Posted by : Posted on : 29-Aug-2020

In July 2016, the then Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, announced that his government would soon put in place legislation to guide the establishment of Special Economic Zones.

On that occasion, Hon Sogavare said he had told the visiting Papua New Guinea-based Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy that Chinese investors should be interested in forming partnerships to invest in the SEZs.

Mr. Sogavare said the idea was to zone the country into various economic areas so different provinces could enter into activities that would be specifically feasible for their people.

He said the government would use the Public Private Partnership Development Concept when creating the SEZs.

Given 4 years has passed since the Prime Minister raised the prospect of bringing forward legislation to see the creation of Special Economic Zones, I was interested to read what he said last week when visiting Renbel Province, quote. 

“Renbel Province is a worthy candidate for tourism development should the Special Economic Zone Bill is brought to parliament soon.”

I guess with the onset of COVID-19 fears and a dwindling economy the prospect of seeing Special Economic Zones could still be some time away but, additionally, complex issues over land tenure and customary land practices might be detracting factors in seeing the furthering of the envisaged Free Economic Zone ideas

Even with enticing monetary incentives and tax dispensation the government might offer to investors and possible industrial manufacturers, my lingering concerns are these.

For manufacturing industries to develop in a country, availability of adequate land is an essential precondition. Moreover, the land needs to be equipped with basic infrastructure, such as water, electricity, gas, transportation, and telecommunication. Although individual manufacturers can create infrastructure in some cases, the cost of doing so would be a heavy burden for most and would therefore discourage many potential companies from building factories.

I very much hope, however, such concerns can be dispelled with fresh government plans for the infrastructure and the much promised SEZs concept be adopted before the expiration of another 4 years.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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