trade BSP shares on the ASX.” The visibility of BSP would increase if it joined the ASX, according to Fleming. “It will provide the opportunity to better educate the international marketplace in relation to BSP and PNG,” he said. BSP's shares would be exchanged on both the PNGX and the ASX if authorised. When asked about the name change, CEO Robin Fleming confirmed that the iconic trade name of BSP would continue to be used throughout the Pacific.
PNG Business News - March 29, 2021
New Mobile Service to Launch
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister Timothy Masiu said a third network service run by Digitec Communications Ltd will begin before the end of the year. Masiu made the remarks during a recent visit to Digitec's headquarters in Waigani, Port Moresby. The building of over 1,100 towers is expected to be completed, according to Digitec's chief executive officer Pradeep Lal and chief technical officer Justine Prakash, and once fully operational, up to 1,000 new jobs will be available, ranging from sales and marketing to engineering and ICT-specific jobs. Masiu said the site visit had given the ICT ministry renewed faith that Digitec's operator license would be fully capitalised by the end of the year when the Vodafone PNG brand is introduced. The minister was also pleased with the effect that a third operator would have on the public. “I am delighted to inform the public that the introduction of a third mobile network operator will bring in much-needed competition to the market to drive retail prices down for the benefit of our people,” he said. “We’ve also done our independent assessments and we believe mobile coverage could easily jump from 42 per cent to 85 per cent within one year after the launch of the third operator. This means that more of our people will have access to communication services at a cheaper rate. In addition, this should finally trigger regulated tower sharing pricing and mobile number portability in early 2022 and so it is truly exciting times ahead for all of us.”
PNG Business News - March 29, 2021
ICCC Evaluating Kina Banks Acquisition of Westpac
Kina Securities Ltd (KSL) has sent an application to the Independent Consumer Competition Commission (ICCC) for approval of its proposed acquisition of Westpac's Pacific company. Through the authorisation process, ICCC will determine the acquisition's competition consequences and public gains, according to Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer Paulus Ain. This will be achieved by a public review process in which the ICCC will accept comments from stakeholders and the general public before reaching a definitive judgment about whether or not to approve the acquisition under the ICCC Act. “The process that ICCC will conduct is very transparent and it is very important for the people of this country, especially from the finance and banking sector, to get themselves involved,” Ain said. “The process has now started and we are formally inviting the people in the finance and banking sector, other commentators, interested parties and the public to the process on assessment. We are looking forward to seeing a lot of submissions come in and this process starts effectively today (Friday).” KSL is awaiting ICCC approval to purchase 89.91 per cent of Westpac PNG Ltd. The proposed acquisition has reached the threshold needed under section 81 of the ICCC Act for mandatory notification and obtaining ICCC approval to continue with the acquisition, according to the ICCC. The authorisation process, according to Ain, has no bearing on the ICCC's decision on who buys. “This is something that ICCC does not or is not required by law to do this,” he said. “It’s outside of the ICCC’s role.”
PNG Business News - March 25, 2021
Government Requests Loan Extension for Road Projects
The government has requested a loan extension for two World Bank projects in the Gulf and Madang provinces to maintain and rehabilitate roads. The extension will allow procurement and construction on the Bogia-Awar section of the Coastal Highway and the Epo-Kerema section of the Hiritano Highway to be completed by April 28, 2023. “These projects are part of a long-standing Government-World Bank commitment to improving transport infrastructure,” Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey said. According to Ling-Stuckey, the road maintenance and rehabilitation project has played a pivotal role in upgrading Papua New Guinea's primary road network, and it is now being put back on track. Both the government and the World Bank had been aware for some time that these two key projects would not be completed by the loan closing date of April 30 this year. “Therefore we have sought this extension to allow for the awarding of contracts by the end of April, and for works to start by the end of May,” Ling-Stuckey outlined. “The new schedule we have set is very tight, but we believe it can be met. Transport infrastructure is one of the keys to the Marape-Basil’s agenda for economic and social development, especially in rural areas. These two projects will make a big difference to the income-earning capacity of the people of Gulf, Madang and surrounding provinces.”
PNG Business News - March 24, 2021
PNG Receives 8,000 Covid-19 Vaccines From Australia
Australia has sent 8,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Port Moresby's Jacksons Airport as part of its continuing assistance to PNG to contain and combat the spread of COVID-19 in the region. Prime Minister James Marape expressed gratitude to the Australian Government at the airport where the vaccinations were sent, saying that Australia continues to assist PNG wherever it is required. The launch of the vaccinations was observed by Prime Minister Marape and the Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea His Excellency Jon Philp, Minister of Health and HIV/AIDS Jelta Wong, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock John Simon, Controller of the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response and Police Commissioner Mr David Manning, and Secretary for Health Dr Osbourne Liko. According to Marape, Australia has agreed to provide another million vaccines to Papua New Guinea. In the next two to three months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its allies will secure almost 700,000 vaccines for PNG. “These vaccines are not compulsory for all citizens but would be available for those who feel that they need to protect themselves against COVID-19. Our health workers in the first instance would be given preference before the rest of us,” Prime Minister Marape said. The Prime Minister has claimed that he would be glad to be the first citizen to receive the vaccine in order to illustrate that it is safe for others to receive it too.
PNG Business News - March 23, 2021
PNG Receives the First Shipment of Covid-19 Vaccines and Specialists from Australia
A flight from Australia has arrived in Papua New Guinea with the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines as well as experts to support local experts in responding to the virus. The first supply of vaccines for frontline health staff was made on Tuesday, March 23rd, with an initial rollout for the National Capital District. In addition to AUSMAT experts, the RAAF flight carried three mobile storage units to help with the vaccine rollout, as well as five group tents that served as triaging areas, reception centres, and clinic rooms. Australia is collaborating with Papua New Guinea to promote the government's response to a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases, in order to save lives and support the health sector of its nearest neighbour. The Australian government has decided to assist PNG and will work with it to develop a robust support program to aid the country's response to the crisis. A forward team of three AUSMAT health experts is being sent to Port Moresby by Australia. Infection prevention, triage and emergency response, and public health interventions will be discussed with Papua New Guinean health officials. The deployed AUSMAT, according to a statement from the Australian High Commission in PNG, would adhere to quarantine agreements reached with the PNG government. The government of Papua New Guinea will assess future goals.
PNG Business News - March 22, 2021
Businesses Must Take Lead In The Prevention of COVID-19
With the recent rise in COVID-19 positive cases in PNG, peak bodies representing industry, the private sector, and development partners are urging their members to take the lead in promoting and enforcing necessary virus prevention protocols. In a joint statement released recently, the PNG Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGCCI) and the Business Council of PNG (BCPNG) reminded businesses to introduce the Niupela Pasin (New Normal) at every workplace. The Niupela Pasin contains the following steps to protect staff, customers, and the general public at all workplaces. Stay at home if you're sick. Don't bother going to work. Do not mingle. Call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800200 if you have a fever, cough, sore throat, or trouble breathing. If you've been told to self-isolate, you should do so right away. Maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters between yourself, your coworkers, and your clients. No handshakes or fist bumps! Simply welcome each other with a smile, a nod, or a quick hello Door handles, phones, keyboards, elevator keys, kitchens, and bathrooms should all be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. Hands should be washed regularly with soap and water, or an alcohol-based sanitizer should be used. Sneeze and cough into your elbow, or use a tissue and throw it away as soon as possible. Reduce the amount of time people spend in the workplace. Limit wide in-person meetings and instead conduct them over the phone or over the internet. To protect yourself and others, wear a face mask or face covering in all public places. Work with your physicians to figure out how to stay safe whether you're worried about your health or have underlying medical conditions. “These are measures that are now a normal part of life in the New Normal,” it said. “As the voice of business, the private sector and development partners, we remind all our members to ensure that all measures are taken to protect everyone from COVID-19. This is a shared responsibility, which we all must play our part in addressing. Given the recent spike in community transmission resulting in increased positive COVID-19 cases being reported, and the continued constraints faced by our health facilities, it is important that we take the lead in promoting, and practising COVID-19 prevention protocols,”
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
It's Important to Combat the Virus, Ceo Says
According to PNG Manufacturers Council chief executive officer Chey Scovell, businesses support the urgent need to stop the current spread of the Covid-19 but agree that a full-scale, literal lockdown isn't feasible in Papua New Guinea. When asked whether companies were preparing for a lockdown due to the increase in Covid-19 incidents, Scovell said yes. “This depends on what you mean by ‘prepared’,” he said.“Can they physically stop operating and send all staff home, yes? However, manufacturers are not responsible for filling up warehouses (in stores), if we close manufacturers, shelves run empty. If we close shops, people can’t make any purchases.” According to Scovell, PNG's capacity for home delivery services is inadequate, and most people lack the opportunity to stock up on supplies for two to four weeks. He said that while manufacturers continued to provide healthy work environments for workers to protect against the Covid-19 and reduce the risk of infection, they were unable to implement all safety procedures and behaviours. The reality is that we are now in stage three,” he said. “Movements should already be restricted, it’s simply not being enforced at all, in any way.” For Scovell, restricting mobility was necessary but not always feasible because many facilities required staff to travel and people needed to move as well. “We support the guidelines and the restrictions under each stage,” he said. “We would ask that rules be followed and enforced. Our manufacturers have put in place measures to comply with the rules. It’s outside the workplace that rules are not being followed.” Only critical staff were required to attend work during stages three and four, according to Scovell, but this was not the case. “In my membership, they are working in rotations, working from home, have made substantial changes to their work layouts to ensure distancing,” he said. “The Government lacks the capacity to effectively enforce the guidelines.” He claimed that because the government lacked sufficient workers (police, health workers, teachers, etc.) for the country, expecting the police to effectively enforce the rules was impractical. We each have to play our part,” he said. “Maybe a hotline for workers and customers to report non-compliance would assist, but even then it would still be a challenge for the government to visit and penalise those that aren’t complying.” To manage the effect of the Covid-19 on businesses and people's lives, Scovell said constant knowledge, leadership from politicians and bureaucrats, and vigilance from the public were needed.
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PNG Business News - March 16, 2021
BSP Considers Listing on Australian Stock Exchange
Bank South Pacific (BSP) is thinking of being listed on the Australian stock exchange (ASX). Sir Kostas Constantinou, chairman of the bank's board of directors, said the bank intended to call a special meeting of shareholders to seek approval for amendments to its constitution that would allow BSP to apply to join the ASX's official list. It would be able to obtain dual listing as a result of this. It's also on the Papua New Guinea stock exchange (PNGX). “The notice of the meeting is currently subject to advise and approvals, which are expected to be finalised during March 2021,” Sir Kostas said. The aim of the planned ASX listing, according to BSP Group CEO Robin Fleming, is to gain access to new sources of capital on Australia's main exchange. “While BSP has been listed since 2003 on the PNGX, there are a number of constraints that BSP faces in sourcing new forms of equity capital,” he said. “Accordingly, BSP is pursuing the proposed listing as a means of mitigating some of these constraints. Access to new sources of capital will allow BSP to explore future growth opportunities. Another benefit of joining the ASX is that it will facilitate increased liquidity for BSP’s shareholders (trading of BSP shares). The ASX is a much deeper (larger pool of investors) and (more) active market than the PNGX. Accordingly, shareholders will find it easier to trade BSP shares on the ASX.” BSP's visibility would increase if it joined the ASX, according to Fleming. “It will provide the opportunity to better educate the international marketplace in relation to BSP and PNG,” he said.
PNG Business News - March 16, 2021
PM Marape: As Covid-19 Cases Rise, PNG Will Be Placed In Nationwide Isolation
As a result of a high number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases recorded in the country, Papua New Guinea will be placed in a nationwide quarantine. This was revealed by Prime Minister James Marape at a press conference in Port Moresby. He stated that this would not be a "severe lockdown," and that companies and government would be able to function normally. After returning from attending the funeral of late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in Wewak, East Sepik Province, he will reveal the specifics of the isolation strategy. “The nationwide isolation strategy will ensure people are not moving from place to place unnecessarily,’’ said Mr Marape. “Remain in your province, remain in your district, remain in your village and where you are,’’ he said. The National Control Centre, according to Marape, will work with the Regional Health Authorities and Provincial Coordination Centres to ensure that the provincial response plans placed in place last year are enabled and that funds set aside for the response are used effectively. In the implementation of the isolation policy, NCC will cooperate with the National Department of Education. PNG began its response in the green alert phase (no cases at first, then one around March), jumped to the next risk stage when it identified a few cases, and is now in the red alert phase due to community transmission in a number of provinces, according to Marape. COVID-19, he said, is not a joke. "For those who think COVID-19 is a joke, or are playing around; this is an established pandemic,’’ he said. He noted that every effort is being made to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine being brought into the country is of world-class quality and safe to use. If PNG is unsure about the vaccine, he is willing to be the test subject.
PNG Business News - March 11, 2021
PNG Gives Regulatory Approval for AztraZeneca Vaccine
The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine has been given regulatory approval for use in Papua New Guinea. The government is planning for the vaccine rollout, aimed to launch by the end of April, as PNG struggles to control the spread of Covid-19. The PNG Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed the various Covid-19 vaccines produced, according to Prime Minister James Marape. PNG can obtain the AstraZeneca vaccine produced through the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access, or COVAX facility, he said. The World Health Organization has also given it their blessing. Vaccination would not be compulsory, according to Marape. It will be aimed at a specific audience. “A large number of health workers have been affected by the Covid-19, therefore, they will be given priority,” he said. “We are now in the process of getting the vaccine across, hopefully by April.” PNG will receive a total of 588,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the first allocation by the end of June, according to the Department of Health. The vaccine will be sent to PNG in two shipments: the first, consisting of 288,000 doses, is scheduled to arrive in late March or early April, and the second, consisting of the remaining 300,000 doses, will arrive in late May or early June. Frontline vital health staff will be the first to be vaccinated, with the first batch arriving by the end of June, followed by the most vulnerable, such as those with co-morbidities and the elderly, in the second half of the year. Marape expressed concern in a statement that Covid-19 has infected a significant number of health workers, and that they will be given priority for vaccination. "Health workers will be vaccinated first as we are seeing a growing number of health workers who are getting infected in the line of their work," he said. "There is evidence that there is a large community transmission in the National Capital District, and that is affecting health workers who have come in contact with Covid-19 patients in the course of their duty. This is a serious community transmission and we are now relooking at our own isolation strategies, and how we can best look after our health workers while processes for bringing in the vaccine are completed and the vaccines are brought into the country." The prime minister said that he would not take the vaccine ahead of those who need it most and that he would only do so to demonstrate to Papua New Guineans that the vaccine can help them combat the virus. “It must be emphasised that even with the vaccine, we must maintain and strengthen public health measures such as face masking, physical distancing, frequent hand washing, respiratory and cough hygiene, avoiding crowds and ensuring good ventilation,” said Marape.