Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen

Taxation key for good governance says visiting expert

Professor Mick Moore presented Rwanda as a success story of the equitable levying of tax.

The old saying goes ‘nothing is certain except death and taxes’ but visiting political economist Professor Mick Moore believes that tax gets a bad rap and has an important role to play in a country’s development.

Professor Moore, Chief Executive Officer of the International Centre for Tax and Development in the UK, is currently in Port Moresby for a series of government meetings and public events to discuss the obstacles and opportunities for public revenue generation in PNG.

He said that while people might not necessarily like tax its effective collection is often linked to good governance, and better public services and infrastructure.

“There is actually quite a strong connection, globally, between the ways in which countries raise tax revenue and the ways in which they are governed,” Professor Moore said.

“When countries are well governed –  when disputes are resolved peacefully, elections are held regularly, the rule of law prevails, roads are in reasonable repair, citizens can rely on government for at least basic health, education and welfare services, and government is broadly trusted – then we generally find that government revenue systems are healthy.”

Professor Moore was the keynote speaker at the final Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen discussion series event for 2019, which was themed ‘Billions from Betel Nut?  Taxation, Growth and Governance.’

He was joined for the discussion by East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, Acting Internal Revenue Commissioner for Taxation Pauline Bre, KPMG Managing Partner Zanie Theron and Tanorama Executive Director (moderator) Martin Brash.

Panelists and audience members brought a diversity of views to the discussion.

Professor Moore’s visit and the discussion series are supported through the PNG-Australia Partnership.

The event covered a range of topics, ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises through to PNG’s extractive sector, which represented 86 per cent of total export value in 2017.

Professor Moore acknowledged it is often difficult for governments to collect income from small-scale businesses and cautioned on attempts to tax rural people.

“It’s a very expensive business,” he said, “it is easy to spend most of the money connected on the salaries of the people doing the tax collection.”

“If low income farmers are going to pay any kind of direct tax, then they should be paying small amounts to their local councils.”

Taxing the big end of town brings its own set of challenges and Professor Moore said effectively taxing the mining sector is the biggest single challenge for low-income countries globally.

“Very few have got it right,” he said, “overall, mining is significantly under-taxed – even more than oil and gas extraction.”

“We could make a good start by introducing much more transparency.”

While collecting tax is never easy, Professor Moore said there are important lessons from the rest of the world that could help PNG.

This includes innovation and technology, which he sees as a “game changer for tax collection” that has the potential to save time and money for governments and ordinary people.

“Digitisation makes it easier for taxpayers to file their returns and make payments,” Professor Moore said.

“These technologies are available to even low income countries. They may even be particularly useful for countries like PNG with scattered rural populations.”

Another critical factor is for governments to pay close attention to tax system fairness – applying the rules to everyone equally and demonstrating that tax is being spent well, rather than being wasted.

“No system of revenue raising is going to be very effective if it does not consider the views and opinions of the people we are trying to tax,” Professor Moore said.

“[Governments] need to show that they are making a good effort to make the taxpaying process as easy as possible for the taxpayers.

“Equally, they need to demonstrate that they are enforcing the rules on everyone. I’m going to be very unhappy about paying my taxes if I perceive that my neighbours are managing to avoid them.”

The event was part of the Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen discussion series that is supported by the Papua New Guinea – Australia Partnership.

Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen provides a platform for open public engagement with local and international experts and explores themes and policy issues pertinent to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen

Discussion event: Billions from Betel Nut? Taxation, Growth and Governance

Join the final Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen discussion series event for 2019 in a fascinating public discussion themed ‘Billions from Betel Nut? Taxation, Growth and Governance’.

It will be held at the University of Papua New Guinea on Thursday 21 November, commencing at 2.00pm, with opening remarks by the Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Bruce Davis.

Taxes help to build free and independent nations – they are an important form of government revenue that can be redistributed towards health, education, roads and other vital public services and infrastructure.

Beyond government income, what are the broader implications of effective taxation on governance, citizens and the state? This discussion will look at obstacles to tax collection in Papua New Guinea and the relevance of different sources of revenue to PNG’s national spending goals.

It will also explore the division of responsibility between business and individuals, and national, provincial, district and local-levels of government.

The keynote speaker will be Professor Mick Moore, Chief Executive Officer of the International Centre for Tax and Development in the UK, and followed by a panel discussion with:

  • Hon Allan Bird MP, Governor, East Sepik Province
  • Pauline Bre, Acting Commissioner – Taxation, Internal Revenue Commission
  • Zanie Theron, Managing Partner, KPMG PNG
  • Martin Brash (moderator), Executive Director, Tanorama Limited

Light refreshments will be served after the event, feel free to register your interest by replying to

The Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen series are inclusive events. This discussion will be translated by a sign language interpreter for accessibility to people with hearing impairment. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen

Diverse panel says heritage has an important role to play in modern PNG

The role of tradition and heritage in contemporary Papua New Guinea is a complex topic, and one that is commonly debated in communities and households throughout the country.

An expert panel and an engaged audience voiced a variety of perspectives at a public event themed ‘Cultural Heritage in Modern PNG: Protecting Our Values’, which was held on Monday (eds. 23 September) at the University of Papua New Guinea.

The discussion was part of the Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen series and among the areas covered were the relevance of custom to commerce, agriculture, society and the environment.

Speakers included Dr Andrew Moutu, National Museum and Art Gallery Director; Marie Mondu, Catholic Bishops Conference Development Secretary; Sharlene Gawi, Bilum Culture owner; and Martin Brash, Tanorama Limited Executive Director.

Dr Moutu said cultural heritage connects to communities in a way that expands beyond possession, inheritance and succession.

“It relates to material structures, institutional complexes and social practices,” Dr Moutu said, “and carries a powerful emotional charge and value structure emanating from the idea of belonging, association or identity bound up with a certain form of cultural heritage.”

“What is consistent in the story of its origin is the view that cultural heritage is set on a mission to civilise the nations of the world anew.

“This is based on understanding a country’s historic past and present and a commitment to enact certain program actions to enable individual countries to progress towards a better future.”

Marie Mondu said maintaining traditional relationships with the natural environment will be vital in building climate change resilient communities.

“If you take the environment away from a Papua New Guinean you extinguish part of that person and their identity,” she said.

“Our environment is our lifeline – we get our food, our oxygen, our identity from the forest, land and ocean.

“We take from them, but respectfully. There are limits and the elders will tell you when you start doing harm to the environment,” Ms Mondu continued.

“Go to our indigenous knowledge about food preservation and drought resistant crops – in a way you are bringing that cultural knowledge back.”

Sharlene Gawi explored the commoditisation of cultural artefacts and said that understanding their meaning is key to continued relevance.

“We have to respect the traditional knowledge that’s passed down,” she said, “we need to be respectful in how we commercialise our culture.”

“It’s not a bad thing – it provides economic empowerment – but you have to go about it respectfully so the beneficiaries are the people.

“Our stories, the meaning of our names, the significance of bilum making and ways of building houses – it really does shape our values, attitudes and decision-making going forward.”

Ms Gawi said Papua New Guineans need to take responsibility when it comes to learning the cultural significance of bilums, the symbolism of their patterns and the respecting the labour the goes in to production.

“There are stories about the bilum and the value they hold in society that we haven’t really brought through – they are so important and so unique,” Ms Gawi said.

“Some are made with three different plants – three different natural fibres – which vary in strength and colour, but each playing an equal role.

“That’s like us – every one of us is like a link in that bilum,” she continued, “once one loop unravels, it all unravels.

“Each year we celebrate Independence and we should also celebrate our dependence on each other as Papua New Guineas.” The Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen public discussion series is supported by the PNG-Australia Partnership to give Papua New Guineans a say on important national issues. The events are recorded for television and radio and will be broadcast later this year.

Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen

The Future of Universities: Knowledge Leaders in Policy Development and Industry Innovation

Australian High Commission Minister Counsellor Andrew Egan with panellists Jane Ravusiro, Professor Peter Høj and Professor Frank Griffin.

The event explored the important role that universities play preparing the workforce of the future and in building a nation. Hosted by The University of PNG (UPNG), the audience enjoyed a robust discussion on the topic ‘Innovators and Educators: Opportunities and Challenges for Modern Universities’. Guest speaker Professor Peter Høj, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Queensland (UQ) was joined by Professor Frank Griffin, Vice-Chancellor of UPNG.

Professor Høj said that through robust, rigorous and timely research and sustained policy engagement, universities can be a key source of ideas and insights on the policy priorities that impact on PNG and neighbouring nations in the Pacific region.

“Universities should provide knowledge leadership. In fact, the vision for the University of Queensland (UQ) is ‘Knowledge Leadership for a Better World,” he said.

Professor Peter Høj answers a question from the audience.

At UQ, we have a Centre for Policy Futures, which works closely with governments, international organisations, and key stakeholders to pursue a vibrant research program focused on independent and peer-reviewed research, as well as commissioned reports, discussion papers, and policy briefs,” said Professor Høj.

“There are opportunities for PNG universities to serve a similar role, to engage in public policy debate, and to challenge and influence the development of public policy in health and education.

Professor Frank Griffin, agreed with this vision, stating “Our university should be a hub of knowledge – a think tank utilised for drafting and designing policies with academics who are leading their respective fields.

These experts have a unique insight in how certain policies should be designed, and in that regard UPNG can be a useful member of society in terms of assisting the government with policy development.”

Professor Høj emphasised the need for innovators to partner with industry, government and the community to “ensure we meet societal needs and their most pressing challenges.”

Professor Griffin reiterated the value of partnerships and outlined the exciting work that UPNG is undertaking with the resources sector and other private industry partners to ensure that UPNG is meeting the skill demands of industry now and in the future.

A UPNG student asks a question on disability access at universities.

Professor Høj discussed the potential of universities to embrace opportunities to partner with government agencies directly to improve leadership capacity and policy development.

“Consideration of current capacity gaps, succession planning and the implications of an ageing workforce – are areas where a program can have the most impact – delivering skills-based training and peer-to-peer learning, academic coursework and other methods to increase the cadre of ethical and skilled professionals in leadership roles in the PNG public sector,” he said.

The Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen series of public discussions explore themes and policy issues relevant to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

Supported by the PNG-Australia Partnership, the series follows on from last year’s popular APEC Discussion Series at the Precinct, which was attended by more than 3,500 people and broadcast on television and radio to a potential audience of four million people.

Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen

New discussion series encourages PNG’s free-thinkers

UPNG Vice-Chancellor Professor Frank Griffin and Chancellor Robert Igara.

The University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) will continue its historic role as a centre of debates on topics of national importance with a new series of public discussions.

The Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen discussion series will commence on Tuesday 2 July at UPNG’s new lecture theatre and give Papua New Guineans their say on important national issues.

UPNG Vice-Chancellor Professor Frank Griffin said he is excited about hosting Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen and believes giving people a chance to be heard is beneficial for society.

“UPNG is a space that encourages free-thinkers and discussion on the issues and topics that society faces now,” he said.

“Everybody has the right to be heard and if we are able to convey that approach of communication then we are serving the purpose for which the University was built.”

Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen picks up from last year’s popular APEC Discussion Series at the Precinct.

The series builds on the success of last year’s APEC Discussion Series at the Precinct, which was attended by more than 3,500 people and broadcast on television and radio to a potential audience of four million people.

The topic for the first discussion is ‘Male Champions of Change: Partners in the push for gender equality’.

The keynote speaker is Elizabeth Broderick, UN Special Rapporteur and Independent Expert on discrimination against women and Founder of Male Champions of Change

She will be joined for a panel discussion by Serena Sasingian, CEO, Digicel Foundation; Dr Eric Kwa, Secretary, Department of Justice and Attorney General; and Chris Moraitis, Secretary, Australian Attorney-General’s Department.

Professor Griffin said that women and men need to work side-by-side and acknowledge the qualities of individuals.

“Working together allows the country to move in a direction where gender equity and gender equality will become more prominent in the years to come,” he said.

“To be a free thinker, at the university level, it doesn’t matter if you are male or female.

“It’s not about right and wrong – it’s that things can be talked about and common ground is found as a result of those open discussions.”

The University of Papua New Guinea’s new lecture theatre is an ideal venue for discussions of national importance.

Professor Griffin said the discussion series also presents an opportunity for students to expand their perspectives.

“I’m looking forward to hearing what people have to say and sensitise the students to thinking outside the box,” he continued.

“Many of these kids have come through systems that are very structured, but when you come to a university it allows you to open up your mind and think about issues in a different way.

“That ability to be free-thinkers and appreciate other ways of doing things becomes very important if the students want to be able to work and communicate well in the outside world.”

Toktok Bilong Strongim Nesen is supported by the PNG–Australia Partnership and will continue through 2019 to explore themes and policy issues pertinent to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.