In brief: Tenders out for Highlands Highway upgrade, and other business stories

Government puts out tenders for the first part of a K3 billion Highlands Highway upgrade, demand for foreign currency falls, and reports that 31 per cent of log exports are from illegal SABLs. Your weekly digest of the latest business news.

The  Government has secured a K3.19 billion loan from the Asian Development Bank to upgrade and maintain the Highlands Highway. Works and Implementation Secretary David Wereh said the loan was for the repair and maintenance of the highway over a 10-year period (2017-2027). He said the loan was obtained at a concessional rate, with a payback period of 25 years, at less than 2 per cent interest. The Government is reportedly putting out tenders from the first K1.17 billion tranche, which include two Simbu sections, one Morobe section (including the Markham Valley) and the Eastern Highlands section.

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Central Bank Governor Loi Bakani says the current backlog of demand for foreign currency has dropped to K700 million. He told The National that in early 2016, the delay could be up to 10 weeks, whereas it is now down to one or two weeks. He said reserves are now about K1.7 billion.

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The National Research Institute’s Director, Paul Barker, says 31 per cent of PNG’s record 3.6 million cubic metres of logs exported in 2016 came through Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs), as opposed to Timber Permits. East New Britain was the largest log exporting province (21 per cent), followed by WNBP and then West Sepik (16 per cent).

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Kumalu River crossing. Credit: via YouTube

An overhead bridge may be built over the troublesome Kumalu River along the Bulolo Highway in Morobe, Works Secretary David Wereh has told The National. He says the unstable nature of the area means ‘ongoing havoc wreaked by the Kumalu’. He said a 500-600 metre bridge would cost about K80 million and take three years to build. He added that his department has had talks with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

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NASFUND Contributors Savings & Loan Society has recorded a drop in net profit from K5.6 million in 2015 to K4 million in 2016. The fall in profit came despite a rise in total revenue in 2016 to K14.9 million, up from K12.5 million in the previous year.

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The Poultry Industry Association says it has evidence that illegal poultry products have been smuggled into PNG from Southeast Asia and sold in Port Moresby. Association president Chris Prestwood told The National that the illegal products did not meet Government requirements and could have diseases.

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Visitor arrivals to the Pacific region grew by 3.7 per cent last year compared with 2015, reports RNZI.  Fiji remains by far the most successful destination, garnering 40 per cent of tourists coming into the Pacific. French Polynesia recorded a 9.5 per cent market share and PNG 8.8 per cent.

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And finally, in the next instalment of a James Bond-like, high-seas theft, the Bank of Papua New Guinea has warned that K160 million in paper banknotes, which it had designated to be destroyed, has been hijacked and some has found its way back to the country from Indonesia. So far, of the total amount, only K1 million has been recouped. The notes, in denominations of K2, K5, K10, K20, K50 and K100, were sold to a recycling company in Europe in 2013. They were loaded into a container for shipment to Europe but the container was stolen.

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