PORT MORESBY - The politics of bigman, the economy of wastage and a public service that has become 'private service for a tip' all combined to deliver prime minister James Marape's ground breaking announcement last Sunday rejecting the P'nyang gas deal.
Mr Marape’s speech rejecting the P'nyang gas deal had been written over the years. It was a speech really aimed at an audience close to home. And if we didn't get it, we have a problem. The irony is that I'm not even sure the PM himself gets it.
Our criticism of Exxon Mobil and other development partners in the resources sector is as much a criticism of ourselves. If we think we are fighting them for a 'fair deal', we are barking up the wrong tree.
So what is a fair deal?
From where I stand, a fair deal to me as a taxpayer is when my tax is spent in the right manner without caressing some bigman politicians’ egos, without the money disappearing into 'private service' pockets and without wasting it on nonsensical economic projects with no clear return to the community.
That is a fair deal to me.
And only the PNG government and its machinery are capable of delivering a fair deal to taxpayers and citizens.
Mr Marape is right that the developers are here for their shareholders and he (that is, the government) is here for the people.
But beyond the rhetoric, is the government really here for the people?
If the government was for the people, where has all my tax money gone and where have all the revenues generated by citizens, including these resources developers, gone?
The real issue here is that successive PNG governments have let the people down so many times over the years and still do not have the decency to face the people and own up to their failures.
Instead we are looking for someone to blame and Exxon and others happen to be the convenient scapegoats.
OK there may have been too many tax concessions given away, but we compete globally for a piece of the action in a unique local environment that is probably not directly comparable elsewhere. Cost structures, sovereign risk and other factors may be different.
So how come PNG says Exxon and its partners' position on P'nyang is “out of the money” when Oil Search says the PNG position is “uneconomical” for them as it would mean the project being operated at break-even with a high likelihood of loss?
I'd like to see PNG gain the fullest benefits from the extraction of our resources, but it must be done with respect for the commercial interests of our partners. We cannot chase them away by being too aggressive about 'our take'.
The indirect flow on benefits to the economy of having these projects operational is usually not well understood beyond those that are directly quantifiable.
And most of these indirect benefits are normally driven by the State making wise spending decisions and leveraging these projects in ways that over time grow, sustain and diversify the economy and the tax base.
So again, what's a fair deal for me as a citizen?
A fair deal is when my government utilises the current taxes it collects from me and other fellow citizens, including development partners, to make public investments that provide the greatest benefit to the nation.
A fair deal is not merely squeezing a large slice of ice cream out of our development partners and then losing most of it through a horribly broken and hopelessly leaking pipe.
I ain't buying our prime minister's heroics until I am certain he will deliver a fair deal for me.
Fix the bigman politics, stop the economic wastage and change the culture of 'private service'.
Then your efforts in squeezing development partners would be worth your while, and all of our while.