PORT MORESBY – A Chinese executive of a major construction company says “the relationship between Chinese enterprises and the local people has never been stronger.”
And Wu Dongzheng, general manager of China Railway International Group in the South Pacific, told Xinhua Chinese news agency that the company's impact in “the picturesque, palm-tree laden paradise” goes far beyond the bricks and mortar.
With more than 2,500 local staff, the group has “made it a priority to improve living standards of the employees and their families”.
"I've seen too much poverty, too many jobless young men and too many families without medical care," Wu said.
“That's why the company is focused on providing staff with technical training and professional qualifications, as well as offering financial incentives.
"Many families have changed their way of life because of this, and sent their children to primary schools and even universities," Wu explained.
Papua New Guinean employee Daniel Nere said the most important part of his job over the last decade has been to ensure local participation in projects
"We make sure the local people get contracts, subcontracts and are employed as we work along the corridors of the constructions path," he said.
"It has been my job to figure out the interrelationship between the company and the government here, and the Chinese understand us, they have much respect for PNG people like me."
The company says PNG is “riding an economic wave of success” as it prepares to host the 2018 APEC leaders' meeting.
At the end of 2017, Wu signed an agreement with Eastern and Western Highlands provincial governments to develop two industrial agriculture parks.
"I think developing agriculture is the most important thing for this country," Wu said. "But there is no road network to deliver agricultural products. So I invited the PNG government to join China's Belt and Road Initiative to improve connectivity and services."
There is also a plan to establish six or seven “advanced farming sites” across PNG that Wu says will “sell eco-friendly products to the world, totally revolutionising the local economy.”
Signing the project's memorandum of understanding, prime minister Peter O’Neill said, "China is one of our strongest development partners and this direct investment is an example of the huge confidence that China and Chinese companies have in Papua New Guinea.
"The projects we have agreed on will deliver positive change for people in many towns and villages and I thank the government of China and the China Railway Company for their ongoing commitment to Papua New Guinea."
Meanwhile, O'Neill has launched a half billion kina million power project for the Highlands which is funded by China.
A loan from the Exim Bank of China is helping fund the construction of 189 kilometres of transmission lines and four sub-stations between Mount Hagen and Tari.