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29 September 2013

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That's better, Gabriel.

However I still feel that the moment we stop stealing from ourselves (giving exorbitant contracts to associates - O'Neill is a champion of this, spending on ghost projects etc!) we should have spare cash to fix up those hospitals, schools, roads etc that are falling down like flies around our feet.

Otherwise I agree with Phil & David, what is O'Neill up to?

Somebody on either side is not telling the whole truth.

Time and time again the resource owners always lose big time. As the saying goes, "when two elephants fight, the grass suffers".

Also one wonders why much legislation of late, including this one regarding Ok Tedi, is always rushed through parliament without much debate.

This sounds like one of those laws that will be removed in the next 12 months once it has 'served or outlived its purpose'.

The closure of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville and the low commodity prices of our agricultural products back then meant our economy was struggling to sustain our country.

It was during this period that Sir Mekere's coalition government with Sir Michael's party, by a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the then PM, took over the captaincy of ruling PNG.

Sir Mekere's government inherited a country hardly able to meet its debt or pay for its workers or maintain its institutions.

The Central Bnak had zero reserves and the Kina was worthless. Economic, social and political commentators around the region had a few names for PNG including "basket case, banana republic and failed state".

During this period, no one wanted to know about or talk to PNG except our neighbour Australia.

It took a great man like Sir Mekere to go begging for the country and her people. He also set about rebuilding the country.

It is also at this time that his government negotiated with BHP Billiton for Ok Tedi to continue to operate and PNGSDP was born.

The revenue flow from Panguna was gone and there was none from elsewhere to support the country. Given this background, it is an incompetent argument that decisions made then were based on reasons other than in the best interests of PNG.

The relevance and necessity of the decision should be judged on what options, if any, PNG had at that point in time, and the success and the difference PNGSDP has made to the lives of communities around PNG and in Western Province.

It is so tempting to sit in 2013, with the economy booming, and pass judgement about the reasonableness or correctness of the decisions taken and made in the circumstances as presented. Lest we forget.

Spot on Phil! What exactly is Peter O'Neill up to?

The OTML issue is but one of many such controversies that this guy has kicked up since illegaly seizing office from Somare's sick bed.

Some of us are increasingly becoming cynical of his intentions. Is he deliberately trying to drown us with one issue after another with no proper debates and analysis of their implications? Is it a mere diversion?

What exactly is PO up to?

I'm no economist, far from it, but I found point 3 in Gabriel's summary interesting.

"3. The income received by PNG Sustainable Program be held outside PNG with the purpose of settling future claims against BHP over the destruction of the Fly River system in the event that a competent court found in future against BHP Billiton."

Peter O'Neill has passed legislation that will now allow action to be brought against BHP for the environmental damage it caused.

No doubt this will revive the case being run by Slater and Gordon.

At the same time perhaps O'Neill sees it as a way of going after the fund in Singapore.

Clause 3 is a bit fuzzy; I'm not sure whether it is income from the fund i.e. the K100m per annum it earns or the principal fund itself that can be used by BHP to pay compensation.

If the latter is the case there is a huge risk that a substantial part of the fund will be chewed up in the litigation process, thus leaving the people in Western Province the poorer for it.

I'm also not sure what the intention would be if the fund was obtained by the PNG government. One would assume that they would continue to hold it in trust for the people of the Western Province.

Alternatively the fund might be incorporated into the new Sovereign Wealth Fund being set up to keep aside profits from the PNG LNG Project and other resource developments.

Interestingly, it has been suggested that this fund be set up off shore beyond the sticky fingers of serving politicians but not beyond the reach of previous prime ministers who will be trustees. I wonder if the intention is to set it up in Singapore; that would be an interesting irony.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about both issues, PNGSDP and the Sovereign Wealth Fund. Unfortunately the PNG media seems unable to solicit answers.

Perhaps Prime Minister O'Neill needs to invest in a little public relations to get his message across to what is essentially, and rightly so, a cynical public.

At the moment everyone seems to be getting sidetracked by issues like Howe's bonafides and the principals of resource ownership.

It might be more useful to get back to the main issue - what exactly is PM O'Neill up to.

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