FOREIGN INVESTORS FLOCK TO PAPUA NEW GUINEA

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Seen as sign the country is safe for foreigners

By Oseah Philemon PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 3, 2010) - Applications from foreign investors are "flooding in," asking the Department of Lands and Physical Planning for land to set up businesses in Papua New Guinea, Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu said in Lae.

In an interview with the Post-Courier, Sir Puka who is also Minister for Mining and Lands and Physical Planning, said that with Papua New Guinea now seen by investors as a safe destination for investment, investors were sending volumes of applications to the department asking for land availability to set up businesses.

"We have enormous numbers of applications and now that we are recognized as a valuable investment destination, people are coming in .......you will know by the number of applications for land...it’s volumes and volumes.

"People are now interested in our country from all over the world," said Sir Puka.

"China is coming in a big way. China is very important...it is a big player globally and they are becoming very innovative," he said.

Sir Puka said investors were interested in land for a whole range of businesses including mining exploration. He said that with the help of the European Union the nation had now been mapped out and investors could see where its mining deposits were located. The mapping process will be concluded next year.

"So with that technology we know we still have an enormous potential in mining yet. So people are applying for exploration licenses.

"Exploration is not small money, it is big money and with the MRA (Mineral Resources Authority) we are moving the applications very, very quickly whereas before it was very slow.

"So with that industry (mining), still plenty of applications are coming in," said Sir Puka.

He said investors were also looking for land for agriculture. "People are looking for land in agriculture.....Chinese, Malaysians even Europe. They are looking at how Papua New Guinea (PNG) can grow rice, not small plots. They are looking for 100,000 hectares to make Papua New Guinea food bowl because the global rice production is going down and PNG is recognized as having the land to become a major rice producing country in the world.

"And so our challenge is how do we get 100,000 hectares," he said.

Sir Puka said under the recent amendments to the land laws, customary land owners could now register their land and then lease it out for businesses. He said the challenge was for the Government to turn to traditional land owners to release their land for this purpose.

Sir Puka said under the new changes the security of title for traditional land was as good as State lease and that was what investors wanted - security of title.

"We have Indonesians and Malaysians coming in and saying we want 100,000 hectares to make PNG a rice producing country," he said. Sir Puka said one area that had been identified was in the Kairuku area below the Golilala mountains and around the Vanapa area where a lot of land was available. That is the area they are talking about.

Sir Puka said the area had potential for commercial rice growing in a big way.

In the past rice was grown in the Bereina area of the Central Province.

He said there was also a lot of interest in oil palm development in the country.

Sir Puka said the Government had also identified "corridors" in the country for agricultural development.

One such corridor is the area along the proposed gas pipeline.

He said that area had to be unleashed for agriculture development.

He said no longer did provincial boundaries dictate development but now it was the economic corridors that determined development. Sir Puka said the potential for agriculture development in the area between Morobe and Madang provinces had yet to be realized and that was the area with huge agriculture potential yet to be unleashed.

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