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Controversy as Tjandra company seeks monopoly over PNG rice


PAPUA New Guinea's trade minister Richard Maru warned the government that its proposed rice policy could have a drastic impact on PNG in terms of its trade ties with Australia.

Mr Maru (pictured) was responding to questions from Rabaul MP Dr Allan Marat, who asked if a policy which will give a single company a monopoly will strain ties with Australia.

PNG imports K700 million worth of rice annually and Australian company Trukai is the major importer.

The government has recently decided to implement an import substitution policy and awarded a tender for a K4.8 billion project in Central Province to Naima Agroindustry, against competitors including Trukai.

Naima’s principal is the colourful entrepreneur Djoko Tjandra and it wants a 20-year tax holiday and the imposition of an 80% duty on all rice that it does not import.

This will hike the price of rice by 60% and lock Trukai and the other major suppliers out of the market.

Last year Tjandra was given PNG citizenship (he now calls himself Joe Chan) at a secret ceremony after fleeing by private jet from Jakarta after being sentenced to two years gaol in a corruption case.

His project is supported by agriculture minister Puka Temu and transport minister Ano Pala but Maru said he had sought technical and legal advice that revealed the policy would be in serious breach of PNG's obligation as a member of the World Trade Organisation.

It would also be illegal because PNG has entered into a bilateral agreement to protect Australian investments in PNG.

Naru said there are other options the government can take and that he is providing a formal letter of advice to the prime minister.


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Chris Overland

Just when you think that the O'Neill government could not possibly make a stupider economic decision than it has previously, it trumps its previous achievements by making an even dumber one.

This is a case in point.

It is evidently willing to sacrifice a great deal of economic credibility, not to mention the best interests of its people, to give Naima Agroindustry an absolute lock on the market for rice.

How many times do governments, whether in PNG or elsewhere, have to learn that giving a private for profit entity an effective monopoly on the production and distribution of a strategic good like food, electricity, telecommunications, fuel and so forth is always a sure path to economic disaster?

In this case, given the grave suspicions surrounding the bona fides of the Mr Tjandra, not to mention the impressive track record of the O'Neill government in making fundamentally bad economic decisions, the likelihood of this latest "cunning plan" ending badly must be extremely high.

History shows quite unequivocally that protectionist economic policies, in whatever form, are the road to hell for developing countries.

While I am no fan of our current version of casino capitalism, the classical economic arguments against protectionism are compelling.

Governments should certainly try to keep the economic playing field reasonably level, especially by tightly regulating the bigger players to prevent abuse of market power, but policies of the type proposed here will actually achieve the exact opposite outcome to that intended.

Of course, it is reasonable to suppose that someone is going to benefit considerably, but it will not be the people of PNG.

Bernard Corden

This reads like the Joh Bjelke Petersen regime, complete with CBEs, KBEs etc. The only omissions are the Kray twins and Idi Amin.

Arthur Williams

Remember the Falcon jet incident when Indonesian fighter planes intercepted the plane? On board was Ano Pala's mate 'Joking' Tjandra who nowadays uses a new name Joe Chan. We shall never know what the flight contained.

On 23/12/2010, Interpol Indonesia issued a red notice but sometime later an unconcerned Ano allowed Tjandra to become a citizen despite knowing that he was flying from the justice of an Indonesian court and that he had not lived sufficient years in PNG to qualify.

Not to worry, Peter O'Neill also welcomed him and was happy to see Tjandra get a multi-million contract to repair a government building. After all Joe is part of the rich Papindo and SVS set up which is involved with the Central Province rice project.

Meanwhile Sir Puka is happy to see the fruition of his eight year search for the 100000ha clear felling timber - sorry that should be rice - project that will help his people lose their traditional hunting, grazing and farming lands.

Their mutual mate Ano, sole shareholder of Rigo Progress Corporation Limited, goes from strength to strength and allows one of his family to live permanently in Cairns looking after the family investments.

I believe it is in Cairns where Ano's business booms and where his family regularly visits.

Mind you it was in only in 2009 that Ano publicly supported Eastern Highlands Provincial Governor Malcolm Smith Kela who petitioned the government to "intervene to protect our citizens from the action of Asian businessmen", whom he claimed had "exploited locals" by selling "cheap goods and counterfeit products", and by forcing employees to work long hours for low wages.

Unlike Joe Chan who is avoiding Interpol - Ano has, as you reported, just beaten the courts and been found not guilty – because technically he was not Minister of Justice at the time of the alleged offence in the now long running PM arrest saga which one day could make an unbelievable TV series.

Both Central MPs have chosen a suspicious friend in Joe Chan who is on the run and whose name appears proudly in the Panama Papers.

Joe leads a charmed life. In 2011 it was reported that, while a fugitive, he was apparently able to fly into Bali to obtain a permit for his 1,000 room Muli Resort that is in a restricted religious zone.

Bernard Corden

Any relation to the co-founders of Papindo, Sir Soekander Tjandra KBE and Lady Tjan Soe Lan Tjandra?

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