A tale of two cities

The ex­ec­u­tives of Pa­pua New Guinea’s two largest busi­ness cham­bers, in Port Moresby and Lae, re­flect on their cities’ progress over the past decade.

Business Advantage Papua New Guinea - - Inside View -

CEO, Port Moresby Cham­ber of Com­merce & In­dus­try

In the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, it’s just ex­po­nen­tial change. It’s very, very heart­en­ing to see. Port Moresby has re­ally grown up in the last 10 years, and the in­fras­truc­ture de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues apace.

If you com­pare it with 10 years ago, I think it’s shaken off the man­tle of be­ing a dan­ger­ous place. I mean more and more peo­ple are com­ing in and say­ing: ‘What’s the fuss? This is a vi­brant city in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try.’

With law and or­der mov­ing back down the scale, it’s be­ing re­placed by new is­sues. The en­ergy sit­u­a­tion has be­come crit­i­cal, and in many ways that was in­evitable. When you see such ex­po­nen­tial growth in the city, the in­fras­truc­ture— power, wa­ter, sew­er­age, drainage—is all creak­ing and groan­ing.

But there are many en­cour­ag­ing things in the en­ergy sec­tor com­ing, so Moresby is head­ing to be very well cov­ered in that re­gard—it’s go­ing to be a lot bet­ter for busi­ness as well.

It’s all hap­pen­ing in Port Moresby. I vis­ited Vi­sion City, a shop­ping mall that would be the mea­sure of any shop­ping mall in Asia, sit­ting un­der a new 433-room ho­tel—the Stan­ley. There are six new restau­rants open­ing up in Steamships’ Har­bour­side de­vel­op­ment. You have one of the most mag­nif­i­cent har­bours in the world that you’re sit­ting on.

You just you need to drive around Port Moresby to see what is hap­pen­ing. Peo­ple are gen­tri­fy­ing: old fi­bro shacks have come down and peo­ple are build­ing half a dozen units on the block of land.

New road in­fras­truc­ture is open­ing up mas­sive ar­eas of real es­tate on the fringes of the city, and you know many of us thought that a lot of these tra­di­tional set­tle­ments would never go, and that’s been proven wrong. I like to see de­vel­op­ment trans­lat­ing to a bet­ter stan­dard of liv­ing for peo­ple.

I think it’s pos­i­tive that the port is mov­ing to the north­ern side of the har­bour. It’s go­ing to be well con­nected by a new road. I would like to see some con­sid­er­a­tion given to the spin-offs in that eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment cor­ri­dor around the har­bour. There’s huge po­ten­tial there. I’d like to see Hanu­abada, Tatana Is­land, Baruni—places sit­ting right on the fringes of the na­tion’s cap­i­tal—de­vel­op­ing as well. I hope for a bet­ter qual­ity of life for ev­ery­body in Port Moresby.

Thank good­ness the name ‘Lae: the Pot­hole City’ hasn’t stuck. But, 10 years ago, it was syn­ony­mous with Lae, as most of the ar­te­rial road com­plex in the city had col­lapsed.

This had a dra­matic ef­fect on how busi­ness was con­ducted in the city. Bad roads added costs to busi­ness: • Ve­hi­cles had to be re­paired or re­placed more of­ten. • Em­ployee punc­tu­al­ity was a prob­lem, as buses ran late or in ex­treme cases just did not op­er­ate. The poor health of work­ers, par­tic­u­larly with res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses, caused down­time. Dust af­fected ma­chin­ery and caused filthy stock. De­liv­er­ies were dif­fi­cult. In 2008, a pro­gram to seal Lae’s roads was com­menced and gained mo­men­tum in 2011, when the con­cret­ing of ma­jor city roads was started.

Now, only a few ma­jor roads are yet to be sealed. Un­for­tu­nately, these are the most im­por­tant roads in the city, es­pe­cially the last kilo­me­tre of Mil­ford­haven Road lead­ing to the Lae Wharf, which is the main artery for nor­mal traf­fic as well as all the trucks and heavy ve­hi­cles to and from the port. We are hope­ful that these roads will be sealed in 2016.

The PNG LNG gas de­vel­op­ment in the High­lands brought an­cil­lary busi­ness to Lae, which saw the city ex­pand quickly. Lit­tle avail­able land in Lae Town­ship it­self meant that much of the de­vel­op­ment was in the di­rec­tion of the Nadzab airstrip.

This de­vel­op­ment was hap­haz­ard but a new Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Plan cur­rently be­ing done by pro­fes­sional town plan­ners pro­vided by JICA (the Ja­panese International Co­op­er­a­tion Agency) will cater for Lae’s con­tin­ued ex­pan­sion as far as the Erap River, just past Nadzab.

In Novem­ber 2015, PNG again signed a deal with JICA for Nadzab Air­port to be ex­tended, with K650m fund­ing, start­ing in 12 months’ time, al­low­ing for a new ter­mi­nal, run­way im­prove­ment and pro­vi­sion for air­port-re­lated busi­nesses.

The com­ple­tion of the ‘su­per high­way’ from Lae to Nadzab will guar­an­tee swift ac­cess to these new fa­cil­i­ties from Lae. Busi­ness houses have com­menced plan­ning for fu­ture international flights from Nazdab and the Lae Cham­ber of Com­merce hopes these will ben­e­fit not only busi­nesses in Lae but those in the High­lands, Madang and Is­lands as well.

PNG is un­der­go­ing a busi­ness slump and Lae is no ex­cep­tion. As the man­u­fac­tur­ing hub of PNG, the short­age of ready cash in the coun­try has re­sulted in a down­turn in busi­ness across the board. How­ever, when the econ­omy re­cov­ers, Lae is well placed to pick up quickly and will be able to op­er­ate more ef­fi­ciently, tak­ing full ad­van­tage of the im­proved in­fras­truc­ture. 

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