PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Sept. 10, 2008) - So we are one of the most difficult places in the world to do business in!

It might surprise a lot of wage earners but it won’t surprise many people already involved in business in Papua New Guinea.

Many are the stories of companies being forced to sit on their thumbs for months while awaiting the most routine approvals. Now, an independent outside body has assessed us and found us guilty of being terribly, terribly slow.

It is the World Bank, through its entity, the International Finance Corporation, which has conducted its annual survey on doing business around the world.

We have slumped to 95th, slightly better than the Dominican Republic, Yemen (that hotbed of radical bombers) and perpetually troubled Lebanon but worse than recently war-wracked Serbia and Vietnam. That is, we are in unenviable company!

Why should it take72 days to register a property in PNG when it only takes four days in Fiji?

Why, when you’re trying to get a construction permit, does it take 217 days and going through 24 procedures in our country. Our neighbors in the Solomons take only 62 days!

And the bane of a business owner’s life, taxation. In Samoa it is assessed at 18 percent. In Vanuatu, 8 percent. Here? A rate of 41.7 percent applies to us! And think of our local companies trying to boost our export performance: it takes 26 days to process an export license, with the applicant having to fill in seven documents. With bureaucracy barriers like these, who has time to worry about overseas competition!

The pity of it is that publicity of such a survey only makes our case more difficult.

But rather than shoot the messenger, the World Bank or the Post-Courier as is the PNG Government habit, why don’t our leaders consider ways to streamline the paperwork and make us a true investment haven?

It can be done without letting the shonky speculators in the door and without dropping essential standards.

It is something that could start with a short and vigorous debate in the hastily recalled September 18 session of Parliament, at about the same time that they ram through the important LNG documents.

LNG may be the great savior for our economy, but it hasn’t arrived yet. And should we put all our eggs in the one basket, rather than spreading them with a trimmed bureaucracy that will welcome others?

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