In parliament recently, the President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Ishmael Toroama, stressed the importance of hastening the region’s internal economic development plans.

“As Bougainville continues to make great headway in its political development, we must also ensure that our socio-economic development is on par with our independence ready mission,” Toroama said.

“We already have several high impact projects that this government is initiating, but we are yet to capture the low hanging fruits through the industries that Bougainvilleans are already involved in. We need a strong Bougainville Economic Development Strategy that will allow us to harness revenue from economic projects.

“It is time we stopped procrastinating with plans that do not go beyond the paper they are written on. We must practicalise economic development and start earning revenue for Bougainville.”

Toroama urged landowners in the region to start trusting the government. He also encouraged them to support projects that will assist the government in raising money.

He said, “To enable tangible development and social progress, they (landowners) must work with the government by releasing their lands for development and respecting the progress of the economic projects initiated on their lands.

“My government has always adopted rights before resources approach to development where we place the rights of the people above monetary and financial value. By respecting landowner rights, we expect the landowners themselves and the investor to comply with our economic laws and regulations to avoid problems.”

The President added several international enterprises had previously attempted to establish themselves in Bougainville but had pulled out, abandoning their assets and investments due to criminal activity and landowner disputes.

“We may complain about the government not doing enough to support economic development, but our greatest impediment is ourselves when we refuse to support the government’s economic initiatives. If we continue along this path, there will be no real economic benefits to support our Independence agenda,” Toroama said.

The President said that Panguna is a strong economic driver for the region, but it will not be the sole source of money for the country. Toroama stressed that Panguna, and the Pnaguna Mine, in particular, should be viewed as adding to the overall prosperity of the nation.

“It (Panguna Mine) must not impede our desire to grow other investment opportunities for Bougainville that will provide revenue, it must be seen as complementary to our economic growth.”

Toroama also reassured local stakeholders that his administration had no plans to undermine Panguna Landowners.

He said, “I want to make it clear to the Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville that my government has not made any commitment to any mining company. We are only dealing with Bougainville Copper Limited because the government is required to do so when it concerns the Panguna Mine. This government has no secret plot to undermine the landowners and give concessions to mining companies without the people’s consent.”

Caption: President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Honorable Ishmael Toroama officially launched the civic awareness and consultation program of the Constitutional Planning Commission (CPC) for Central Bougainville in Arawa. Credit Autonomous Bougainville Government