30 May 2017

PNG Finance Minister critical of Don Polye over Oil Search stake

7:54 pm on 30 May 2017

The Papua New Guinea Finance Minister James Marape has criticised an election promise made by the Opposition leader Don Polye to sell the government's stake in the company Oil Search.

Don Polye

Don Polye Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Polye, the leader of the Triumph Heritage Empowerment party said by selling off the government's interest in Oil Search and other commercial ventures, he would raise more than $US1.5 billion for agriculture, tourism and human development.

In 2014, Mr Polye was sacked as finance minister when he refused to approve a $US 1.1 billion loan from the Swiss bank UBS with which the government purchased a 10 percent stake in Oil Search.

Mr Marape told Papua New Guinea today there were very good strategic reasons for PNG to stay involved in Oil Search.

He said the government needed to maintain its interest in the locally grown company to pass wealth onto the people and stop it going offshore.

Critics of the government's handling of energy interests often cite the lack of benefits to landowners in the landmark LNG Liquefied Natural Gas project which began exports three years ago.

Oil Search has a 29 percent stake in the project.

Meanwhile, the PNG-focussed company has acquired a 30 percent stake in several prospecting licences in PNG from ExxonMobil, the lead operator in the LNG Project.

AAP reports that the onshore licences are in close proximity to the Elk-Antelope gas fields that will supply gas to PNG's second big LNG Project, called the Papua LNG project, in which Oil Search has a 22 per cent interest.