THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) and the Papua New Guinea Government have signed two loans to fund improvements to the country’s Highlands region road network and air services.

The loan signing ceremony in February was attended by Treasury Minister Don Polye and Country Director of ADB’s PNG Resident Mission Marcelo Minc.

“Both of these land transport and aviation initiatives will help reduce the cost of isolation and underpin future economic and social development in PNG,” Mr Minc said at the ceremony.

“Our investments aim to improve connectivity, and in doing so drive growth in businesses and jobs and support access to basic social services.”

A US$109 million loan will fund the second tranche of the Highlands Region Road Improvement and Investment Program (HRRIIP), which is rehabilitating and maintaining the road network in the Highlands region, known for its agricultural exports including coffee, tea, and vegetables.

About 40 per cent of PNG’s population lives in the Highlands. The road program, approved in 2008, aims to make transport more safe and accessible by connecting rural roads to main roads and making provision for public transport.

Under the first tranche of the HRRIIP, 115 kilometres of roads are being rehabilitated between Laiagam-Pogera and Mendi-Kandep, using four locally-owned construction firms employing more than 500 PNG nationals, and providing improved market access and income earning opportunities for the people of Enga and Southern Highlands provinces.

A US$130 million loan was also signed at the ceremony to fund the second tranche of the US$640 million Civil Aviation Development Investment Program, first approved in 2009. The program is targeting sweeping improvements to 21 national airports that serve more than three million people per year.

It is also strengthening the safety, accessibility, and reliability of air services, and is expected to open up new economic opportunities in regional centres.

To date, the Civil Aviation Development Investment Program has upgraded airport facilities in three national airports. At Port Moresby’s Jackson airport, this includes expanding the domestic parking apron, installing an updated instrument landing system, and procuring three new fire safety trucks. The pavement at Hoskins airport will be upgraded and terminal facilities at Mount Hagen airport improved.

The program has also improved safety and security in five regional airports by installing fences, which were identified as requiring emergency works in Hoskins, Wewak, Kavieng, Gurney, and Goroka to comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation safety and security standards. To complete this work, one international and five local sub-contractors have been engaged, employing more than 150 PNG nationals.