Papua New Guinea Economy
Papua New Guinea is rich in natural resources, including minerals, oil, gas, timber, and fish, and produces a variety of commercial agricultural products, but exploitation has been disadvantaged by rugged terrain and the high cost of developing infrastructure. The economy generally can be separated into subsistence and market sectors, although the distinction is blurred by smallholder cash cropping of coffee, cocoa, and copra. Approximately 75% of the country's population relies primarily on the subsistence economy. The minerals, timber, and fish sectors are dominated by foreign investors.
Manufacturing continued to be slow in 2007. The service industry was stable, while tourism shows potential and remains largely untapped. Generally, economic activity continued to grow in 2007. The growth was boosted by favourable international commodity prices. Employment grew modestly. The financial sector enjoyed high liquidity, with increased lending due to low interest rates. Inflation remained low.
Papua New Guinea is richly endowed with gold, copper, oil, natural gas, and other minerals. In 2006 minerals and oil export receipts accounted for 82% of GDP. Government revenues and foreign exchange earnings depend heavily on mineral and oil exports. Indigenous landowners in areas affected by minerals projects also receive royalties from those operations. Also a group led by a major American oil company hopes to begin the commercialization of the country's estimated 227 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves through the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facility by 2010. The project has the potential to double the GDP of Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea also produces and exports valuable agricultural, timber, and marine products. Agriculture currently accounts for 13% of GDP and supports more than 75% of the population. Cash crops ranked by value are coffee, oil, cocoa, copra, tea, rubber, and sugar. About 40% of the country is covered with exploitable trees, but a domestic woodworking industry has been slow to develop. A number of Southeast Asian companies are active in the timber industry, but World Bank and other donors have withdrawn support from the sector over concern for unregulated deforestation and environmental damage. Recently enacted forestry legislation has exacerbated those concerns. Papua New Guinea has an active tuna industry, but much of the catch is made by boats of other nations fishing in Papua New Guinea waters under license. Papua New Guinea is a signatory to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty (SPTT), under which U.S. purse seiners fish for tuna in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Pacific Island parties. Locally produced fish exports are confined primarily to shrimp.
In general, the Papua New Guinea economy is highly dependent on imports for manufactured goods. Its industrial sector--exclusive of mining--accounts for only 9% of GDP and contributes little to exports. Small-scale industries produce beer, soap, concrete products, clothing, paper products, matches, ice cream, canned meat, fruit juices, furniture, plywood, and paint. The small domestic market, relatively high wages, and high transport costs are constraints to industrial development.
Australia, Singapore, and Japan are the principal exporters to Papua New Guinea. Petroleum and mining machinery and aircraft have been the strongest U.S. exports to Papua New Guinea.
Australia is Papua New Guinea's most important export market, followed by Japan and the European Union. The U.S. imports modest amounts of gold, copper ore, cocoa, coffee, and other agricultural products from Papua New Guinea. Most of those exports take place through third countries.
Other socio-cultural challenges could upend the economy including a worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic, currently the highest rate in all of East Asia and the Pacific, and chronic law and order and land tenure issues.