PNG pushes on with plans to create special economic zones

10:25 am on 9 August 2019

Papua New Guinea's government has plans to divide the country into several economic zones next month to try and foster industries in the regions.

The harbour and airport in Vanimo, capital of Papua New Guinea's West Sepik province.

Vanimo harbour and airport. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

It's part of Prime Minister James Marape promise to make PNG the 'richest black nation' in the world in ten years time.

The Special Economic Zones concept has been floated in PNG for decades - usually related to delineated areas for industry with tax concessions, and concentrations of processing facilities - without getting off the ground

But Mr Marape said he had personally presented a cabinet paper on Tuesday which would require the country's scattered provinces to prioritise economic growth.

"In September I will be announcing about 17 or 18 specific economic zones," he explained.

" We divided the country into economic zones and as we go forward, our infrastructure focus, our irrigation focus will be geared towards developing to suit the economic potential of those regions in our country."

A previous cabinet paper was submitted last year by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry for the government to approve the start of work on Special Economic Zones in the country.

West Sepik Province, in the far north eastern corner of PNG and next to Indonesia, was chosen as one of the Zone centres, and is likely to figure in the Marape government's plans.

Government officials identified the West Sepik capital Vanimo as having high economic potential, partly due to its proximity to Asia, and its harbour's suitability as a port.

Logs ready for export, Vanimo, Papua New Guinea.

Vanimo harbour is currently a busy terminal for round log exports. Under a Special Economic Zone concept, more timber would be processed in PNG. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Nearby Momase region provinces along PNG's north coast, East Sepik and Madang, would also be part of a Special Economic Zone.

According to some companies interested in special economic zones in PNG, the concept would act as a financial point for blockchain activities.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs