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.
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.