Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

COVID-19 exposes cracks in Pacific regionalism

Maxi Mart employee Nena Nena is interviewed by Pacific Daily News reporter Jojo Santo Tomas about the use of nearby hotels, Wyndham Garden Guam, and Days Inn, as 14-day quarantine zones for passengers coming from COVID-19 affected areas, on Ypao Road, 20 March, 2020 (Photo: Reuters).

Authors: Anna Powles and Jose Sousa-Santos, Massey University

At the time of writing, there are 63 reported cases of COVID-19 in the Pacific. This includes one in Papua New Guinea, three in Fiji, seven in New Caledonia, 23 in French Polynesia, 29 in Guam and suspected cases in Samoa. The number is relatively low but there is a sense that tragedy is unfolding in slow motion across a region where health sectors are already under-funded and poorly equipped. Read more…

PNG needs to prepare for Bougainville negotiations

Officials count ballots in Buka, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, in this undated picture obtained December 11, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Jeremy Miller).

Author: Shane McLeod, Lowy Institute

The 2019 Bougainville referendum result is a clear and unambiguous statement: 97.7 per cent of Bougainvilleans see their political future as independent from Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Peace Agreement that has guided the process to this point sets out consultations between the two governments as the next step in responding to the referendum outcome. Read more…

An eventful year in Papua New Guinea

Residents hold a Bougainville flag at a polling station during a non-binding independence referendum in Arawa, on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, 26 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Melvin Levongo).

Author: Ronald May, ANU

It was an eventful year in Papua New Guinea in 2019. What happened was not so much a change of government but a convoluted change of leadership from Peter O’Neil to James Marape. In early statements, the new Prime Minister spoke of a ‘change of direction’ and a commitment to ‘take back the economy’, which he said was ‘bleeding and struggling’. He also spoke of a wish ‘to diversify Papua New Guinea’s [foreign] relationships’. Marape described his government as ‘pro-investment and pro-business’ but looking to shift focus from mining and petroleum to agriculture.

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Bougainville is an issue for all of Papua New Guinea

The Panguna mine is seen in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, in this Planet Labs satellite photo received by Reuters 26 September, 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Hammond).

Author: Thiago Cintra Oppermann, ANU

The Peace Agreement that ended the armed conflict in the Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1998 has three pillars: disarmament, the establishment of an autonomous government in Bougainville and a referendum including the option of full independence. Set to be held 10 to 15 years after the establishment of the autonomous government, that referendum is now fast approaching — taking place this 23 November 2019.

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James Marape battles PNG’s gas fire

Author: Colin Filer, ANU

After eight years as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister, Peter O’Neill was replaced by his former finance minister, James Marape, in May 2019. Marape declared that it was time to ‘take back’ Papua New Guinea and turn it into the ‘richest black Christian nation on the planet’. It certainly wasn’t getting much richer under O’Neill’s stewardship. Read more…

Why Australian aid’s infrastructure fixation won’t be a boon for the Pacific

Local residents sit outside their damaged homes surrounded by debris on a street after Cyclone Pam hit Port Vila, Vanuatu, 15 March 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Kris Paras)

Author: Terence Wood, ANU

The need for infrastructure in poorer parts of the Pacific is obvious. Outside of urban areas, once-paved roads are now muddy tracks. On some islands, planes land on grass runways that are frequently closed by rain. In some places, small boats take hours to move cargo from ships moored off coasts deprived of wharves.

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Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill steps down

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill speaks to China's President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, 21 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Fred Dufour).

Author: Ronald May, ANU

On 26 May 2019 Peter O’Neill announced that he is ‘standing down’ as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister and handing over the office to former prime minister Sir Julius Chan. This announcement raises some significant questions about procedures. Read more…

Mixed outcomes and missed opportunities for PNG’s economy

Locals walk along a small beach where a Liquefied Natural Gas carrier called Kumul is docked at the marine facility of the ExxonMobil PNG Limited operated LNG plant at Caution Bay, located on the outskirts of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, 19 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/David Gray).

Author: Paul Flanagan, ANU

The last year should have seen Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) economic fortunes improve significantly. Higher oil prices should have contributed to a major decline in budget deficits. The November 2018 APEC meeting provided an opportunity to showcase what PNG has to offer. But an earthquake, lax budget policy and a build-up of protectionist and anti-market policies meant that the year ended as a mixed bag. The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessment indicates 0 per cent growth in 2018. Read more…

An unsettled year for PNG

Papua New Guinea schoolchildren wave China and Papua New Guinea flags along the New Boulevard Road ahead of the APEC summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 16 November 2018 (Photo: ReutersMast Irham).

Author: Ronald May, ANU

It was a year of mixed outcomes for Papua New Guinea.

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake in the Highlands caused extensive landslides early in the year, killing more than 150 people and damaging houses, food gardens, roads, airstrips and buildings. The quake’s epicentre was in the Southern Highlands in an area of major oil, gas and mining operations, which were forced to close-down and evacuate staff. Read more…

No time for APEC to be asleep at the wheel

Workers at a tunnel under construction for the China-financed Jakarta–Bandung fast train in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2 May 2018 (Photo: Antara Foto and Aprillio Akbar via Reuters).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

APEC leaders will be meeting on Friday at a time when the international order is confronted by more uncertainties and perils than at any other time since the organisation’s creation. The APEC theme, ‘Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future’, is tone-deaf to the seriousness of the threats facing the region.

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It wasn’t meant to be like this: PNG’s hosting of APEC

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O'Neill addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, United States, 23 September 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz).

Author: Stephen Howes, ANU

When Papua New Guinea (PNG) put up its hand to host APEC in 2013, its economy was booming. Prospects were bright. And reform was underway, in particular to clamp down on the corruption that has been the country’s curse.

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PNG turns protectionist in its APEC year

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill speaks to China's President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, 21 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters: Fred Dufuor).

Authors: Rohan Fox, Stephen Howes and Maholopa Laveil, ANU

The first sign that Papua New Guinea (PNG) would be adopting a more protectionist trade policy came in late 2015, with the banning of a number of fresh fruit and vegetable imports from Australia. While that ban was short-lived, 2018 has seen a major reversal in PNG’s trade policy. Read more…

Power plays in the Pacific

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang watch a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (Photo: Reuters/Mark Schiefelbein).

Author: Sarah O’Dowd, ANU

As the most recent signatory to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Papua New Guinea (PNG) is increasingly turning to Beijing for investment and aid funding instead of traditional partners like Australia. Recognising China’s growing influence in Australia’s ‘part of the world’, Canberra has promised to compete with China’s infrastructure spending in the Pacific. Read more…

Resources curse PNG communities’ future

Peter O'Neill, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, speaks during the opening of the PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment conference in Sydney, Australia, 5 December 2016 (Photo: Reuters/David Gray).

Author: Michael Main, ANU

Two recent reports on the massive ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project have brought renewed attention to the undesirable economic and social impacts of Papua New Guinea’s largest-ever resource extraction enterprise. This research shows that PNG LNG has hurt, rather than grown, PNG’s economy and that it has inflamed violence and tensions in the PNG highlands region. Papua New Guinea’s so-called ‘resource curse’ has hit local communities the hardest. Read more…

PNG earthquake’s political aftershocks require careful handling

Residents receive aid after an earthquake in Papua New Guinea in this handout image released on 7 March 2018 (Photo: Reuters/MAF International/Handout).

Author: Paul Flanagan, ANU

The 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on 26 February 2018 killed over 100 people and left 270,000 in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. There have been dozens of physical aftershocks. But the most damaging aftershock may be the earthquake’s undermining of the ‘social licence’ of the affected areas’ PNG LNG project, which is responsible for 40 per cent of PNG’s exports. Read more…