Papua New Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world. However, Wu Fu-tsai, who has been cultivating the market for four decades, says the country is like “A beggar sitting upon a mountain of gold.” Although Papua New Guinea is sitting on an abundance of resources, it lacks the required processing technology, and so is reliant on imports, Wu says.
Wu, 72, is the president of the Papua New Guinea Taiwan Fellowship Association. After leaving the army in Taiwan, Wu initially went to Indonesia to work in the lumber industry. However, after the Indonesian and Malaysian governments banned the export of timber from their countries in 1976, Wu, assisted by a friend, came to Papua New Guinea to work in the fishing industry and became the first Taiwanese business to set up shop in the country, exporting fish primarily to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. At the time, the company would export approximately two 40-foot containers worth of product every month.
Wu recollects the people and culture were completely unfamiliar to him when he pitched up in Papua New Guinea. The government of the day was extremely inefficient, Wu says: it took him all of two years to obtain his company’s first licence. The concept of land ownership rights also differs drastically from other countries, Wu says. In Papua New Guinea, land is commonly owned by local residents. If someone wants to lease or purchase land, they must first obtain agreement from all the locals before they can make an application to the relevant national government body. This meant Wu had to spend a great deal of time flying around the country’s mountainous areas in helicopters.
Today, there are approximately 100 Taiwanese business people trading with Papua New Guinea, Wu says, and adds that if Taiwanese businesses want to do business here, there are opportunities in agriculture, fishing and industry since, locally, there is “almost no technology.” Wu cites coffee as an example: Papua New Guinea is an abundant producer of coffee beans, but it has no processing factories, so it exports raw beans and imports instant coffee.
Wu says the reason for the small amount of trade between Papua New Guinea and Taiwan is because Taiwanese, unfamiliar with the country and having concerns about public order, tend to stay away. However, Wu says: “In fact, public security here is not as bad as people imagine,” and if there are Taiwanese businesses interested in setting up here, Wu says he would gladly lend a helping hand. Four generations of Wu’s family have emigrated to Papua New Guinea. His son, Wu Hung-po, works as a foreign trade ambassador at the Papua New Guinea Department of Trade, Commerce and Industry, responsible for investment promotion from the Asian region. Wu’s daughter, Wu Hung-yu, has opened a Vietnamese restaurant that is popular with the local Caucasian population.
China has in recent years provided a constant stream of aid to Papua New Guinea for the construction of basic infrastructure. As a result, wave after wave of Chinese engineers have arrived in the country and, discovering there are profits to be made, have returned to do business once their projects are completed. However, Wu says that most have focused on running supermarkets, grocery stores and other retail businesses. Wu believes there is a good opportunity for Taiwanese businesses to penetrate into technology-related industries.
(CNA, Translated by Edward Jones)
Papua New Guinea hosts APEC summit
Last weekend, world leaders descended on the impoverished Asia-Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea for the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. This year’s meeting was the first in the summit’s history to end without a formal leaders’ statement.
Hosting the economic and political powwow was a big risk for Papua New Guinea’s government and came with a hefty price tag. Due to security concerns, world leaders were housed in a chartered cruise ship moored alongside the nation’s capital, Port Moresby, while the government raised eyebrows by purchasing 40 Maserati luxury sports cars to ferry delegates to and from conference venues.
In recent years, China has lavished cash on the nation as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. However, some of the infrastructure projects, such as a six-lane highway in the nation’s capital — dubbed “the road to nowhere” — have drawn criticism for being improperly planned and of questionable utility. The US has repeatedly criticized China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a form of “debt-trap diplomacy” that forces staggering levels of debt on poor countries.
Earlier this month, Australia announced a 2 billion Australian dollar South Pacific infrastructure fund, widely seen as a move to counter Beijing’s growing influence in a region which Australia traditionally views as its own “backyard.”
(Edward Jones, Taipei Times)
1. processing technology phr.
加工技術 (jai1 gong1 ji4 shu4)
2. land ownership rights phr.
地權 (di4 quan2)
3. public order phr.
治安 (zhi4 an1)
4. emigrate v.
移居 (yi2 ju1)
5. basic infrastructure phr.
基礎建設 (ji1 chu3 jian4 she4)
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