Thursday, November 5, 2009

Somare turning PNG into a Casino

The Somare led Government has turned Papua New Guinea into a Casino. With the natural resources boom in PNG, we see more mining licences being granted, new areas turned into oil palm plantations, loggers penetrating new forests frontiers, commercial fishing and now the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) projects.

The PNG government is signing all kinds of deals in a very short period of time as if the whole world will end tomorrow. The way these deals are done is like a casino, and it is very clear the Somare led government and his NA ruling party are gambling the future heritage of this country.

Do we need to mine all the mountains, and the sea floor, log all our forest, fish all our tuna, and drain out all our oil and gas to be developed? Have we not learnt from our African brothers that once had all the riches but are now plaque with HIV and Aids, riots, civil wars, corruption and starvation? Do we really think we will become like the first worlds? Have we not learnt from the Bougainville crisis? Have we not learnt form the pollution of the Fly River by Ok Tedi mine? Have we not learnt from the experiences of RD Tuna cannery in Madang? Have we not learnt from the RH logging operations in the Western and Gulf province? Have we not learnt from the Oil Palm problems in West New Britain?

Make no mistakes, the deals the government is signing is selling the rich heritage of this country cheap. For instance, the Ramu Nickel Project in Madang. The Chinese state owned Company, Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (CMCC) owns 85% of the shares; Highlands Pacific owns 8% the rest of the 7% is shared between the government, MRA, individuals and landowners. And on top of that, they (CMCC) are given tax holiday up to ten years.

No country in the world allows a foreign company to own over 50 percent of mining shares, it is only happening in PNG. For such deals as these who stands to benefit? Definitely not the country and not the people nor the landowners. Would it mean that those who are facilitating these deals and signing agreements are stupid? Or would mean that there are significant commissions for those who facilitate these stupid deals and sign the agreements?

The government claims that landowners would benefit from spin-off business and possible employment opportunities. This is just a cheap cover up, to divert people’s attention from the real issues of equitable benefit sharing. In fact many landowner company are still struggling to get contracts and employment opportunities are only low paid wages. Is this what we deserve?


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