Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is keeping to his economic and social agenda despite having to adjust to the downturn in commodity prices.
He says his country is enjoying a 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.
“Our government is determined to ensure that external factors do not impact on our core policy areas – of free education, the provision of universal healthcare, improving law and order, and investing in key economic infrastructure,” Mr O’Neill told the conference on Thursday.
He said 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.
“Through careful management we will weather this economic storm and come through even stronger at the end of it,” he said.
He insisted his country does not have a debt problem and finds it “insulting” when critics attempt to undermine confidence by comparing it to a Greek-style debt position.
He said debt is around 33.2 per cent of GDP, and below its permitted limit of 35 per cent.
Looking beyond LNG production, Mr O’Neill said PNG can help meet the needs of Asian markets through a number of sectors, and is restoring its production and export of coffee, cocoa and copra.
“Clearly one of the greatest challenges facing the Asian region is food security,” he said.