The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 28) - JUST for once, let's all be optimistic.

We, like most Papua New Guineans, have had a belly-full of the doomsayers, the double-guessers and the prophets of destruction.

Let them choose some other target for their clever barbs, and their inability to understand even the basics of a complex economy operating in a developing country.

Sadly, they show their own ignorance of the realities of this country, without a knowledge of which their biased and often contradictory utterances come close to being worthless.

So let's put the doublespeak aside, and dare to celebrate in advance what seems to be exceptionally good news for our country.

We are referring to the positive signs of an outcome at last for that massive nickel resource near Madang.

The State-owned China Metallurgical and Construction Company appears keen to invest approximately K2 billion to develop, manage and purchase all the product of Ramu.

For once it appears that the long wait was worthwhile, and the persistence of Highlands Pacific Ltd, currently owners of more than 68 percent of the project, has been triumphantly justified.

If this proves to be the case, it is hard to underestimate what the effect will be on PNG's economy, on the quiet revival of the natural resources potential of our country, or on the revitalisation of the infrastructure of Madang, one of the most under-exploited towns in PNG.

And if we extend our optimism further, we could include other projects such as the Hides Gas field, which could supply energy to Ramu, and Highlands Pacific's other back-burner project with great potential, Frieda Copper, tucked away in the West Sepik province.

Not is the PNG-Queensland gas pipeline dead in the water, and it may yet surprise some of PNG's more trenchant and superficial critics.

None of these projects is small-scale.

Any or all of them could turn our country from a struggling state into a Third World country with a solid future, and the opportunity to reap massive economic and social benefits for our people.

We have relied on Australian expertise and skills, and Australian investment, for generations. 

That involvement in our economy has stimulated all manner of developments throughout PNG, supported successive governments in their efforts to raise money for capital expenditure and had an incalculable flow-on effect to every aspect of PNG society.

PNG is not about to turn its back on Australia -- nor on Britain, the USA, the South-East Asian tigers nor the Europeans.

But if our situation requires us to establish more meaningful relationships with huge nations such as China, then we should pursue those contacts with skill and determination.

There is every reason why PNG and China should enjoy a mutually satisfactory trading partnership.

And not the least of those reasons comes from our traditional allies themselves.

Not one of those friendly nations has ignored the opportunity of building substantial trade links between themselves and China.

Australia values the Chinese as a major trading partner, and seeks further opportunities for its skilled manufacturing expertise.

Britain has been assiduously building links with China for decades.

The United States, despite the curious duality of its China policies, does not let mere political niceties stand in the way of its roller-coaster economy, and actively seeks out opportunities in China for its businessmen.

And the Chinese themselves provide much of the backbone in finance and trading for the emerging tigers of S E Asia, while Europe's trade with the Chinese grows annually.

Against this timely awakening of the world's largest market to overseas products and technologies, PNG would indeed be foolish if it did not do everything in its power to encourage the Chinese to invest in our economy via huge projects such as Ramu.

The extent of the world's untapped resources is both finite and dwindling.

PNG is blessed with an extensive range of raw materials that should guarantee our progress for the forseeable future.

If the Somare Government can pull these massive projects off the shelf, where some of them have been languishing for far too long, it will have ensured that it is remembered as the government that helped make some of PNG's most dramatic visions come true. 

January 29, 2004

The National:


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