PNG VILLAGERS WASTE HYDRO POWER REVENUES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 10) – Nearly K5 million (US$1.5 million) given by the government to people in Arona Valley in Kainantu, Eastern Higlands province, since 1991 for development s has not been spent wisely, Papua New Guinea officials say.

The Arona people are traditional owners of the land on which the massive Yonki Hydro Dam is situated.

Private Enterprises Minister Puka Temu told Parliament that the money is given to the Arona Valley Development Authority (AVDA), which is the people's vehicle for development projects.

Dr Temu said AVDA was established in 1987 and over the years PNG Power has provided significant capital injection to the company, but an inspection of the area has revealed that AVDA's assets have been left to deteriorate over the years.

The minister was answering questions raised by Eastern Highlands Governor Malcolm Smith-Kela on the benefits that the local people get from Yonki Hydro.

Governor Smith-Kela said the Yonki Hydro, which supplies electricity to the highlands, Morobe and Madang, generates about K300 million (US$94.5 million) every year for PNG Power.

He wanted to know how the local people were benefiting from this important asset.

Mr Temu admitted that Yonki was the number one revenue earner for PNG Power.

"There has been high injection of capital that is supporting the local people to generate income to improve roads, health and education infrastructure, but it has not been well managed."

He said between 2004 and 2008, PNG Power will be injecting K5.5 million in capital to AVDA to assist the people. He said this assistance could be the last, and he urged Governor Smith-Kela meet with him and representatives of AVDA to work out how best to assist them.

Dr Temu said there is a need for a concerted effort by the PNG Power board, the minister, the governor and the authority to discuss and decide the proper use of the large capital.

"There is a lot if potential there but the coffee and the coffee mill have been allowed to run down. We have to make a way so the next injection which could be the last to be managed properly."

November 11, 2004

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