In a recent press release, Mr Lelang called for a recall of Parliament to address the issue urgently.
Lelang said, “The fuel shortage is only symptom of another problem. Soon it will be shortages of imported food and other essential inputs for the smooth operation of business and commerce in the country.”
“The Central Bank needs to come out of its concrete building and tell us what the real situation is with the foreign exchange shortages. They need to tell us why Puma cannot access foreign exchange to conduct its business now leading to a critical problem and crises proportions. They need to tell us how they are protecting the convertibility of the kina. This is a foreign exchange issue, a government and parliament issue.”
In Monday’s press conference, Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso said the fuel crisis has nothing to do with the availability of foreign exchange.
Rosso said there is more than 13-billion-kina worth of forex available in the country.
“The shortage of fuel to service stations was a regulatory matter, to which Puma has agreed to meet the demands put to by the Bank of PNG,” the DPM explained.
However, Lelang remains skeptical.
“While the Government boasted that it had (K14 billion) in foreign reserves, in US$ terms that is only about US3.4 billion. It is inadequate to meet the current daily demands on foreign exchange by importers. Unless this is managed and dished out fairly to keep essential services like Air Niugini and other airlines in operation, we can expect another period of serious disruptions to flights and other businesses in the country. This time it might be prolonged,” stated the Leader of Opposition.
“This issue with Puma’s inability to secure foreign exchange to import fuel underscores a much bigger problem. It is not a fuel crisis; it is foreign exchange shortage. If there is rationing of fuel by Puma in the country, this is induced by shortages in the country’s foreign reserves.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister James Marape said the government is in serious discussions with major petroleum companies and Kumul Petroleum Limited to find long-term solutions, including the construction of a locally-based refinery for downstream processing to secure the domestic market.
PM Marape stated, "What has happened under Puma must not be repeated. Papua New Guinea continues to export petroleum and gas to the world year after year. The irony is staggering.”