NZ Foreign Minister defends assistance to PNG for APEC

10:03 am on 26 October 2018

New Zealand's government has defended giving Papua New Guinea $US10 million to help it host the APEC leaders summit.

NZ First Leader Winston Peters

NZ First Leader Winston Peters Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

PNG is relying heavily on help from Australia, China and other countries to prepare for the summit in two weeks, and provide security.

However, there's a public outcry in PNG over the government's recent purchase of 40 new Maseratis and hundreds of other luxury vehicles for use in transporting leaders at the summit.

Speaking to RNZ Pacific last month before the Maserati deal became widely known, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters said his government had to help PNG take its chance to unlock its potential.

"It's a great chance for them to showcase their enormous resources that they potentially have in terms of their economic and social development.

"To enable PNG to pull this APEC hosting role off, yes we are giving them 15 million (NZ$15 million)," Mr Peters explained.

"But it's a serious investment in helping them to better advertise who they are and what they are and how they can be of functional assistance to all of APEC and that's what is so important."

PNG's government claims that hosting APEC will open up trade and investment opportunities and put PNG on the map.

However, critics have argued that the government has spent too much on infrastructure for APEC in Port Moresby when health and education services are struggling around the country.

Road construction continues apace in PNG's capital ahead of November's APEC summit.

Road construction continues apace in PNG's capital ahead of November's APEC summit. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Johnny Blades

Mr Peters recognised the steep development challenges facing PNG.

"It's a country with some significant in-built problems such as language differences. There are over (800) different languages in PNG, and you can see the difficulties that would bring about.

"There are huge gaps in terms of modernity as opposed to some of the villages and settlements all around PNG, but they've got the prospect of serious improvement, and they're optimistic," Mr Peters said.

"We've got to do our best to help."

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