Cairns Convention, Cairns, 18 to 20 May 2014.
The 30th Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum and Trade Expo, with the theme “Papua New Guinea: Opportunities Beyond the Boom”, which was held at Cairns Convention Centre, from 18 to 20 May 2014, was attended by 524 participants including delegates, partners, speakers, media and trade booth exhibitors. The Trade Expo had a full capacity 50 booths.
The Forum was addressed by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Hon Peter O’Neill MP, and the Foreign Minister for Australia, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, The Hon John Momis MP, President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Mr Michael Trout MP representing the Premier of Queensland, the Governor of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, and a range of expert speakers on topics germane to business and the economy. The Henry Kila Memorial Address was delivered by Mr Grant Mitchell, Partner, Port Jackson Partners, on the theme “Imagining Papua New Guinea in the Asian Century”.
Delegates noted that this year’s Forum marked the tenth anniversary of the first Forum in the public format held at Palm Cove in 2004.
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and the Foreign Minister of Australia both emphasised the unprecedented strength in the bilateral relationship with many Ministerial visits in each direction and the Prime Minister of Australia visiting in March 2014, making the third Australian Prime Ministerial visit to Papua New Guinea within twelve months, and significant progress made on bilateral issues.
Key issues raised by speakers at the Forum and endorsed by participants as measures on which governments should act included the following.
It is crucial for future attraction of investment to Papua New Guinea that policy decisions by the Papua New Guinea Government are fully and carefully considered including in consultation with stakeholders
and that the implications of those decisions on global investment markets are fully understood and taken into account.
The Henry Kila Memorial Address highlighted the significant opportunities for Papua New Guinea to grow its economy across many sectors, including resources, agriculture and tourism, in coming decades provided appropriate policy settings are put in place and are managed openly, transparently and efficiently, and high quality economic infrastructure is developed and properly maintained.
The Governor of the Bank of Papua New Guinea said “we have had two golden opportunities in the last forty years which could have transformed the economy but those opportunities were missed. There is now a third golden opportunity (to build on the last 13 consecutive years of economic growth), and it is crucial for the future that the benefits of this opportunity are wholly realised.”
The decision in March 2014 by the Papua New Guinea Government to withdraw the visa on arrival facility for Australian citizens creates an impediment to bilateral business and punishes both Australian and Papua New Guinean investors who are the greatest supporters of the Papua New Guinea Government’s objective of improving visa processes for easier travel to Australia by Papua New Guinea citizens.
The best method of improving visa processes for citizens of both countries wishing to travel to the other country is through a collaborative process taking into account the balance between supporting effective two way trade, improved people to people links, but also border protection, transnational crime, combating terrorism and eliminating people trafficking.
There are substantial opportunities for Australia and Papua New Guinea to gain mutual economic and social advantage from the development of a special economic zone between northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Both governments were urged to work with business to develop a framework that will support improved trade and economic development.
Business is encouraged to actively seek opportunities for improving the participation of women across the workforce including in senior management and board positions so as to more fully utilise all the skills and capabilities of Papua New Guinea’s people.
Recent developments in building the capacity of the Royal Papua New Guinea Police Constabulary were warmly welcomed. The continuation of these efforts is crucial for Papua New Guinea’s economic and social progress and to support the peaceful wellbeing of Papua New Guinea citizens and visitors.
Innovative ideas for reform of the Papua New Guinea public service were endorsed and the Papua New Guinea Government was urged to embrace proposals to implement these ideas.
Presentations on managing Papua New Guinea’s national assets emphasised the need for strong and effective governance by government to ensure the benefits these national assets are used in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all Papua New Guinea’s people.
The President of Bougainville highlighted the business environment and opportunities in Bougainville, noting that there is considerably more current business and economic activity than realised. The
establishment of the Bougainville Investment Authority is an important step in indicating that Bougainville is open for business.
The education workshop identified the need ffor a comprehensive integrated national database of employers, job-seekers and employment vacancies to facilitate the matching of available workers to match to vacancies. Achievement of mutual recognition of qualifications between Papua New Guinea, Australia and other Pacific islands economies would enhance the meeting of labour market needs for Papua New Guineans.
Papua New Guinea was described as the last frontier in tourism. A refocussing of the Tourism Master Plan 2007-2017 and an increase in government budget funding support to the Tourism Promotion Authority, as well as other innovative policy decisions in support of tourism in regional Papua New Guinea, are crucial for industry growth.
Deficiencies in infrastructure in Papua New Guinea are well known. The Forum noted work being done to rectify these deficiencies, and urged an acceleration of this work as every aspect of life in Papua New Guinea, ranging from education and health through to all business activities, is negatively impacted by inadequate infrastructure.
Corruption has been described as eating away at the heart of Papua New Guinea. The Forum noted measures being taken to establish structures to combat corruption, and called on the Papua New Guinea Government to ensure that the National Anti Corruption Plan of Action 2012-2015 and the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2030 are fully implemented and that relevant agencies are fully resourced both financially and legislatively.
The Forum noted that the first shipment of LNG is this week loading for export.
At the conclusion of the Forum the Business Council of Papua New Guinea announced that the 31st Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum will be held in 2015 in Lae, Papua New Guinea.
20 MAY 2014