Friday, August 26, 2011

Resource transfer not government policy, says PM

TRANSFERING ownership of mineral and hydrocarbon wealth from the government to landowners is not a government policy yet, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said on Wednesday, The National reports.
O'Neill made the comment to allay fears among industry parti­cipants following statements from two ministers that the new administration would change the fiscal regime governing the mining and petroleum sector.
The statements by Mining Mi­nister Byron Chan and Planning Minister Sam Basil had jittered stocks of PNG mining companies and elicited strong protests from the industry.
O'Neill said yesterday: "This is not yet government policy. Cabinet and parliament are yet to discuss the matter."
The prime minister assured stakeholders that they would be consulted fully before any policy or law was considered.
This was the second time in as many days the prime minister has had to correct the impetuous words and actions of his new ministers.
On Tuesday, he said cabinet had not made any decision to withdraw or suspend the powers of any provincial governments inclu­ding East Sepik and Morobe.
The two second-tier governments had gone to court on the basis of "speculations" based on an internal memo from Minister for Finance and Treasury Don Polye.
The mineral and hydrocarbon ownership issue was sensitive and one industry watcher said any change by the current regime "will be the single biggest mistake" and would cripple the economy.
The Chamber of Mines and Petroleum was understood to have written to O'Neill ex­pressing the concerns of its members.
The current push was to change section 5 of the Mining Act and section 6 of the Oil and Gas Act to transfer ownership of mineral and hydrocarbon wealth from the state to landowning groups

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