International Affairs. Papua New Guinea press review

About 103 passengers, mostly nationals, from Fiji and Vanuatu arrived in the capital of Papua New Guinea (PNG) – Port Moresby city. The Repatriation Program by the PNG Government is led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of PNG nationals repatriated from around the world rose to 420, with some 709 nationals of the largest State in Oceania still in need of repatriation. Currently, all national repatriation quarantine fees are covered by the PNG Government while non-citizens are asked to pay the full amount for Hotels before boarding the aircraft. [1]

At the same time, 29 citizens of Papua New Guinea were repatriated back into the country from Jayapura (Indonesia). Out of the 29 citizens, 25 were detained as illegal border crossers. The repatriated citizens underwent rapid testing at the Wutung Border Post, which is located on the border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia and will be in quarantine for 14 days before being released back to their families. Another 13 citizens, mostly students are expected to come back to Papua New Guinea soon. [2]

Papua New Guinea has secured an interest-free K1.2 billion (US$363,6 million) loan from the International Monetary Fund. As Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape said it is a «strong vote of confidence in the Government from the international community». Mr. Marape was delighted that Treasurer of Papua New Guinea Ian Ling-Stuckey had secured the financing agreement. «I want to congratulate Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey for working tirelessly to repair the country’s budget. […] He [Ling-Stuckey] has stopped expensive commercial borrowings where the financial benefits flowed to foreign bankers […] He has instead delivered a major reform agenda that has reshaped our debt management strategy to focus on securing good, cheap, transparent financing from the international community and our priority strategic partners such as Australia.» – Mr. Marape said. According to PNG Prime Minister, Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey and his dedicated team had worked closely with the IMF over many months. «We are working diligently to adjust from recurrent expenditure towards increased investment in growth through the capital budget while focusing on improving efficiencies and productivity for export growth» – Mr. Marape marked. The K1.2 billion (US$363,6 million) lending program from IMF to PNG was secured on unprecedented terms of 0% interest rate over 10 years with a 5.5-year grace period. The first principal repayments will start in December 2025. [3-4]

Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister and Trade (until suspended) Patrick Pruaitch told that Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) wasn’t consulted when Australia and PNG signed an agreement for a joint initiative at Lombrum Naval Base last year: «When DFAT is not involved, it means that PNG’s national interest is not represented, » he said. Mr. Pruaitch was responding to a series of questions raised in the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea by Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin about PNG’s sovereignty and Australia’s interest in Manus. He said local construction companies were being denied opportunities to participate in the construction of Lombrum Defence Naval Training College because they did not have Australian tax numbers and company registrations. Mr. Pruaitch also marked that «Australia promised a huge shopping list of development packages, including all-weather roads, schools and hospitals and that remains undelivered to date». According to Mr. Pruaitch, Papua New Guinea’s sovereignty and interest remained paramount in the conduct of its relationship with all countries, including Australia. But, at the same time, former PNG Defence Secretary Trevor Meauri said that DFAT was consulted and was fully aware of the MOU. [5-6] [1]

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