28 Aug 2015

O'Neill defends handling of PNG economy

11:55 am on 28 August 2015
Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neill addresses the PNG Investment Summit in Brisbane.

Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neill addresses the PNG Investment Summit in Brisbane. Photo: PNG PM Media

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister says his government is keeping to its economic and social agenda despite having to adjust to the downturn in commodity prices.

Peter O'Neill says his country is enjoying an historically strong period of economic expansion, even after cutting growth for this year to 11 per cent from 15.5 per cent.

He told a PNG investment and infrastructure summit in Brisbane that, like other countries, his government is having to adjust to global factors beyond its control.

Mr O'Neill says having to make these adjustments has been a wake-up call for PNG, after all the excitement over anticipated revenue from LNG and other mineral exports.

But the prime minister says through careful management it will weather the economic storm and come through even stronger at the end of it.

He has insisted his country does not have a debt problem and says it is insulting for critics to suggest it has a Greek-style debt position.

Meanwhile, Mr O'Neill says one of his government's key policies is establishing an independent commission against corruption.

This is despite the prime minister's moves to dis-establish the anti-corruption unit Taskforce Sweep which has made significant inroads into prosecuting high level corruption among public officials in PNG in the past two years.

However, he claims his government is going further than any previous administration in countering corruption by establishing the new commission, legislation for which he says has been gazetted.

"The establishment of that commission is now receiving the highest priority of our government. Legislation will be presented in the upcoming session in October, and when it comes into force, it will lead the fight against corruption at all levels, both in private sector and in public sector. It will be totally independent, free of any political influence, tribal or regional influence."

Peter O'Neill says his government is determined external factors will not impact on its core policy areas - of free education, the provision of universal healthcare, improving law and order, and investing in key economic infrastructure.