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DON’T WRITE PNG OFF (Post-Courier 13/2/03)

DON’T write us off but provide your support — and come and visit PNG — you will be amazed. That’s the concluding tourism and investment plea of Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to the Australia-PNG Business Council members in Brisbane yesterday.

Sir Michael told these potential investors and leaders in business PNG faces an uphill battle of image because most overseas-owned media organisations with links in PNG were pre-occupied with law and order problems in their news coverage. “However, those who visit PNG, whether for diving, walking, wildlife-watching or in search of culture are always amazed — and many fall in love with the place and return for many repeat visits,” he said, adding tourism development will feature prominently in the medium-term plans for PNG. “Those from Australia, who have plucked up the courage despite all the negative reports, are often the most amazed. “They say: ‘How come we didn’t know about this place before, with all its beauty, richness and friendliness of its people’?”

He said PNG has its share of challenges, as have all developing and even wealthy nations. “Please do not write us off but rather provide your support,” Sir Michael pleaded. “We are trying to rise to these challenges and take advantage of our many good economic and social opportunities and we certainly welcome Australia’s — and the international community’s — assistance in our efforts. “We particularly welcome the commitment by Australians who are either willing to invest in PNG, or provide their expertise, or who just want to buy our products and perhaps visit as tourists.”

Earlier the Prime Minister said there were investment opportunities for Australian companies in PNG near to where the raw materials are. He said that interested firms can manufacture their products and then send them to Australian markets. He said his government’s task now — after last year’s damage control to stabilise the economy, halt the falling kina and re-establish lost confidence in both governance and fiscal discipline — is to tackle longer-term fiscal issues and re-trigger new investment in all sectors of the economy, including agriculture. He said nucleus-estate models in agriculture, aquaculture and agro-forestry are the means the Government sees as the way to go. This model, already used in some measure by oil-palm estates, uses central nurseries for planting materials (or fish spawns in aquaculture) and with estate investors providing support for production, processing and market outlet for neighbouring smallholder producers. He also reiterated previous comments on mining initiatives — and petroleum and gas initiatives — including a possible drop in the mining levy and exploration-tax holidays.

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