Islands Business reporter Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti has been talking to Pacific Islands ministers and officials at the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in Vanuatu about their economic priorities and regional opportunities.
Here are excerpts from a conversation with Papua New Guinea’s Acting High Commissioner to Fiji, Jacinta Tony-Barrion. The responses have been lightly edited for length.
How is PNG coping with the increase in prices of fuel, transportation, and food?
The government very recently in March, implemented a 10% reduction in goods and services tax (GST) on essential household items and fuel. So fuel is part of that right across, petrol, kerosene, gas, and what not, and that will go on for the next six months, in a way that will help our people find their way around, especially in terms of what is happening in Europe, the war and how it is translating down to the region.
There has been a focus on accessing climate finance at FEMM. How important is this to PNG?
I briefly mentioned in my intervention in the FEMM that we’ve been fortunate enough to have access to certain climate finance opportunities and I think for others that found it a little odd. It comes back to the kind of proposal you put forward, and [that] you know the return on investment. What are you going to get out of it, that sort of thing? It is a big and very important part of complimenting what the government should be doing, because right now it is not completely translated into our national budgetary process; it is still a foreign kind of idea at this point.
What has worked for PNG in accessing this finance that regional countries might also adopt?
Generally speaking,, the requirements are that we need to be specific about what we are trying to do and that we have a good national climate change authority. The national office is very proactive in that space, so if you are informed with what you want to do in terms of adaptation measures or mitigation measures, it’s easy to talk to these people and they will be able to provide you with that access.
PNG is resource rich, with reserves of gas, oil, etc. Can PNG supply fuel in the near future to help meet some of the challenges the region currently faces?
It’s a conversation that we started having when we first felt the initial impact of the fuel prices. For PNG, we saw it as an opportunity to come in, because we already have the natural primary product there, it’s just having to refine it, or [produce] the end product. We have to have the infrastructure for it. Right now we have infrastructure that is extracting at the primary level. We are extracting all the natural gas and we are exporting it to Japan or other interested countries, and they produce whatever they need out of it. When we are at the stage where we are able to have that infrastructure established, then we are able to help the rest of the Pacific.
There is talk of forming a Pacific hub in order to access climate finance funds if the member countries agree to this. Would Tonga be open to this?
We are open to that, in the sense of regional solidarity and having to help the rest of the region. We are open to that idea. We actually welcome the Pacific Resilience Facility to an extent that it should be an avenue or platform to help ease access. That’s really the issue for all of us, and that is access to finance for all of us. We are for it.