Can extractive industry transparency help save PNG?

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin | PNG Attitude

PAPUA NEW GUINEA IS RICH IN NATURAL RESOURCES such as oil, gas, timber and mining but tends to underperform economically. It is also inundated with corruption.

People suffer from poor governance because the multinational corporations, politicians, government bureaucrats and leaders of landowner groups conspire to make huge gains by diverting funds elsewhere.

The common people are consequentially suffering and vulnerable to all sorts of socio-economic ills which naive foreign journalists lump together to describe PNG as a ‘shithole’.

You find only one or two well-nourished, well-to-do humans among the masses of dirty and undernourished bodies in Port Moresby and they tend to be from Tari, Kutubu, Porgera and Mailu.

The thugs one sees running around Gordon’s Market in Moresby are mostly from the resource rich provinces.

Had the duty bearers managed the royalties properly, these thugs would not need to fly or walk into the scourging sun of Port Moresby to make ends meet and end up looking through rubbish in dippers and bins.

They would be cashed up in their own districts, living in good homes with happy families.

Some of the poorest of the poor in Port Moresby, that bundle up around Gordon’s Market from dawn to dusk to prey on Papuan women and rape grandmothers in public, are mineral resource landowners.

These thugs literally stink to the core while their leaders chest-beat and run around hotels in Port Moresby with ill-disciplined teenage girls.

Let’s look at one example.  The Amazon Bay Local Level Government area in Central Province is blessed with enormous rainforests.

It earned its name Amazon Bay from Luiz Vas De Torres when he sailed to Mailu in August 1606 thinking that Mailu was the tail end of the Amazon rainforest in Latin America.

The Amazon Bay rainforest in Central Province has been felled indiscriminately by Pivot, Rimbunan Hijau and Mecca PNG since 1979. Mecca PNG is still cutting timber in Amazon Bay (Sabiribo) today.

God! Save the Amazon Bay people!

After 33 years of continuous cutting by these three companies the LLG is the least developed in the whole of PNG. The airport has been closed. There is no medicine in the Magarida Health Centre. There is no medication for anything, including sexually transmitted infections. The patients sleep on cement.

The schools have fewer teachers than ever before. There are no students from Amazon Bay studying in any of the higher learning institutions in PNG. Their only access to Port Moresby is via motor powered dug-out canoes, which days to sail on the treacherous ocean.  And, of course, people pay K200 as the fare to take this risk.

Maybe the people are partly to blame for being timid and not speaking up against the exploitation of their rainforests by their puerile leaders – who, like Emperor Nero who burned Rome to ashes and blamed the Christians, or like the other Caesars who were obsessed with wine, orgy and more wealth – forsook their primary duty of good governance.

The politicians and the leaders of landowner groups should be cursed for kneeling at the rear of the multinational companies to fan their farts.

They should have negotiated with the greedy multi-billion dollar corporations seeking raw materials to bring basic services so people have access to markets and other government facilities and rightly remain in their native lands to cultivate their soil and make ends meet.

The Bank of PNG continues to forecast and inform everyone of the good times ahead, just as it has done for the last 10 years. It is all rhetoric, it seems.

The well-being of individuals has not climbed an inch if you go around the country. Life is just gloomy and indistinct.

Basic infrastructure is falling apart and the population of drug addicts has soared. Cash flow is at its lowest among the ordinary people. It is unsafe to travel far and wide into the districts without police escorts.

Our neighbours, the Australians, are willing to travel to Bali and risk death from underworld crime rather than come to PNG and smell the farts and odour of poverty and rundown infrastructure.

There is, however, some hope for the more equitable distribution of the proceeds from the exploitation of PNG’s natural resources.

In May this year, Treasurer Don Polye gave a speech saying that the Government of Papua New Guinea has affirmed its commitment to implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) at the EITI Global Conference in Sydney.

The landowning people can now hope that, by December this year, PNG will get acknowledgment from the EITI governing body that PNG is an EITI candidate.

The masses know the Ombudsmen Commission has no teeth and Sam Koim’s Task Force Sweep is snowed under with caseload.  The Sovereign Wealth Fund is vulnerable to abuse.

Therefore, to protect the collective wealth of the masses from the mining, oil and gas sectors, PNG EITI candidature is vital.

PNG’s EITI candidature will encourage greater transparency in these resources and some of the potential negative impacts can be mitigated.

Government revenues are expected to increase due to the US$19 billion PNG LNG project, with the first LNG deliveries scheduled to begin in 2014, it is crucially important for our candidature status to be finalized before that happens.

Once PNG goes through the different stages of the EITI and demonstrates compliance the investment climate will improve by providing a clear signal to investors and international financial institutions that the government is committed to greater transparency.

EITI will also assist in strengthening accountability and good governance, as well as promoting greater economic and political stability.

PNG will complete the four sign-up steps soon and by December it will be an EITI candidate. The people whose land foreigners dug up with impunity and siphoned resources away from to share with a few henchmen should welcome the desire of PNG to be a member of EITI.


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Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

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