SCHEDULED road projects in Papua New Guinea will cost around K7 billion over the next five years, according to David Wereh, Secretary of the Department of Works and Implementation.
But PNG’s poorly-maintained existing roads represent a ‘time bomb’ for the country.
According to Mr Wereh (pictured), the main focuses of the Department’s road building program over the next five years were rebuilding the 800 km Highlands Highway, upgrading Lae and Port Moresby roads, upgrading and sealing 2,500 km of PNG’s national highways, and building 1,400km of ‘missing links’ to connect four key road corridors.
Loans and aid from the Asian Development Bank, Australia, the World Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and China’s Exim Bank provide 27% of road funding, he said with the remainder of funds coming from the PNG government.
“Our challenge is the deferred maintenance backlog, which is equivalent to K3 billion each year. We need K1 billion each year for the next three years to clear the backlog that we have,” Mr Wereh said.
“If we continue to delay the maintenance, we continue to build up the backlog.
“We are already sitting on a time bomb.”
Roads are PNG’s major mode of transportation, taking 80% of freight and passenger demand.
A Department of Works report has estimated that K1 spent on routine maintenance saves K4–5 in rehabilitation costs.
“Industry, institutional and contractor capacity continues to be one of our major hindrances in trying to deliver some of these major upgrade and construction works,” Mr Wereh said.
“There are only so many resources and so much capacity and people to deliver these maintenance and upgrading projects.”
Mr Wereh agreed that the majority of current contractors were working at their capacity, but the department would increase the packages “so we can attract major players from outside [Papua New Guinea], with a 40%–50% allowance for local content”.
Responding to a question that the Chinese contractor building the Lae–Nadzab road had failed to employ local staff, Mr Wereh said he had asked the contractor to provide a breakdown of how many locals and subcontractors were involved in the project.
“The Chinese are going to give us a breakdown of how many locals they are engaging in relation to that 50 per cent local content that we are referring to.”
Current road projects in PNG
Lae City: K278 million (in progress)
Port Moresby City: K910 million (in progress
Mt Hagen City: K40 million (tender stage)
Highlands Highway: K400 million (in progress)
National Highways: K700 million (in progress)
Provincial Roads: K100 million (in progress)
Missing Links: K70 million