Papua New Guinea Investment Conference gets off to a flying start


The three day Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference got off to a flying start on Tuesday 7 September, with no less than two prime ministers and a host of other expert speakers addressing the digital forum.

Prime Minister James Marape during the 2021 Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference.

The tone was more upbeat than could have been expected 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Asian Development Bank’s Country Economist for PNG, Ed Faber, seemed to sum up the general sentiment when he said that ‘PNG can expect a tough couple of years, followed by the beginning of another growth cycle.’

The ADB’s Edward Faber

‘PNG’s debt is sustainable – it is able to service its debt. At the same time, the International Monetary Fund has recognised the increased risk of debt vulnerability and has adjusted PNG’s debt classification to be at “high risk”,’ he observed.

KPMG’s Wayne Osterberg, Director, Advisory Services, pointed out how PNG had suddenly become very important in geopolitical terms as the United States and its allies seek to counter China’s influence in the Indo Pacific region (for example Telstra’s ongoing discussions to buy Digicel PNG). He also explained that KPMG’s recent decision to establish an integrated South Pacific Practice was based on its confidence in the region’s strong longer-term prospects.

Prime Minister James Marape had a positive message for foreign investors, acknowledging that both they and PNG need to benefit from every project. Besides the larger resource projects, he explained how his administration is keen to use special economic zones to create new opportunities not just in different sectors, such as tourism and agribusiness, but also in different parts of the country.

‘I’m pleased to inform this forum that the government has recently recognised and promoted the establishment of the Special Economic Zones as engines for robust economic growth in the country by identifying and approving designated areas in PNG to establish special economic zones to attract foreign direct investment. This includes investment in tourism, agriculture manufacturing, fisheries, petroleum, energy and mining.’

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The Prime Minister also said that the government is seeking to progress key resources projects such as Wafi-Golpu, Papua LNG, Pasca A, P’nyang and the restart of operations at Porgera.

‘Once these projects are up and running they will support the National Budget to fund and sustain our development agenda,’ he added. ‘We need to build the National Budget to continue to support the development of the enabling environments for investments.’

BSP Financial Group’s CEO Robin Fleming continued the agribusiness theme, explaining how important this sector was from a food security standpoint. He also revealed that PNG’s protracted foreign exchange shortage has improved somewhat in recent weeks.

International economics commentator Saul Eslake encouraged PNG to ‘play to its strengths’ and trade away its foreign exchange shortages, in the style of Asia’s tiger economies, while noting that a adopting a strategy of import replacement for its own sake tended to promote inefficiency.

The 2021 Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference concludes today.

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