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Nuni Kulu, President, Business Council of PNG, and Chairperson
Ministers of State
Executives of the PNG Business Council
Members of the Private Sector
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning to you all.

Thank you, Mistress of Ceremonies, for the warm welcome and facilitation.

This breakfast meeting is indeed timely, and I thank the Business Council of Papua New Guinea for this invitation and the opportunity to speak to the Business Community as we begin the 11th Parliament, and a start to this Government. Following this engagement, I head back to Parliament attend the opening of the 11th Parliament and will respond to the Governor General’s opening speech, I will be sharing with the country my thoughts about the key items of action for my government.

The 11th Parliament is significant for our country. In this term of Parliament, we cross the magical line of 50 years of nationhood for our country. We will repositioning our country to go past the 50 years milestone and do take it beyond that.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last year was the second time I addressed this business breakfast and I recall stressing the importance of the partnership that Government and Business can foster to discuss policy, regulatory bottlenecks, technology, and innovation so that we can accelerate growth in businesses.

Businesses are key drivers of the economy, that I acknowledge and so conducive policy and regulatory environment are key ingredients. I stated then that the Government will be responsive to create a conducive environment for business, trade, and investment. The private sector consultations in formulating policy is strategic so that these interventions grow the private sector.

Last year I was in the second year of my tenure as Prime Minister. Back then we were just coming out of the worst of the COVID 19 pandemic. My government was at the stage of deploying critical actions to restore our economy, grow it, while at the same time deal with the aftermath of the pandemic.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite all of that the economy demonstrated resilience as we adapted well, invested well, and managed to weather the storm and successfully transition from that period of great uncertainty to a period of more hope.

On a macro headline Government fiscal policies and interventions grew our economy from a K79.6billion economy in 2018 to today’s IMF affirmed K109billion economy. These grew as a result of government’s prudent economic management and liquidity spreads emanating from budget expenditures.

I want to also place on record my sincere appreciation to the many investors and business houses who continued to operate and provide vital services and employment opportunities for our citizens during those trying times. We will continue to do our best to build your confidence in the business environment so that you can sustain and grow your businesses.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before the 10th Parliament rose, we authorised K611 million in relief assistance to ease burdens on prices brought on by the Russia Ukraine War. It came in four main components, K250 million to remove fuel taxes from 01 May to 30 October, K135 million to lift the tax-free threshold from K12,500 to K17,500 for the remainder of 2022, and K100 million to reduce the prices of key consumer items and another K126 million in other relief. We are proposing in the supplementary budget a further K83.3 million in fuel tax relief, a further increase in tax free threshold to K20,000 from K17,500 which will cost K60 million, and an additional K34 million to fully fund the school project reimbursement program. These are relief to both private sector and government employees. The net effect is that we are putting back money into their pockets to spend on consumer goods.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This morning’s meeting is taking place immediately following the establishment of my Cabinet and before the Official Opening of the 11th Parliament. The 2022 National General Elections have delivered to us the 11th Parliament which is a mixture of experience and youth. We have selected a Cabinet that allows all coalition partners to be equally represented.

Key ministers have been retained in their portfolios for continuity and stability. Some portfolios have been amalgamated to free up ministerial positions which have now allowed us to create new ministries that best reflect our key priorities. The new ministries are cost neutral as they do not necessarily mean new departments but new or renewed focus on areas that demand NEC oversight.

We want to do better in our law and order, education, and health. We want to grow our economy and create more opportunities for our people. We would like to return our country to a place where it is safe for our citizens to walk on our streets, and for our investors to do business.

In education we want to make sure that all our young people are educated up to year 12 and are able to be engaged either in business, trade, or progress through high quality tertiary education.

In health we want to make sure all our citizens are able to access a health facility within one hour of their chosen modes of transportation. We want to make sure that all our health facilities are able to provide the minimum standards of health care as predetermined by the level of the facility.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Stability, Continuity, and Innovativeness are vital determinants we strongly feel will strengthen our collective resolve for a more practical Cabinet that is outcomes-oriented and meaningfully delivering much needed services for our constituents.

Cabinet will be accountable to itself and to our people. Equally important, is that the bureaucratic machinery is now strictly required to report back to the National Executive Council (NEC) on a quarterly basis the progress of the implementation of sectoral priorities – a gradual shift from the way things were done in the past. Ministers and Agency Heads are now required to perform their mandated roles and responsibilities and report to NEC accordingly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The creation of the new Ministries of International Trade and Investment, Oil Palm, Livestock, Coffee, and Agriculture will ensure that more focus and attention is given to their mandate to strengthen their capabilities and outputs and to grow these vital economic sub sectors and harness their potentials for increased investment and revenue generation by our rural people. There is nothing sinister about the intention. We want to build prominence in policy attention, focus and resourcing to grow their inherent potentials and generate revenue streams to support the National Budget.

The amalgamation of Labor and Immigration is intended to streamline the issuance and processing of Work Permits and Visa’s under a “One Stop Shop” arrangement and control and account for revenue, following the merger of work permits and visa into Immigration. Additionally, an Integrated Border Management System will ensure safe and secure borders for PNG and collaboration with global security agencies on security matters.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Government remains fully focused on implementing Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that will empower our people to become productive and self-sustaining. The number of MSME’s continues to expand and business and investors have a major role to assist this sector grow through provision of credit and business literacy skills. A thriving SME Sector empowers the small business owners to be self-sustaining and contributes to economic development.

Ladies and Gentleman,

The piloting of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Kikori and the special economic region in Manus add great value to our government’s drive to encourage foreign direct investment, creating employment and adding value to our natural resources. I invite you all to consider investing in the opportunities that will accrue from the SEZs.

This includes my continued encouragement for value-add and down-stream processing facilities onshore to manufacture our vast timber, fisheries, oil, gas and petroleum and our rich organic agriculture produce for domestic consumption and global export market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Connecting PNG through economic infrastructure is the main economic enabler that will accelerate economic activity through improved roads, airports, airstrips, wharves and ports, ICT, and energy to build inclusive and balanced growth in the economy. It builds up the absorptive capacity for the economy to expand and support its inherent growth.

I continue to advocate that Papua New Guineans must be the biggest beneficiaries of their resources, such as in agriculture, tourism, marine resources, and the extractive resources and that they only become participants if we enable them to be participants. We build infrastructure, we build confidence in the investment environment, we work on education and health, and we strengthen institutions of government that provides support to businesses and investments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Government realises the great potential in the renewable sector and the importance of sustaining it to meet our domestic market obligations, food security, import substitution and overall export to neighbouring Asian countries and global markets. PNG is strategically located.

Our agriculture and fishery exports to Indonesia and China in particular will increase our Foreign Exchange earnings as these countries have comparable populations and demand for food consumption.

My government is focused on unlocking customary land for commercial purposes and places great emphasis on sustaining the Agriculture Sector for over 82 percent of the population. The restructure of the Ministries and separation of Livestock, Coffee and Oil Palm is important in that it improves sector coordination, reporting and oversight.

They need to be empowered to be able to generate a disposable house-hold income from appropriate and innovative farming techniques on their land. This Government will harness the Agriculture Sector and implement initiatives so that individual rural families get maximum return for their produce.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Current figures from Coffee Industry Corporation, Oil Palm Industry Corporation, Kokonas Indastri Koporesen as of 2021 show that Coffee brought in K0.385 billion, Oil Palm K2.6 billion and Copra K0.168 billion. For example, if one million families generate K20,000 per annum for these commodities will equate to an additional K20 billion per annum for our people to spend in our economy.

The price support and freight subsidy mechanism has contributed to the increased production and revenue generated for the Agriculture Sector and we maintain and sustain this support facility. In this term of Parliament, we will be doing more not less.

I will be directing the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and the newly established Ministry of International Trade and Investment to immediately undertake the Foreign Policy Review and develop the White Paper to address solutions on how best we can develop an effective foreign service that is focused with a strategic outlook to attract Foreign Direct Investment and to identify market for our products.

We will position a Trade Commissioner specialising in Fisheries, Mining, Forestry, Agriculture, coffee, oil palm, cocoa, copra oil and gas and the like in all our Diplomatic Missions abroad to identify and open up markets.

The net outcome is more foreign exchange to spur business, trade and investment and strengthen macro-economic stability in Papua New Guinea. It will further alleviate the backlog of foreign currency orders we are currently facing.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Most of you here this morning will be fully aware of my call for Papua New Guinea to become economically independent and reach the K200 Billion Economy by 2030. We are tracking well, and the business and private sectors support is critical to these ongoing efforts. It would be important that we collectively determine the absorptive capacity of an economy that can support and sustain a K200 billion economy, and build the structures to achieve that state.

Other variables that this government will fully address is law and order to make our society safe for our citizens, the international community that lives here and investors.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We cannot allow a minority lawless group of people to hinder progress and development. The combining of the Police and Correctional Services as Internal Security ministry will be resourced to fully address the escalating law and order situation we are currently confronted with and tackle it head on in the coming years. The rule of law must prevail to promote a just and fair society and boost investor and business confidence.

A safe, secure, and prosperous PNG has a cascading positive effect on our neighbors and the region as a whole. It will also boost our tourism prospects to attract not only international but domestic visitors as well. Tourism Hubs in Rabaul and Mt Hagen will be developed to realize their full potential.

Moving on, the various Policy and Legislative Amendments we successfully passed in the last term of Parliament creates certainty and ensures a fair and equitable return on our resource developments for landowners, the State, and the Developers.

We need to continue the legislative program to create important processes and structures that help support our intentions. Our natural resources sector will be in the mix. Our assurance is that we will consult with the industry appropriately.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In terms of governance, the ICAC and Whistle Blowers Act will greatly address corruption and governance issues in the country. We are absolutely committed to ensure that the commissioners for ICAC are fully appointed, and that they can commence building a reputable organisation that can start prosecuting offenders.

With the Higher Courts Reform to have a Three-tier Court system, the Judiciary has swiftly moved to appoint resident judges to serve in Districts and Provinces. We are committed to identifying the challenges in delivering district based judicial functions, and will ensure that we address those specifically, because the bulk of our people’s interests can be better served in the districts.

It is important for our government that we assure our people in their villages and communities that their security, the security of their children and their communities is guaranteed. Only when our communities are secured will our businesses flourish.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In summary, the road ahead requires a concerted and collective effort to realise our full economic potential and Government cannot do it alone. I therefore encourage the private sector to work with us to grow the economy through effective partnership arrangements.

To achieve this, I am confident that the restructuring of my Cabinet and a refocusing on doing things and abiding by the established processes and systems will derive the desired outcome that is beneficial to our socio-economic development aspirations in the next five years.