PNGSDP Spent Millions On National Projects: Sir Mekere

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Former chairman also says BHP Billiton never influenced program

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 3, 2013) – Western Province remains the biggest beneficiary of the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program’s (PNGSDP) spending of K646.7 million [US$241.7 million], compared to K538 million [US$201.1 million] spent elsewhere, Sir Mekere Morauta said.

He was responding to questions sent to him by The National on Tuesday on the recent developments in the Government takeover of the Ok Tedi mine.

He said more than K6 million [US$2.2 million] was spent on more than 200 social and economic development projects in Western. They included national impact projects like telecommunications towers, health, transport, power and water.

"PNGSDP has spent K738.7 million [US$276.1 million] on national projects. Of that, more than K200 million has actually been spent in Western province," Sir Mekere said.

In a newspaper article yesterday, Resource Owners Federation of PNG chairman Jonathan Paraia claimed the figures produced by PNGSDP, quoting 66% pumped into an investment fund and 34% spent on projects in the country were unrealistic and would not help drive development in Western and other least developed parts of PNG.

"Western still remains one of PNG’s most underdeveloped," Paraia had said.

Sir Mekere agreed that Western remained one the least developed provinces in PNG.

"(This is) because it has been abandoned by the national and provincial governments for many, many years," he said.

"PNGSDP, in partnership with non-government organisations, aid organisations and the private sector, carries out almost all development work in the province."

Commenting on claims that BHP Billiton never left PNG, Sir Mekere said the mine developer fully exited from PNG and the Ok Tedi copper mine in 2001.

"BHP has never had any control over PNGSDP," he said.

"When PNGSDP was set up, there were three BHP-appointed directors, three PNG-appointed directors and one Singaporean director. This is a requirement under Singapore law where PNGSDP Ltd is registered. BHP, therefore, has never had a majority on the PNGSDP board.

"In fact, the BHP Billiton-appointed directors had no influence over PNGSDP at all, and BHP Billiton had no influence over them. They were appointed as independent directors."

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