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PNG’s National Fisheries Authority to pay more, No update on PMIZ

By Leanne Jorari in Manila, Philippines 
The recently released 2018 National budget has directed State Owned Enterprise, the National Fisheries Authority (NFA), to pay more in dividends to the Papua New Guinea government.
The authority is expected to pay K400 million (US$124 million) in 2018; a huge spike from K150 million (US$46.7 million) in previous years.
In a measure to curtail public spending, the 2018 budget tabled and released recently by the O’Neill-Abel government, aims to ensure that spending is targeted at productive sectors that will aid economic growth.
Government agencies, will come under pressure to remit funds.
In fisheries this is raising questions about whether the National Fisheries Authority will continue to have the resources to develop the industry.
The NFA, the non-commercial, regulator and overseer of the development of the Fisheries Sector, will now pay the government K400 million annually in dividends.
“The money belongs to the state. We are only custodians of those monies. The rules of law is you use whatever you can and the surplus to give back to the state and we have been doing that diligently since we started being an Authority.
But I guess the government needed more resources,” said NFA Deputy Managing Director, Philip Polon.
The authority oversees expenditure for key programmes including those for local fishermen and to build rural jetties.
It also plays a crucial role in surveillance and monitoring of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing.
With the its dividend to government set to more than double, the NFA will have less money for these projects.
Meanwhile, two years after the launch of the K95 million (US$29.5 million)-construction phase of the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone, the Madang based project is yet to see any construction.
The K350 million (US$109 million) project, touted to be a game-changer for the Fisheries industry in Papua New Guinea, generating 30,000 local jobs, has seen delay after delay.
This has caused industry stakeholders to question if the project is merely a pipe dream.
At the launch of the projects K95 million-construction phase, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill stated that the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone in Madang, would earn the country between K6 billion and K12 billion (US$1.8 billion to US$3.7 billion) a year, once fully developed.
The initial Financial Investment Decision by the EXIM Bank of China was stalled by the lengthy court battle with Madang Environmental NGOs, as well as pressing landowner issues delaying the construction.
However, a review of government management and expenditure on the long-awaited project has revealed a K30 million (US$9.3 million) expenditure, including a K4 million (US$1.2 million) expenditure on the main gate alone, according to Trade, Commerce and Industry Minister, Wera Mori.
The lack of progress on the project has led sceptics to believe, the project may never see the light of day.
“If current policies continue it is dead. Nothing is going to happen, but it’s been a great dream. It’s got great potential, if it’s done right. But nothing has been done right. Because no one is taking a long term vision to say, ‘let’s enable the industry players to make a profit out of this,” said Fabian Chow – Honorary Treasurer – PNG Fishing Industry Association
The National Fisheries Authority, has admitted that the progress is slow, even seeing a transfer of the project between government agencies, first from the Department of Trade, Commerce and Industry, then to Kumul Holdings and recently back to the department of Trade, Commerce and Industry, under the leadership of Minister, Wera Mori.
“I would not give you any update. But the idea of PMIZ is a good one. It basically follows the desire of our pacific leaders that they’re looking for a hub that Pacific Islanders could use as a processing hub and catapult for their overseas.
Unfortunately the progress on that is pretty slow under the department of commerce. Recently it was shifted to Kumul holdings and then back to Commerce. In fact it’s taking too long and the interest by small pacific islands to come in is slowly eroding,” said Philip Polon – Deputy Managing Director - NFA.
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