His visit to Madang Province was part of the Marape Government’s review of the Medium Term Revenue Strategy (MTRS) for 2023-2027.
The study is to identify potential new sources of finance for the project, discover the whereabouts of more than K300 million previously committed to it, and investigate dubious land dealings.
“Recent work by government agencies has cleared up some technical and financial concerns about the project, and reaffirmed its fundamental attraction,” Ling-Stuckey said.
“The economic and industrial underpinnings of the project are well-known, and well-founded, and the Marape Government is enthusiastic about its prospects. But more work is required to bring it to fruition, hence this study.”
The project, which has been under the control of various departments and agencies since it was first promoted about 20 years ago, was transferred back to the National Fisheries Authority by NEC decision this month.
Ling-Stuckey said: “The project envisages up to 10 tuna factories, advanced port and wharf facilities including a container terminal, a tuna auction centre, new roads and new drainage and wastewater systems, a communications hub and a new office complex.
“It is expected that up to 30,000 jobs and hundreds of spin-off opportunities could be created.”
A 2016 study conducted by State-owned Kumul Consolidated Holdings estimated that an expanded project would cost about $US156 million.
Dr Tom has raised the possible resumption of the project with the Ministerial Economic Committee, and conducted a site visit and briefing for the Treasurer and Minister Kramer.
The project was originally funded by a $US95 million loan from China Exim Bank and counterpart PNG funding. The loan is still being paid off, and there is an outstanding debt to the bank of K42.6 million.
Kramer raised concerns that despite the loan being drawn down, and substantial PNG counterpart funding of more than K50 million being spent, all that exists is a half-built entrance, dilapidated staff housing and rusty fencing. He asked where the K300-plus million has gone.
Ling-Stuckey was shocked at what he saw, and committed to uncover the truth about the missing money and the dubious land dealings.
“The loan was approved in 2013,” he said. “Part of my new study will focus on what happened to that enormous sum of money, and various suspicious real estate dealings to make sure that there is secure title to the project land.
“If we can find the money and retrieve it, that would be of great benefit to the future of the PMIZ, which the Marape Government wants to incorporate into its PNG Connect plan for home-grown economic development.
“The scope of the project is of significance not only to Madang and the Momase region, but to the nation. The Marape Government wants to see it proceed in a responsible, transparent and accountable way.”
(Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey conducting a site visit of the PMIZ project in Madang, accompanied by fisheries and justice ministers, Dr Lino Tom and Bryan Kramer respectively, together with NFA officials and Sumgilbar LLG president, Brendan Kennedy)