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Prime Minister Somare has vested interest in industry

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 24, 2008) –An Australian report into the illegal timber trade in the Asia-Pacific region states Papua New Guinea is one of the main exporters of illegal timber.

The 160-page report also states some companies and politicians, including Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, have vested interest in the logging industry.

The report by the Australian Criminology Institute contains findings revenue from illegal timber exports was used to finance human rights abuses, coups and rogue regimes.

The report states as much as 70 to 90 per cent of logging in PNG, the second largest exporter of tropical logs after Malaysia, is illegal and is often done by large international companies.

[PIR editor’s note: Schloenhardt’s report, The Illegal Trade in Timber and Timber Products in the Asia-Pacific Region, is on page 107 of the .PDF report.]

"Given the scale of illegal logging in PNG, it is estimated that timber resources will be depleted in 10 years if logging continues at the present rate," the report by the University of Queensland senior lecturer Andreas Schloenhardt, states.

PNG produces about 2.3 million cubic metres of tropical logs each year and about two million cubic metres of this is exported.

While PNG has the Planning, Monitoring and Control Procedures for Natural Forest Logging Operations, the PNG Logging Code of Practice and the Key Standards for Selection Logging in PNG, the report says "there are great discrepancies between laws, policies and their administration and enforcement, despite introduction of comprehensive laws and policies over the past 20 years, allegations about mismanagement and corruption in the forest industry and among relevant authorities persist," the report states.

The 160-page report also says attempts by the World Bank and foreign aid agencies to establish systems to control logging have "failed" and is often "undermined by the national and provincial governments".

"Some of the large enterprises have diverse interests in the PNG economy and have investments in the media, printing, and information technology sectors in addition to their logging operations," it says.

"Moreover, many politicians and high-level office holders in PNG have considerable personal interests in timber companies, including Prime Minister Michael Somare who, in June 2007, admitted to having financial ties to the logging industry."

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:

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