In a speech in Australia, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister rejected a report that said ExxonMobil’s huge natural gas project had failed to live up to promises. Peter O’Neill dismissed the report as “fake news” – though he also admitted that he hadn’t read it. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Ten years ago, a model commissioned by Exxon predicted that the 19 billion dollar liquefied natural gas project would almost double Papua New Guinea’s economy, and spawn a wide array of benefits from a 42-percent growth in employment to an 85-percent increase in household income.
None of that has happened.
According to a report by a social justice NGO called Jubilee Australia, Papua New Guinea’s economy has grown by ten percent, but employment fell 27 percent and household income is down 6 percent. Former Australian Treasury official Paul Flanagan, one of the report’s authors, concluded “The PNG economy … would have been better off without the LNG project.”
In remarks at an Australian-PNG business forum in Brisbane, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill dismissed that summary as “quite unrealistic” and as “fake news” – though he also said he hadn’t read the report. He described its authors as well-known associates of his political opponents and attributed the shortfall in projected benefits to an unforeseen drop in global commodity prices.
The report also criticized PNG’s belief that resource extraction would cure all its economic problems. Luke Fletcher, Jubilee Australia’s Executive Director, said PNG would have been wiser to develop agriculture, fisheries and tourism: “These are the sectors whose health benefits the most vulnerable population in PNG,” Fletcher said, “which is the rural poor.”