Business forum to debate infrastructure ‘priorities’


BAI logo no textThe Australia–Papua New Guinea Business Forum in Port Moresby next week will have a special focus on how to improve Papua New Guinea’s vast infrastructure needs.

More than 300 businesspeople, political leaders, policy makers and analysts are expected to meet for three days at the conference, which is arranged by the Business Council of PNG and the Australia–PNG Business Council.

‘We’ve had enough of the talk, it’s time for action,’ Ernie Gangloff, President of Business Council of PNG told Business Advantage PNG. ‘We’ve invited speakers who’ve had experience in getting things off the ground and actually implementing projects.’

‘This ties in with the Government’s motive for this year—the year of implementation. We all realise that the infrastructure is a key impediment to economic growth and the Government has realised that and have decided that this year they actually want to make things happen.’

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is expected to open the conference. Australia’s new Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Senator Matt Thistlethwaite, will address the meeting in place of Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr.

Other high-powered government attendees include PNG’s Treasurer, Don Polye, the Chief Secretary to the Government, Manasupe Zurenuoc and the Chair of the Independent Public Business Corporation, Dr Thomas Webster.

Infrastructure opportunities

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‘We think it’s important for the future development of PNG that not only the immediate infrastructure needs are looked at and addressed but also for the future, because we can see enormous growth opportunities in PNG,’ said Peter Taylor, President of the Australia–PNG Business Council.

‘Roads for example, internally getting products to market and taking equipment to resource sites is handicapped by the lack of a decent road network. Even where there are roads, the maintenance on those roads is often lacking so that’s an enormous additional cost to the economy generally.’

Taylor also expects debate over ports, airports, reliable flights, consistent electricity, and clean, reliable water supplies.

‘We’re discussing the possibility of designating North Queensland, specifically the ports of Townsville and Cairns, as a free trade zone, where goods coming into PNG and Australia can be pre-cleared. That will mean instead of having this congestion at the port where all these containers are sitting around – sometimes for months at a time – they can simply be put on a truck and taken elsewhere. We believe that will make an enormous difference to the congestion, because it’s not just a lack of berths, it’s the time it takes to load and unload ships.’

Key role for business

Ernie Gangloff said business people want to have an integral role in improving infrastructure.

‘From the Business Council point of view, we want to highlight the fact that we want to be part of the development programme, but we also want to be partners in development, not just simply to be an end user in terms of “Here’s the contract—what can you do?”’

The Australia–PNG Business Forum runs from Sunday, 14 April 2013 until Tuesday, 16 April at Port Moresby’s Gateway Hotel.