“During an uninspiring address at the 15th PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment conference in Sydney on Monday 3 December, Prime Minister O’Neill misrepresented the state of the PNG economy and failed to address key issues facing investors. Foreign investors are more likely to invest if they believe the government is telling the truth. Specifically, the Prime Minister misled the conference about PNG’s growth performance, financing of health and education and progress in reducing the budget deficit. He also failed to address the widespread international coverage of issues such as the Maserati and Bentley purchase, and the unprecedented storming of Parliament two days after APEC finished. This was the time that PNG’s Prime Minister needed to be a true statesman and provide a view on such events, to acknowledge such damaging images of our country and tactfully yet honestly, placing them in the context of APEC opportunities. Unfortunately, he failed to do so” stated the Shadow Minister for Treasury & Finance Ian Ling-Stuckey.
“For the sake of building confidence in PNG as a good place for investment, it is vital that the Treasurer correct these mistakes in his presentation to the conference on Tuesday 4 November. Specifically, he needs to acknowledge that PNG had a minor recession in 2008 – so the Prime Minister should not talk of 16 or 17 years of economic growth even through the global financial crisis. The Treasurer should also explain why almost all international commentators consider the non-resource parts of the economy had a serious recession in 2015, and possibly also in 2017. He needs to admit that spending on education is not at record levels as claimed by the Prime Minister – it is K1.4 billion in 2019 down from K1.6 billion in the Supplementary Budget of 2015. The Treasurer should also acknowledge that there is a health crisis in PNG which has been created in part because health funding has reduced, after allowing for inflation, by 17% from 2015 to 2019. The Treasurer should also give reasons why PNG’s 2019 Budget went on an irresponsible spending spree in the wrong areas, an action that undermines the claimed progress on more responsible budget policy. PNG’s fiscal anchor, the primary non-resource balance, has been abandoned as the PNC spent the K1 billion lucky bonus of extra resource revenues. He should also provide some information on the government payroll which is out of control, and the growth in interest costs to K2 billion – five times the level of only a few years ago. International investors, as well as the people of PNG, want more honesty from this government. As the Prime Minister failed to tell the whole story, and misled investors in key areas, could the Treasurer please set the record clean?” asked the Shadow Treasurer.
The Alternative Government considers the resource sector has much to contribute to PNG’s development. The O’Neill PNC government unnecessarily scared potential investors with a poorly thought through revised Mining Act. This draft Act was prepared without sufficient local consultation. We welcome the proposed review of the draft Mining Act but consider much harm has already been done by the PNC’s mismanagement of the issue. The Alternative Government would improve consultation processes with industry, as well as being more open and honest” stated Mr Ling-Stuckey.
Shadow Minister for Treasury & Finance
3 December 2018