PNG LNG will underpin growth: Abal

PAPUA New Guinea’s Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal said he wanted to ensure “smoother progress” for the PNG LNG project in his first speech since the announcement that Prime Minister and founding father Sir Michael Somare will retire.
PNG LNG will underpin growth: Abal PNG LNG will underpin growth: Abal PNG LNG will underpin growth: Abal PNG LNG will underpin growth: Abal PNG LNG will underpin growth: Abal

"A recent central bank forecast has predicted the economy will grow at a near record 9.5 per cent this year, making us one of the fastest growing economies in the world," Abal said in a keynote address.

"The government role is important. As we know, the PNG LNG project will underpin record growth rates in the coming years especially if we work together to foster our common, national interests.

"After almost three decades of lacklustre growth and declining fortunes we are still grappling with the reality of the unprecedented growth in the past decade and the even brighter prospects on the horizon.

Abal said Somare could personally take credit for much of this because he foresaw the need for tax incentives that brought international resource sector investors back to PNG.

"Today virtually all the world's mining giants are keen to be participants in our economy," he said.

"If we can maintain our competitiveness and an open playing field, these developments guarantee that millions of our people will be lifted out of poverty."

Abal aims to improve how government agencies work together under a "Team PNG" approach to challenges.

"National government departments, provincial governments, state-owned enterprises and commodity boards will not work in isolation," Abal said.

"We will pull together with our plans dovetailing with each other and resulting in improved service delivery outcomes and contributing to higher living standards."

Abal's speech follows his decision to oust Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Minister Don Poyle in recent weeks.

Duma lost his ministerial role due to his management of land ownership issues in relation to the PNG LNG project, according to Radio New Zealand at the time.

Somare remains in an intensive care unit at a Singapore hospital, and his family decided to announce his retirement to end uncertainty.

The 75-year-old leader has undergone heart, lung and liver surgeries since April and has been deemed not to be in the position to make the decision himself.

PNG LNG is scheduled to start producing from 2014 and is expected to deliver more than 9 trillion cubic feet of gas over its 30 year life.

Partners in the liquefied natural gas project are operator ExxonMobil (33.2%), Oil Search (29%), the PNG government's Independent Public Business Corporation (16.6%), Santos (13.5%), Merlin Petroleum (4.7%), the state-owned Minerals Resource Development Company (2.8%) and Petromin (0.2%).

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