Western Province: a sustainable future


Business Advantage interviewed David Sode, Chief Executive Officer of PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd, to discover more about its Western Province strategies.

Founded in 2002, PNG Sustainable Development Program Limited (‘PNGSDP’) was created to support sustainable development through initiatives that benefit the people of Papua New Guinea, and especially the people of the Western Province. Where are you placed in 2011?

It’s taken us a good while to understand the province and devise models that can make things happen in a sustainable way. In the last couple of years, we’ve finally entered execution mode, taking some key decisions that are already paying dividends.

We have always been aware of the province’s huge potential: it has a huge landmass, small population, but is unexplored. That is why there are so many opportunities now, that finally people are waking up to. Suddenly now everyone is heading there because it is the last of the last frontiers. Thus, our challenge has been to capture that potential using sustainable models, to pick the right projects that could give the province a long-term future. PNGSDP couldn’t see this a decade ago but now we can, hence these major projects are starting to emerge.

For instance, the mobile phone tower project?

Exactly. The question we asked is how do you achieve an ‘equitable spread’ throughout the province; that is to say, bring benefits to the whole population? In other words, we want to give everyone part of the pig and in this case the pig is the Ok Tedi mine. The Western Province Communications Project achieves this. We’ve invested revenues from Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) through this model to give everyone in the province a chance to participate in a modern telecommunications system, to connect to the world no matter how remote their location.

The next project will be power: how do you give everyone access to power? I want to put the right sort of power, affordable power, into every village.

What about the major Daru Port Project, what is the rationale behind that?

The prospect of extending the life of the Ok Tedi mine offers a whole host of opportunities. If it were not for logistical obstacles, the pyrite that is currently being cast aside at the mine would constitute a lucrative commercial opportunity in its own right. But all that will change once you’ve got an international port at Daru. Given current OTML production levels, current global commodity prices, plus the prospect of processing the pyrite, the port is already commercially viable.

At the same time, once we complete the infrastructure road corridor, then Daru port also becomes the port for the Highlands, with Kiunga acting as the river port. A port in Daru will change everything, the economics of every project, that’s why it is central to us.

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What are your other priorities looking ahead?

The Daru airstrip is being renovated and extended at present so it can receive jets. In fact, both Daru and Kiunga will become international airports, but Kiunga will be the hub with links to Asia.

We will also continue to deliver a range of health and education projects. However, these cannot be considered in isolation. You also need these economic drivers, such as the port, and you need a healthy mindset, under a social distribution model which is an alternative to dividends.

Finally, we need to do more to leverage the construction phase strengths of the resource companies that operate in the province. These days, when we’re approached by them we say ‘Okay, we’re happy to work with you but don’t forget we’re a development company, so welcome to development.’ A strong social input gives their projects longevity, by giving the people around the project a good understanding of how the project affects their lives. People in the footprint must always participate.

This article first published in PNG’s Western Province 2012


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