By Michaeline Moir-Bussy – EMTV News, Cairns
The 32nd Australia and Papua New Guinea Business Forum and Trade Expo is officially underway in Cairns. Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, and Australian Senator and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, addressed delegates on the opening day.
The theme of this year’s forum is “Today’s Investment – Tomorrow’s Returns”, and reflects an important stage reached in Papua New Guinea’s economic and social development, and in the bilateral business relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
The Forum’s first session began with keynote addresses from the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, and Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
Prime Minister O’Neill stated that a forum like this reflects a strong confidence, which he states his government has demonstrated.
Meanwhile, current business issues and headlines back in PNG include, Papua New Guinea’s current fiscal and budget challenges; foreign currency shortage, market access, the free trade agreement, public sector reform, the small business development sector in PNG and highlighting opportunities of economic diversification in agriculture, tourism and sustainable economies.
The Prime Minister addressed most of these.
He indicated that the Governor of Central Bank, the Bank of Papua New Guinea, Loi Bakani, has been working closely on solutions with the commercial banks in PNG. He also reassured the availability of foreign currency.
On the topic of the PACER Plus trade agreement, the Prime Minister reiterated that the issues PNG has is that the agreement is designed more for smaller pacific islands nations. PNG’s economy, he said, is uniquely positioned with Asian economies, coupled with growing access to European markets.
As for the extractive industry, Prime Minister O’Neill also emphasised the Papua LNG project, delivered by Total, at $18 Billion, which is underway and set to give 13,000 jobs in Gulf and Papua. The Prime Minister encouraged contractors from the first PNG LNG project to consider Papua LNG.
O’Neill also shared the status of PNGs current debt levels, which he says are below the debt ceiling.
Meanwhile, Australian Senator and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, emphasised that Australia and Papua New Guinea’s economies are most diverse, and are the largest in this region. She describes the importance of a secure, predictable environment and to continue diversifying our economies to ensure returns, especially in times like now.
The Minister for International Development and the Pacific also acknowledged PNG’s position on the PACER Plus deal and confirmed that both governments are working together to ensure that the conditions are addressed.