In early 1992 the National Executive Council (NEC) approved a major policy paper called Beyond the Minerals Boom. The paper was endorsed by Parliament and was soon after to become the government’s industrial policy package up to the year 2000. PNG would no longer rely on resources dug up from underground.
Over the past four years the Department of Commerce and Industry have facilitated more projects than ever before. Some of these are completed and are in production, while others are in the planning or construction stages. In just three years, a total of nearly K1 billion in new investments were attracted under the industrialisation policy.
The result has been the establishment of several major industrial projects in the country. Some are now producing, while others have been approved or are being negotiated. These include the Halla cement factory in Lae, a number of fish canneries and several oil refinery projects. Battery manufacturing and numerous other small to medium scale manufacturing projects are coming to fruition under the industrial centres scheme. Many other proposed projects have been marred with controversy and others have been delayed.
Because of changing policies and priorities since independence, industry was not allowed to develop at the pace that PNG’s Asian neighbours pursued. Numerous governments have seen this department change names five times: Labour and Industry, Commerce and Business Development, Industrial Development, Trade and Industry and now Commerce and Industry.
However, commerce and industry has really moved forward over the last four years, much of the advancement being the result of the efforts of Minister David Mai and his team of public servants headed by Secretary Robert Igara and his successor, Chris Vihruri.
Mr Mai, a former premier of Simbu Province, feels very strongly about his work and especially the policy initiatives he has been involved with, particularly Beyond the Minerals Boom. His strong support of these initiatives has seen him vigorously opposing the World Bank sponsored ‘Structural Adjustment’ programme, which, among others things, has recommended the removal of the reserved business activities for national or citizen businessmen and women. Manufacturing and construction have been the first areas hit by trade liberalisation. He has also been strongly opposed to de-controlling of prices and privatisation. In a cabinet resuffle in July 1995 he moved to Agriculture and Livestock after being Commerce and Industry minister for four years.
“If I had my way, I would remain with Commerce and Industry. My vision is for Papua New Guinea to achieve some degree of industrialisation,” Mr Mai said at his farewell party. “Commerce and Industry is one of the best run departments in the public service. The professionals and staff in the Department have helped me a great deal. I am a better person and minister of government now.”
For the future, Mr Mai wants new ministers to the post to carry on from where he left off. “PNG must expand its manufacturing base and move towards import substitution and more value-added exports.”
This policy recognises that the private sector is the engine for growth. The department will be the catalyst and partner for development. The targets that were set were:
* Industrial sector to contribute at least 35 per cent of gross domestic product and provide 80,000 jobs or 20 per cent of total formal employment.
– Greater emphasis on an export-driven economy with manufactured exports being doubled.
– Establishment of a strong PNG business sector with increased ownership and participation by nationals.
– Expansion of downstream processing facilities.
– Improved infrastructure to support industries.
– Formation of regional development centres and Equal opportunities for women and meaningful participation by them in the workforce, business and industry.
The overall industry policy is to promote domestic manufacturing. The private sector is encouraged to set up labour intensive industries and to relocate industry from other countries to PNG.