Papua New Guinean PM James Marape calls for focus on economic development, not only security


   Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, James Marape, has emphasized the critical role of economic investment, not just security agreements, in shaping the country's future development. This statement comes shortly after the signing of a new defense agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Addressing the foreign policy think tank, the Lowy Institute, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Marape focused extensively on his country's economy. He highlighted poverty as the most pressing issue, stressing the need for increased foreign investment.

"The gap in poverty must be filled – the West cannot be ignorant to this; economies need to survive," stated Mr. Marape, underscoring that investment holds more power than just addressing security concerns.

Despite Papua New Guinea's abundant natural resources, the country remains largely undeveloped, with nearly 40 percent of its population currently living in poverty. The Prime Minister's remarks underscore the urgency of addressing economic disparities through increased foreign investment.

Discussing security matters, Prime Minister James Marape highlighted Papua New Guinea's unique position in the Pacific, emphasizing differences in interests compared to other Pacific Island nations. He expressed the country's commitment to sharing responsibility with Australia to ensure the safety of the Pacific region.

"Papua New Guinea stands as a buffer to greater Asia and links to the Pacific," Mr. Marape stated, underlining the strategic role his country plays in the broader geopolitical landscape.

While addressing a resources conference in Sydney earlier in the week, Marape clarified that there have been no discussions with China regarding a bilateral security agreement. He asserted that Papua New Guinea keeps its engagement with China focused on economic aspects, opting for traditional security partners for security matters.

Notably, Papua New Guinea recently signed a new $200 million security agreement with Australia. The deal aims to enhance the Pacific nation's internal security by providing increased support in defense, policing, and the judiciary.

The geopolitical landscape in the Indo-Pacific has witnessed growing tensions in recent years, prompting the United States and its allies, including Australia, to strengthen their influence in the region. Papua New Guinea has become a focal point in diplomatic efforts amid these evolving regional dynamics.

Despite its security agreements with traditional partners, Papua New Guinea is actively strengthening its trade relationship with China. Currently, a feasibility study is underway to assess the potential for a free-trade agreement between Papua New Guinea and China.

Prime Minister James Marape emphasized that his government has been transparent about its dealings with foreign governments. He noted that during his visit to Beijing this year, there were no discussions about security matters.

Speaking at a press conference in Canberra alongside Mr. Albanese last week, Mr. Marape conveyed that the agreement with Australia signifies a strong bond, describing the two countries as "brother and sisters." He emphasized that Papua New Guinea remains neutral, refusing to take sides, and aims to be "friends to all" in the international arena.