Papua New Guinea prime minister ridicules report on EFIC gas project

(Australian Associated Press, Sydney, 1 May 2018) Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has dismissed as “fake news” a report that claims a partially Australian-funded liquefied natural gas project is failing to deliver a promised economic boom to his people. Peter O’Neill was in Brisbane for the Australian-PNG business forum and used a keynote speech to attack a damning report by Jubilee Australia, which questioned whether projected economic benefits were flowing from the ExxonMobil-led project. Australia’s export credit agency, Efic, made its largest ever loan of $500m to ExxonMobil, OilSearch, Santos and the PNG government in 2009. “The people of PNG would have been better off had the project not happened at all,” said report co-author Paul Flanagan, a former Australian Treasury official. OilSearch chief executive Peter Botten said the report would be subject to "rigorous analysis" to find out where Jubilee was right and where it could be challenged. The Guardian Australia reported that despite company celebrations of gas flowing since 2014 and  the 300th shipment of LNG from the project’s export terminal, the landowners in Hela hadn’t been paid any royalties. Santos chairman Keith Spence has stated that "We have met every obligation... the moneys that were promised to the landholders have been paid to the government" Predictably, this was raising tensions in the area and there were – and are – very real fears that the project could end up triggering an armed insurgency. One news agency noted that undelivered infrastructure projects which resource companies promised landowners, including roads, airports, hospitals, housing and sewerage projects, could even lead to civil war. Between 1987-1997, 20,000 people died in a civil war between PNG and its Bougainville province. Panguna, one of the world's largest copper and gold mines, sparked that conflict.