The National Planning Consultative Summit that began today (March 20) in Lae has brought together departmental heads, politicians and donors in what the government hopes will be an important step to growing the economy.
Up to 400 participants were given sobering statistics which showed how PNG’s population growth continues to outstrip the economic growth rate.
“We have one of the highest population growth rates in the developing world and unless we grow the economy, we will not be able to support our people with the basic services,” said Secretary for Planning, Hakaua Harry.
“Only 10 percent of the formal economy is actually owned by Papua New Guineans.”
While there has been a strong push by the PNG Government with Richard Maru at the helm to grow the SME sector, the results have been less than encouraging. Access to credit and high costs of doing business have been a significant obstacle to small Papua New Guinean-owned businesses.
Over the next two days, the Summit will draw input from the participants including international experts.
This morning Planning Minister, Richard, Maru, called the meeting to order, focusing on getting the participants to realise that the current state of the economy wasn’t ideal for a comfortable standard of living going into the future.
Minister Maru’s main message was import reduction, having a stronger diversified economic base that can support key government policies. As the previous Managing Director of the National Development Bank, Richard Maru planned and executed a recovery strategy of the government entity. On a national scale, it is now a recovery and growth on a grander scale.
“This country needs an economy worth 100 billion kina. For that to happen, the foundations need to be set for an economy 90 times the current size,” he said.
Both Richard Maru and Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, were critical of the resource sector. Both said that the government was getting relatively little from mines all over the country apart from the government-owned Ok Tedi Mining.
“…That is why we are reviewing all the resource agreements,” Prime Minister O’Neill said. “By 2020, we will stop all round log exports. There must be 100 percent downstream processing in two years.”
For Morobe, the stage is set to continue to use Lae as a growth centre both for the province and the country. The Nadzab Airport will be upgraded and extended with Japanese donor funding.
The Prime Minister has also urged the PNG Ports Authority and the provincial government to begin using the new Lae Port which has remained unused since it’s construction ended.