Who gives PNG how much?
23 November 2019
BRYAN KRAMER MP
| The Kramer Report
PORT MORESBY - While discussing the 2020 budget papers, many members of Papua New Guinea’s national executive council (cabinet) were surprised to find out just how much PNG receives from our donor partners.
In 2020 PNG will receive close to K1 billion in free development funds to assist us in our development goals.
Topping the list was Australia contributing K745 million while China only contributes K7 million.
Here are the top six donors:
Australia K745.0 million (81%)
European Union K80.0 million (8.7%)
United Nations K41.7 million (4.5%)
New Zealand K22.9 million (2.5%)
China K7.0 million (0.8%)
USA K5.0 million (0.5%)
In contrast when you look at it from how much we borrow, China tops the list:
China K446.2 million
Asian Development Bank K437.6 million
World Bank K185.5 million
Japan K181.3 million
India K7.7 million
Some countries are happy to lend us money where they benefit from the interest earned and conditional on their companies being awarded contracts.
I have studied grassroots economics three times:
Late Teens went to one session of winter night classes studying ‘Progress & Poverty’ by Henry George, offered at Cardiff’s Oddfellows Institute.
As a putative bank manager we lowly clerks were almost forced to study Basic Economics as part of our Banker’s Institute Examinations.
Finally in training to be a teacher of commerce and accounts it was one of two of my so-called ‘Mains’ needed for certification.
Yet I feel as if I am still in the kindergarten when I read and hear some of the economic stories from PNG and the world.
It has always struck me as quaint that a degree in Economics is considered to be of science not the arts. With so many ‘ifs’, ‘possibly’ ‘most likely’ and those horrible modal verbs such as ‘Should, Could, Can be’ it has always struck me as being one of the dark arts.
With many expert economists offering different eventualities for a proposed economic policy I often see apparent intelligent debates from partisan MPs and other worthy groups; with each seemingly offering valid arguments.
Someone once wrote to ‘The Times’, “Economics is where each year they don’t alter the questions only the answers!”
So it is with the topic we are considering: Debt.
I recall someone telling me, “You can only get a loan if you are credit worthy; so no homeless street person need apply.”
Another aphorism I heard was: ‘It is easier and quicker to get a decision for a loan of a hundred thousand than a hundred from your bank manager!’
We hear tales of woe for PNG being too heavily indebted yet a glance around the world scene shows how the USA the proclaimed richest nation in February 2019 had a debt of $22 trillion.
As at May 2019 it is claimed of that US debt the following are largest creditor countries:
1st China $1.11 trillion.
2nd Japan $1.1 trillion.
3rd UK $323 billion.
4th Brazil $306 billion.
5th Ireland $271 billion
6th Switzerland $231 billion.
7th Luxembourg $230 billion*
8th Cayman Islands$216 million*
9th Belgium $191 million
*The Bureau of International Settlements believes these 2 nations are fronts for sovereign wealth funds and hedge funds whose owners don't want to reveal their positions.
Even in the worst case scenario it seems to me that only China could be considered a candidate for trying to squeeze the new imperialist across the water.
Of course it is more than mere totals. So I had a quick look at Debt levels as % of GDP. Sorry only for 2017.
Worst is Japan 234%.
Hong Kong 38%
EU avg 87%
PNG is 124th out of the 190 nations in the table on the website and in middle of Australia and New Zealand. The average throughout the smaller Pacific islands states is around 45% though the micro-nations all are below 10% except Guam which is at 32%
As Chris said in his opening paragraph it is how loans grants are spent that is the crunch for improving PNG’s economy.
The pages of PNG’s newspapers are littered with corruption, fraud, missing or lost millions that must run into over a billion in past 20 years.
I have watched a few of the ‘projects’ such as the PMIZ. My file started ten years ago with a Post Courier report.
090604 ‘Lures out for tuna investors’. The article claimed ‘PNG is promoting on-shore investments, the reason for the Regional Pacific Marine Industrial Park in Madang’
100716 Post Courier’ ‘…PMIZ in Madang is massive and will pump in a hefty $US3 billion a year into the local economy once it is fully operational.
110516 ‘US$95m draw down for PMIZ getting closer’ – The National
120314 ‘Govt to act on PMIZ plan. The Government had acquired 216 hectares. Yet nothing is happening.. ….’ Post Courier
130321 PMIZ project to start soon. The National
140721 Study on K385.4 million PMIZ set to roll – The National
150122 Madang's PMIZ making solid progress-Post Courier
151124 Marine Zone to be launched by O’Neill – 10 plants with 60000 tonnes annually Post Courier
160516 PMIZ project a con job as K926 million loaned from Exim Bank and now K481 million to be borrowed The National
160902 K156million more needed to start phase 2 of PMIZ -The National
170317 Negotiation for new PMIZ loan underway because costs risen from K300 –K488 million The National Business
170913 Exim Bank Approves K350m PMIZ Loan – Post Courier
171204 PMIZ Madang K30 million abuse revealed. Example partially fenced at K1833 per metre .. The National
180404 PMIZ the Marine industrial zone to get K600m loan to build two wharves-National
190218 Loan deal for Madang PMIZ to be revised to turn it into an Industrial Zone rather than only fishing. National
190613 K3 million this time missing from PMIZ Project slush funds.. AGAIN!!!! National
191017 Pacific Maritime Industrial Zone project moves to ‘business case’ stage National. Goodness knows what is happening on the ground today for this project.
A few others:
161118 Probe on K62m casino case and deported Choi Chang Su now back in PNG. National
140616 Durand optimistic about partnership housing project –The National
180618 Expensive Houses at Durand lack electricity & water infrastructure because of NHC’s lack of planning & monitoring – National
190820 Minister working to review Duran Farm housing project to see if contracts are legal
190206 EHP Operated An Illegal K7.38m Trust Account allegedly by Governor Smith-Kela etc P Courier
111205 The Falcon to go! Post Courier
180108 Falcon still flying - PM WITH WINGS Drum in P Courier
180430 Opposition Hails Stop To K10 billion rental deal with Naima Investments pushed by Sir Puke Temu –P Courier
180724 Lawyer Sam Olewale charged for failing to produce Roko Koloma over K24 million Nat. Stats. Office fraud- The National
Apart from the Maserati project the APEC brought an article from FRANCIS NII in PNG Attitude
190217 O’Neill relatives involved in alleged parliament house repair scam.
190228 International Expert Says Cost Of Lift Damage at Parliament Absurd P Courier
191010 More questions surfacing after APEC –one example is unofficial car hire got K2.6m through 66 individual payments Invoiced under K50000 National.
These are only some of published instances of governments failing to manage projects and funding in a proper way.
I haven’t mentioned the annual funding that has been going to every MP for many years with all sorts of financial irregularities happening out in the provinces.
K10 million a year to 120 MPs amounts to K1.2 Billion per annum multiplied by ten years equals K12,000,000,000.
That whopping sum should be showing in many improvements to small town, villages and rural infrastructure yet too often we see shocking pictures of the closed, abandoned or run-down buildings often vital to community welfare.
As a resource rich nation of around 8 million citizens there should be no need for any more handouts or loans from anyone apart from any massive infrastructure projects financed by international funding.
Finally some items concerned with the first LNG project.
Why did the PNG government allow the pipeline from Hela to be constructed without a first class road alongside it? That would have been available for the developers’ vehicles used for maintenance but more importantly as a vital link from the coast to the highlands heart of the nation.
Why was Komo airfield, the longest in the region, only this past week opened for ANG to use?
Why did the government allow the proceeds from selling the gas abroad to be kept off-shore?
Why did PNG have to pay the Singapore wholesale price plus freight to use the oil drilled from PNG’s land.
Why was Exxon allowed to demand import tax concessions on construction materials, tax-holidays etc to over-contribute to its profits in the low cost production oil and gas fields of PNG?
Is PNG going to continue to the giving of gifts to allow resource companies to remove its national wealth?
All these factors have impacted on the need for debt by PNG the richest resource island nation in the Pacific.
Posted by: Arthur Williams | 24 November 2019 at 04:50 AM
I'm not sure that sidling out the door will be an option.
Surely those big creditors will come looking for their pound of flesh when the crunch comes.
Those debts also represent power.
If anyone has power over PNG as a result of its debt it will be China and the other Asians.
Australia, it appears, will have no power at all. Exactly 'nil' as the above figures show.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 23 November 2019 at 09:57 AM
I guess the figures tell the story.
Australia continues to pour money into PNG. Whether it is well spent is another question.
As for debt, surely it is about time that PNG took a deep breath and cut up its credit cards. Right now, it seems to be just digging itself into a deeper and deeper "Debt Trap".
It doesn't matter if it is China or India or whoever. The more debt acquired, the less effective sovereignty PNG has to pursue its own interests.
On the bright side, when the inevitable international financial crash occurs, powered as it will be by the world's enormous, never to be repaid debt mountain (a mind boggling $US230 trillion), it might be an ideal time to repudiate much if not all of the debt.
This will be because PNG's own debt mountain ($US7.3 billion) is a mere pimple compared to, say, Australia, where government net debt is around the $A500 billion mark, with private debt of about triple that amount.
If things go pear shaped, PNG's piddling debt will just be chump change.
So, when things truly go into melt down mode and the world's central banks are busy printing even more money in a desperate attempt to recapitalise the casino known as the world finance market, PNG can just sidle quietly out the door leaving a short note of apology and promising to do better next time.
This has been the method adopted by Greece and Argentina for the last century or so and they seem to be still functioning, albeit not very well.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 23 November 2019 at 09:37 AM