Peter O’Neill is in Brisbane for a business forum and used a keynote speech to attack a damning report by Jubilee Australia, which questioned whether projected economic benefits were flowing from the ExxonMobil-led project.
The project supplies eight million tonnes of gas a year to Japan, South Korea and China, with the flow starting in 2014.
The Federal Government’s export credit agency, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC), provided the PNG LNG project with a $500 million loan in 2009.
“The people of PNG would have been better off had the project not happened at all,” said report co-author Paul Flanagan, a former Australian Treasury official.
The report said household incomes and employment have deteriorated since the PNG LNG project began in 2014.
PNG’s O’Neill characterised the report as “utter nonsense”.
“It’s quite disappointing to note that some experts, who align themselves with political groupings, continue to talk down the economy and continue to release fake news,” he told the forum.
“It’s quite unrealistic to suggest the LNG project is not contributing to the economy of the country.”
ExxonMobil has defended the project saying it had contributed $5.69 billion to local businesses and the government through employment tax and royalties.
“Good governance, accountability and revenue transparency are critical to ensuring that the value unlocked from gas resources in PNG results in economic growth, increased opportunities and a better standard of living for Papua New Guineans,” a spokeswoman said.
Australia’s Assistant Trade Minister Mark Coulton focused on the “game changer” upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation(APEC) leaders summit in Port Moresby.
“It is an opportunity to showcase the business potential of PNG to the world – a stable, reliable democracy and an attractive commercial environment,” Coulton said.
“It is incumbent on us, during tough times, to keep making the case about the growth and competitiveness that comes from opening markets to trade and investment.”
He praised PNG’s decision to reconsider joining up to the Pacific Pacer Plus free trade agreement.
Australian companies have $18 billion invested in PNG and more than 4600 Australian businesses are exporting goods into PNG. - PNC sources