SUE LANNIN | Australian Broadcasting Corporation | Extract
SYDNEY - Papua New Guinea's government says it wants $1.5 billion from Australia to help finance its 2019 budget, including funding to help fight corruption and to pay for roads in remote areas.
PNG's commerce and industry minister Wera Mori has told PM that the request for direct budget support from Australia was "quite significant".
"The new government has realised that we are in a situation which we need to basically come out of," he said.
"This will go basically towards helping us to cushion the current situation we are in so we can meet complete funding of the 2019 budget to deliver services to the people."
Mr Mori is part of a delegation of senior PNG ministers in Australia to attend a PNG investment conference in Sydney.
PNG is already seeking international help to refinance nearly $12 billion in national debt. However, earlier this month prime minister James Marape denied reports that he had asked for China's assistance.
The PNG request comes as Australia tries to claw back some of China's growing influence in the Pacific and as Pacific leaders step up their attacks on the Australia Government over climate change.
In July this year, Mr Marape set the goal of moving away from an "aid-donor recipient relationship" with Australia.
Mr Mori said any direct budget assistance from Australia would not be used to pay foreign debt.
"I'm not aware of any conditions raised by the Australian government," he said.
"We need to bring in important structural adjustments so that we are able to basically fund our programs, but they must be outlined in such a way that there's a return for the money Australia gives us."
Australia is the biggest aid donor to PNG with $607.5 million in official development assistance granted in 2019-20.
Lowy Institute research fellow Shane McLeod said Australia had not given direct budget assistance to PNG for about 20 years.
"This is something PNG would sincerely like assistance with to get its budget restructured," he said.