TAIWAN BACKS PAPUA NEW GUINEA FREE TRADE ZONE NEAR IRIAN JAYA BORDER

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 22, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea's Vanimo Free Trade Zone (VFTZ) project has received an initial minimum US$ 350 million (K 1.2 billion) in funding to establish the infrastructure component of the project.

The announcement by Trade and Industry Minister John Tekwie was followed with the signing of the Vanimo Free Trade Zone Project Agreement between the financiers and developers and their Papua New Guinea counterparts in Port Moresby.

The signing was conducted by Precision Technical Engineering Corporation (PTEC) of Taiwan, the Department of Trade and Industry, the West Sepik provincial government, and the Sandaun Trade Development Authority.

Both Mr. Tekwie and PTEC's chief executive officer Jim Wu announced the US$ 350 million figure during the signing at the Islander Travelodge.

Vanimo is the main center on Papua New Guinea's northwest coast, near the border with Indonesian-ruled Irian Jaya (West Papua).

Mr. Tekwie said the PTEC would fund a series of projects that include:

§ Design and construction of the VFTZ Industrial Park (industrial center) on 200 hectares ((500 acres) of land;

§ Construction of deep sea heavy lift cranes and a container port to provide for an increase in import/export activities as a result of VFTZ development to take 20,000 ton ships;

§ Construction of a 20 megawatt power plant to increase the level of electricity supply in Vanimo to accommodate the free trade zone project’s needs;

§ Establishment and improvement of a proper telecommunication system within the VFTZ;

§ Feasibility study, design and construction of 400 houses for public servants both in Vanimo and Aitape. The houses will be constructed under a home ownership program with 300 houses to be built in Vanimo and 100 in Aitape;

§ Upgrade of the Vanimo town water supply system for the entire township; and

§ Establishment of the Vanimo Technical Vocational Centre to train locals who will work in the industrial park, which is expected to have a workforce of 10,000.

Mr. Tekwie and Mr. Wu said that the PTEC group has undertaken to fund and mobilize their complete engineering team to begin and complete the design of the main projects within 45 days after the signing of the agreement.

He said PTEC has a worldwide network and has had a lot of experience in the development of free trade zones over the past 30 years. Some of the countries in which the company has established free trade zones include Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, and recently Palau.

"Under the agreement, PTEC will also be investing in mining, petroleum and gas development, focusing on downstream processing within the Vanimo FTZ for export to international markets," he said.

Mr. Tekwie attributed the success of this development to the foresight of the government, saying the recent development was in line with its objectives of job creation while boosting economic development to promote a stable sustainable economy.

The government has supported the project with an allocation of K 400,000 (US$ 120,000) in this year's budget to help with preliminary work on the administrative aspects of the VFTZ and the free trade zone concept as a whole.

"The government must be commended in this regard," said Mr. Tekwie.

Yesterday's signing of the PTEC agreement is in addition to the previous week's launch of the PNG Economic Development Group Ltd. office situated in the Deloitte Tower in Port Moresby.

This is a consortium of companies that has pledged to invest a minimum of US$ 200 million in a wide range of activities in the VFTZ.

Mr. Tekwie said the Ministry of Trade and Industry has also received inquiries from the United States, Canada, Israel, the Middle East, Europe, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

"While investors have pledged commitments to PNG in this regard, we as a country, government and people must play our part by adopting attitudes and practices that avoid being detrimental to such investment," he said.

"PNG has been talked down so much. Despite this, investors have shown faith in PNG. My question is how do we show our appreciation and more so how do we return the favor?"

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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