A brief understanding of the PNG economy WITHOUT the numbers

All eyes will be on Treasurer, Charles Abel, next week when he presents budget that tries to deal with low commodity prices, tight revenue inflows and an ongoing foreign exchange crisis.

As Papua New Guineans await the 2018 budget next week,  I’ve put together the simplest explanation  I can  on  the state of the PNG  economy (minus the figures and the percentages). 


All eyes will be on Treasurer, Charles Abel, next week when he presents budget that tries to deal with low commodity prices, tight revenue inflows and an ongoing foreign exchange crisis.

External pressures like the slow economic growth in Europe, the US and China are also having an effect on PNG’s export revenue.

Commentators have repeatedly stated that the government over estimated revenue projections from the extractive industries while prices were high and didn’t take into account the slump being experienced now.

While there is some recovery in the global economy,   the treasury is not banking on comfortable ride over the 2018-2019 period. Some analysts are predicting the bad days won’t be over until after the 2020 financial period.

It is against this backdrop that the PNG government is preparing the 2018 budget set to be presented in Parliament next week.

The warning signs have been there for several years, a booming Chinese economy in 2005-2007,   then a slow down in growth has meant less demand for raw materials.

What raw materials? Gold for IT related manufacturing,  nickel and steel for skyscrapers, copper for wires and many products. Again, this is the simplest  method of explaining for non-economists.

In Europe, growth has also been slow.   How does that affect us?

This simply means,  big economies aren’t spending as much as they did to and we can’t sell as much as we need, to keep our economy within the comfortable range.

Despite the talk about developing a diversified economy – you know, having mining, oil, agriculture, manufacturing and all that… there has been no real effort to create a level of diversification that can keep us going comfortably during economic downturns.

A diversification  of the economy means having a multitude of industries  that provide the cushion to withstand external shocks. For instance, if  copper prices drop, we still make money from cocoa, copra and coffee.  This is JUST an example.

But we are so heavily dependent on the extractive industry, that when commodity prices drop, we also suffer.

So what about agriculture?

For years, the government has talked about agriculture and the need to create a strong agriculture base. The rhetoric for a strong agriculture base is still ongoing since the payment of 100 million for the National Agriculture Development Plan was released during the Somare government which was happily lapped up by “paper farmers.”

Economic commentators, also point out that we are still  getting the basics wrong.  (We did  have  it right in the 70s and 80s.)   The resources for   transport infrastructure that will stimulate growth are going to the wrong places. There’s too much going to places like Port Moresby while the access roads in agriculture rich  areas deteriorate.

So what should we expect from the 2018 budget?

It will be one that is focused on tightening spending.   There will be more focus on tax revenue collection. The government says it will “broaden the tax base.”

There may also be increases in income tax or GST depending on which route the government takes.

1 comment on “A brief understanding of the PNG economy WITHOUT the numbers

  1. Richard Lamang

    Scott, i agree with your views on the lip service being given to agriculture without real investment in the transport infrustructure in the food belt corridors of the country. I read in the papers last week I think that Government was looking at encouraging access to finance as a measure to support the agriculture sector but I think that approach is unsustainable without investment in the transport infrastructure so that agricultural produce can get to markets.
    Another important factor is the delay in implimenting the SWF when commodity prices were high and the Government was collecting good revenue – if the SWF had been implimented back then then the budgets for the last 3 years would not have seen significant cuts to important sectors such as health and education and law/order because the SWF could be drawn on to support the budget


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: