Thursday, March 31, 2011

‘Dutch Disease’ a real threat to Papua New Guinea with gas project

Bank of Papua New Guinea governor Loi Bakani today warned of the effects of the dreaded ‘Dutch Disease’ on the PNG economy, particularly agriculture, in light of the liquefied natural gas project.
Bakani made the warning at a workshop focusing on the impact of LNG on the PNG economy, with particular reference to agriculture.
World Bank country manager, Laura Bailey, also warned of the dangers of ‘Dutch Disease’ as she gave an international perspective on this.
‘Dutch Disease’, or the ‘resource curse’, refers to an economic condition where a mineral boom leads to an appreciation of the real exchange rate, which in turn depresses output in the tradeable sector, in this case, agriculture.
“The export agriculture sector – such as coffee, cocoa, palm oil, copra and forestry – will be harmed by the real appreciation or ‘Dutch Disease’,” Bakani warned.
“Our exports will be less competitive and so there will be a decline in the export of these commodities.
“This adverse effect can be more pronounced under the aggressive government spending scenario, because excessive government spending will add to the real exchange rate appreciation through increased liquidity and high inflation.”
Bakani said this adverse effect could be mitigated or minimised through the conservative government expenditure approach.
“Apart from strategic careful and prioritised spending, the government can also mitigate the ‘Dutch Disease’ effect on the tradeable agriculture sector by maintaining and reconstructing the existing road network of feeder roads, as well as all the social sector infrastructure of health, education and law and order,’ he said.
“This will aid the producers get their produce to buying points and sustain production and export.
“In other words, the resource sector scenario can be addressed through better and improved infrastructure network.”
Bakani said BPNG, on its part, could mitigate or minimise the ‘Dutch Disease’ effect through its management of the kina exchange rate, as well as encouraging macroeconomic stability as an important foundation for microeconomic development and improvement.
World Bank’s Bailey said the ‘Dutch Disease’ threat was for real.
“The risk of so-called ‘Dutch Disease’, inflation, shifting of all resources into the mineral sector and disadvantaging other sectors including agriculture, are real risks,” she saidafter her presentation.
“But there are three things we can do.
“We can make sensible choices about managing mineral resources.
“The next thing we can do is when we spend the money, we can make strategic expenditure policies, for example, infrastructure that supports agriculture.
 “Thirdly, we need to be very transparent.”

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