Papua New Guinea has ‘enormous potential’ to increase exports, Eslake tells conference


Delegates to last week’s 2022 Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference received an overview of the plans of the new Marape government, as well as detailed economic updates and a range of briefings on opportunities across the country’s key economic sectors. We present a snapshot of proceedings.

The organisers reported an improvement on pre-COVID attendance figures at this year’s conference. Credit: Stefan Daniljchenko/BAI

Opening the 2022 Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference at Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre, PNG’s High Commissioner to Australia, John Mali, told delegates that PNG ‘must build and restore business and investor confidence back into the country’.

He suggested this would be done through ‘transparent processes in business entry, work permits, visa reforms with stable policy and operating environments, business processes improvements, important infrastructure, energy sustainability and security improvement in the environment and willingness to consult with the private sector.’

He highlighted measures which would be taken by the new Marape government to reboot the country’s tourism sector, encourage small and medium-sized enterprises, reform state-owned enterprises and encourage the development of Special Economic Zones.

‘There are signs that global inflation is already starting to stall.’

He said the Marape government was particularly keen to encourage new foreign direct investment in enabling infrastructure and ‘downstream processing in the agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors as well as tourism industry’.

Global trends

Keynote speaker Saul Eslake is predicting slow global economic growth in the coming two years. Credit: Stefan Daniljchenko/BAI

Delivering the opening keynote address on Day One, renowned economist and business commentator, Saul Eslake, spoke on the latest global economic trends and their likely impact on PNG.

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‘Papua New Guinea has enormous potential to increase its production and exports of strategic minerals, energy and food products,’ he observed.

While there were likely to be inflationary pressures in PNG until the end of the year, as well as pressure to raise interest rates, he suggested that there are signs that global inflation is already starting to stall.

Meanwhile, Westpac economist Justin Smirk presented an economic update on PNG’s economy, suggesting that the country had emerged from the COVID period ‘incredibly well’.

He predicted economic growth for the country of 4.2 per cent this year, and 4.7 per cent in 2023.

‘PNG’s reliance on mining could come to an end by the 2060s.’

The conference focused on business and investment opportunities across PNG’s economy, with three expert-laden panel discussions on Day One focusing on the country’s investment climate, on large-scale developments and on reform of PNG’s state-owned enterprises. Individual sessions also focused on sectors primed for growth.

Energy and resources

Steamships’ Rupert Bray, Nambawan Super’s Paul Sayer and Monier’s George Constantinou discuss the challenges of large scale developments in PNG. Credit: Stefan Daniljchenko/BAI

The global market for LNG has changed substantially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. Suggesting that ‘European buyers will never rely on Russian gas again,’ Daniel Toleman, Principal Analyst – Global LNG at Wood Mackenzie suggested this presented an opportunity for other suppliers, with PNG being seen as important for overall global energy security.

Global demand for LNG was predicted to double by 2040, he said, and new LNG projects would be needed to meet that demand. PNG was well placed provided it could maintain a stable regime for LNG and be ‘cost and carbon competitive’.

ExxonMobil PNG Peter Larden Chairman & Managing Director also presented data that suggested LNG would grow its share of the global energy market and outlined the prospects for PNG’s current and future LNG projects and exploration.

Delegates also received presentations on the potential of green hydrogen from the Asian Development Bank climate and energy expert Devesh Singh and on finance available to the private sector for solar mini-grids in PNG, through the United States’ International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

The conference also received an update on what looks likely to be PNG’s first Special Economic Zone, at Ihu in Gulf Province, and several investment case studies.

Day One closed with a compressive overview of PNG’s mining outlook from the Mineral Resources Authority’s Managing Director, Jerry Garry, who suggested PNG’s reliance on mining could come to an end by the 2060s, and a presentation from Austrade Deputy CEO Daniel Boyer on doing business in China.

Infrastructure focus

Nasfund’s Ian Tarutia and Kumul Consolidated Holdings’ Matthew May discuss reform of PNG’s SOEs. Credit: Stefan Daniljchenko/BAI

Day Two of the conference commenced with a briefing on business and investment opportunities in Fiji and Solomon Islands,  which included analysis of geopolitics in the region.

The conference heard about the new era in PNG’s telecommunications sector, with Nirmal Singh, Managing Director of new entrant Vodafone PNG and Colin Stone, CEO of Digicel PNG (recently acquired by Telstra) outlining their plans, and also participating in a face-to-face discussion about some of the challenges being facing by the sector.

The founder of Kacific Broadband Satellites, Christian Patouraux, also spoke about the future for satellite technology to support growth in the telecommunications sector.

With the draft of PNG’s new digital government strategy currently receiving submissions, Craig Lawton of Amazon subsidiary Amazon Web Services presented on the principles of digital transformation and how to create data-driven organisations, while the delegates also heard from cybersecurity expert Ravin Prasad on how to protect their businesses from cyber crime in an environment where 81 per cent of businesses have experienced some form of cyber attack.

Face-to-face networking returned to the conference this year. Credit: Stefan Daniljchenko/BAI

Meanwhile, PNG Port’s CEO Fego Kiniafa gave further details on the thirty-year masterplan to upgrade the nation’s 15 ports.

Finally, delegates heard about the various loans and grants available to finance infrastructure projects in PNG from three of the funds active in financing infrastructure in the Pacific: the International Finance Corporation, the Australian Infrastructure Finance Facility for the Pacific and the DFC.

The 2022 Papua New Guinea Investment Conference was the tenth such event organised by hosts, Business Advantage International. Plans are already under way for the conference to return again in 2023.

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