Five questions to Sir Charles Lepani, Director General of APEC 2018

In a little over three weeks, Papua New Guinea will host the annual APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, when 21 world leaders and 10,000 delegates, including 2000 media organisations, arrive in Port Moresby. The Director General of the APEC PNG 2018 Coordinating Authority, Sir Charles Lepani, tells Business Advantage PNG he is confident of a lasting legacy.

APEC Director General Charles Lepani. Source: BAI

Business Advantage PNG (BAPNG): What do you want the APEC legacy to be for Papua New Guinea?

Sir Charles Lepani (SCL): I’m keen to ensure that APEC is not just a matter of PNG hosting an annual meeting. It is the largest event we have ever hosted and that we will probably host in the next decade or so. So, we have to have something to show Papua New Guineans and the rest of the world. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are one big factor in this key legacy issue. This is all apart from the normal infrastructure developments and efforts that come with hosting such a large event, such as improvements and benefit flows to transport, infrastructure and hospitality sectors. We are on a course to make sure there is something for MSMEs. The focus is to connect them to the domestic and international supply chains. When the delegates come and buy our products, they become great advocates for us internationally.

BAPNG: How are you doing this?

Lepani: Well, more than 100 MSMEs have been involved since the beginning of the year, showcasing their goods and services at ministerial and officials meetings. We’ve been taking delegates out to regional centres so they can appreciate our diverse culture, as well as our biodiversity. These MSME owners who have been presenting their businesses to the international delegates say that it has also been a new experience. Some have sold about 90 per cent of what they bring for sale every day to international and local delegates, as well as local visitors to the hotels and APEC meeting venues. Some have already signed contracts. These are for things like carvings, jewellery and agricultural products such as honey and coffee. Some of the Asian delegates have now experienced our coffee beans.

BAPNG: How have the international delegates reacted to going outside Port Moresby?

Lepani: They have loved it. I was personally involved in organising a trip to New Ireland, where delegates visited Nusa Island Resort at Kavieng, where they could swim in nice clear waters. They also visited the eel farm and the fisheries research centre. A woman delegate from Chile was so impressed with the cultural performances in a pop-up village in Kavieng with a mumu feast with pork, bananas, yams that she came up afterwards and said the trip was inspirational, and very spiritual, and she intended coming back to PNG.

BAPNG: Pacific Islands Forum leaders will be coming to APEC. What will they be doing?

Lepani: Pacific regional leaders will have the opportunity to meet with APEC leaders for one hour on Saturday, 17 November, before the Leaders’ Gala dinner. Our Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, is very keen to include his Pacific regional counterparts in PNG’s APEC host year. PNG is the only Pacific Island nation which is a member of APEC. The overriding policy issue that PNG, with Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, wish to highlight is climate change.

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BAPNG: On a personal level, what has impressed you about the way Papua New Guinea has responded to the challenge of hosting this event?

The completed APEC Haus was handed over to the nation by Oil Search, its constructor, last week. Credit: Rocky Roe

SCL: I’ve been a diplomat for 15 years. PNG is a small economy with limited resources. So I’ve been impressed with the commitment demonstrated by our government leaders and officials, and the way they have responded to meet the challenges of organising such a major event. We are very grateful for the support we are receiving from the private sector and our partners from other economies. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, and Indonesia have assisted us in our security and logistics preparations. China, Japan and Korea have helped us greatly in transport, and infrastructure repairs, and maintenance.

Regarding delegates’ comments, I have felt so proud when they have told us that our logistical and procedural issues, such as accreditation and registration and visa issuance, are the best they have ever seen in APEC meetings. That will be the challenge for Leaders’ Week, when 10,000 will be in Port Moresby. We have additional challenges like transport, towing aircraft in and out, parking them, but what we have done well so far, which has set us up for a successful APEC Leaders week—the culmination of this event each year in APEC economies.

Above all, the stunning APEC Haus will remain for me, personally—and many others I imagine—the enduring iconic legacy of PNG’s hosting of APEC in 2018.

Comments

  1. John Sinaka Goava says:

    I personally think as a PNG citizen, APEC despite its numerous shortcomings such as to name a few: maserati’s, bentley’s, etc…Our government including our very own organisers have used APEC to promote and market our economy to the the outside world. I bet you more opportunities for trade, investment and business will be the order of the day after APEC…Weighing the pros and cons of hosting APEC, I personally feel there is more optimism then
    pessimism in the overall hosting of APEC by PNG. God bless PNG.

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