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As the Papua New Guinea fisheries industry continues to parade a very lucrative market place and revenue generation in its major earner the tuna industry, the regulator still has funding dilemmas to contend with as it has been challenged to effectively contribute to the public coffers.
While the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) is a non-profit deriving entity, recent years windfalls it managed to obtain during a savings spree spanning from 2015 to 2017 saw the authority accumulate K600 million (US$176 million) in savings that was not supposed to take place.
According to its former managing director Sylvester Pokajam, this however, was countered when the state introduced the Public Money Management Regularisation (PMMR) Act of 2017 which eventually took what was rightfully the State’s funds.
However, this has created yet another issue that is now affecting the effectiveness of collecting revenue and promoting onshore fisheries development as the government now takes revenue well before the budgetary process captures any.
PMMR demands has seen NFA operate on only 45 per cent of its total revenue it generates, which then affects the payments of fishing rebates to onshore processors which currently sits at K4 million(US$1.1 million) per month for one processor, and with 6 processing plants that figure reaches K24 million(US$7 million) a month according to the industry.
NFA executive manager for provincial support and industry development, Justin Ilakini outlined corrective measures by NFA where its board approved a development fund account for certain percentage of the revenue that is collected would be parked in there.
“So that was approved in 2017 and when the PMMR Act came in we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Ilakini said.
“But now the minister has made it very clear that in spite of the cash flow situation, we have to take out certain percentage of total revenue and park it in that account so we can assist the industry in terms of infrastructure and all that.”
With the situation of reflagging of PNG tuna vessels becoming an issue, this poses a concerns for the regulator as around 97 per cent of its revenue comes in from Vessel Day Scheme fees that are then diverted to the rebate system.
Statutory fees such as licencing only comprise 3 per cent of the total revenue made from the industry.
With options echoed by Fisheries Minister Dr Lino Tom recently, that government seriously needs to lower the cost of doing business in fisheries.
“What we are doing is that we are trying to look at all those cost factors and we are trying to find ways where we can actually lower the cost of doing business here.
“We are looking at a lot of local participation. In this country if we cannot attract a lot of fish processors in this country we should encourage our own to take part.
“We are taking some proactive steps doing that,” he said.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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