This is an op-ed in response to Mr. Win Nicholas’s article titled “PNG’s SME Policy: the right aim but dubious means” which appeared at the DEVPOLICYBLOG on 18th, July 2016.
There is government subsidies and protectionism in all economies of the world. This is an acknowledged fact.
The United States Government grants subsidies and tax exemptions to most of their conglomerates in nearly every industry that, there is. This is done deliberately through their federal budgets. Need I name some of these conglomerates? The list is extensive and is in the public domain for researchers of all shades.
Australia is no exception, especially in its Agri-industry business. They have the Foreign Investment Review Board that play the gate-keeping role, filtering what investment to allow and what to decline, operating in lockstep with their meticulous immigration and foreign visa policy.
Now, they may have a different name and tag lines to eschew public perception, but flip the pages and their very DNA is plastered with what protectionism tastes, smells and looks like.
Some Papua New Guineans have covered themselves with the dry excuse of us not having the required skill-sets, capital exposure, credit-worthiness, attitude to work and an endless inferiority-infused-others-list. Such fallacious notions lends themselves to the scale of capital flight the country has been awashed in, in our almost 41 years of statehood. Whose lecture notes indicates that a gas-station (fuel depot) is a complex undertaking? How does one cultivate experience and know-how when the citizens are continually tagged as incapable?Are none of our children, sons and daughters yet to sit in the same lecture rooms that some of the “so-called foreign direct investors’ children” have sat and learned the fundamentals of business?
This SME Policy document has had wide consultations across the length and of breadth of PNG. It is crafted to capture the aspirations and frustrations experienced by many a budding “SMEPNGPreneurs” in the country.
There is diffusion of knowledge,capital and willing investors available everywhere for the right kind of investors but not every so-called foreign direct investment.
The fears expressed in Mr. Win Nicholas’s article are not a novelty. They have been the usual discourse for eons against such courageous ambitions as this. I say, you can judge us in ten to fifteen years. For now, the train has already left the station.
Thinking and astute observers of world events fully understand that, such scaremongering crowd that; surreptitiously guards over industries and manipulates public media to paint local entrepreneurs as really “not-up-to-their-scale” is not a new narrative. The labeling of native citizens as poor and needing handouts, whilst fencing off opportunities to their own ilk is a documented reality. They sound alarmist over unfair trade practices and resort to so-called international treaties and other global organisations (that are fully staffed by their own cronies) and assume totally innocent. That is a global trend. We know it.
The Trade, Commerce and Industry Minister (Hon.Richard Maru) and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (Hon. Peter O’Neill) are urged not to back pedal and pay attention to scaremongers’ chaff. You two gentlemen are encouraged to manfully move forward boldly. The sabotaeurs’ racking and buffeting must be brought to naught. The country is behind you with confidence.
We certainly have some challenges in infrastructure especially in the energy sector, but they are not roadblocks. It ‘s comforting to appreciate that, they are viewed from an opportunity angle.
“State Owned Enterprises” are especially requested to develop products and services targeting “PNGSMEPreneurs” with features and subsidized rates – even BTL offers to drive this ambitious and achievable target of 500,000 SME businesses by 2030. The days of cowardice must end. Making “PNGSMEPreneurs” a purposeful core agenda to your business is definitely a smart branding strategy.
It can be done. We must choose to believe. Now is the time to believe. We must be passionate and deliberate about this. This is our one and only country – beloved Papua New Guinea.