PNG Forestry Minister defends logging tax collection

3:42 pm on 22 February 2016
Logs ready for export, Vanimo, Papua New Guinea.

Logs ready for export, Vanimo, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Papua New Guinea's Forestry Minister says operations of the Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau in his country are monitored closely.

This follows a new report by the US-based research group, the Oakland Institute, which exposes a web of tax evasion and financial misreporting by logging companies operating in PNG.

The Institute investigated the financial records of dozens of companies, including Rimbunan Hijau and its many subsidiaries, which have reported little or no profit for over a decade.

The Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, claimed that his department collects comprehensive taxes from loggers in PNG including Rimbunan Hijau.

"They're not only into logging. if they have other operations like supermarkets that they're running, and hotels and transport industry, whatever, they have to pay their tax in those industries also," he said.

"But in the logging industry, I can tell you, we have monitored them very closely and we are able to raise so much revenue for this country every year."

Meanwhile, Douglas Tomuriesa said the government will next month table the report by a committee which reviewed the findings of a 2012 Commission of Inquiry into the controversial Special Agricultural Business Lease system.

That Inquiry found that the majority of the leases, which were mainly used for forestry, were fraudulently obtained, and this was acknowledged by prime minister Peter O'Neill in parliament almost three years ago.

However in response to claims that the government has been dragging the chain on revoking the fraudulent leases, Mr Tomuriesa said there would be action on this front soon.

He said there was a need for a review of the Inquiry because only two of the three commissioners submitted a final report, bringing the findings into question.

Harvested logs in PNG

Harvested logs in PNG Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

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