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PNG government under fire over APEC Maserati fleet

The Papua New Guinea government is facing a community backlash over the purchase of 40 luxury Maserati sedans to ferry APEC leaders around Port Moresby next month, while the country struggles to pay school teachers and deal with a worsening polio outbreak.

As APEC’s poorest member state gears up to host the biggest event in its history, with at least $130 million (US$92,599) in support from Australia, locals have also expressed alarm at the installation of new Chinese-funded surveillance cameras across the city.

The Maserati Quattroporte cars, which cost between $210,000 (US$149,000) and $345,000 (US$245,000) each, were delivered to Port Moresby this week from Milan, Italy, on two privately chartered Boeing 747 cargo planes.

The vehicles are equipped with V6 Ferrari engines but will struggle to reach their top speed of 240km on Port Moresby’s often potholed roads, which have a maximum 80kmh speed limit.

PNG’s Minister for APEC Justin Tkatchenko said the Maseratis had been “pre-sold” to private sector buyers who would take the vehicles off the government’s hands after the summit.

“Of course we have paid a deposit to get everything here but all costs will be totally reimbursed and there will be no burden at all to the government at the end of the day. They are selling like hotcakes,” Tkatchenko told The Australian.

“It’s not as though we are going out of our way to show off or be stupid. We just want to make sure the vehicles we purchase are not a burden to the government after the event.”

But the purchase has sparked a furious response from PNG community activists.

Prominent PNG blogger Martyn Namarong questioned whether private buyers in PNG would have the money to purchase the $12 million (US$8.5 million) fleet, amid an ongoing foreign currency crisis brought about an artificially high exchange rate.

“The private sector has been unable to buy machines and other equipment because of difficulties in getting foreign currency. So its hard to see how they can buy 40 Maseratis,” Namarong said.

“I never heard about a Maseratis until they arrives in PNG. We cannot maintain our very hardy Toyota vehicles so its hard to see how we will maintain these Maseratis.”

He said everyday Papua New Guineans were becoming increasingly angry over the government’s APEC expenditure, which some have linked to unexplained pay cuts for the nation’s teachers.

PNG is also in the midst of a health crisis, with an outbreak of polio claiming the life at least one child, and high rates of TB infection in many provinces including the National Capital District.

New security cameras have been installed in Port Moresby in recent days, provided by China in a $12 million “APEC gift” to PNG.

“They are in your face, and people are wondering who are looking at them all the time,” Namarong said.

Tkatchenko said the cameras would help the government protect public property and ensure community safety.

Australian F/A18 Super Hornets and electronic sensor aircraft will patrol the skies over Port Moresby during the November 17-18 APEC leaders’ meeting, while the helicopter landing ship HMAS Adelaide and several naval patrol boats will protect against maritime threats.

About 1500 Australian Defence Force personnel will also be involved, including special forces soldiers, rounding out the biggest security commitment of any nation in support of PNG’s APEC year.

But, as reported by The Australian, Australian defence officials say potential incidents involving armed personal protection squads accompanying world leaders pose the biggest security threat during the summit.


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