PNG Coffee Menu
Mid February came the TV1 news item – “'It's been agonising' – Government puts PNG on notice over millions owed to Kiwi businesses”. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully was interviewed about the news that New Zealand companies are owed millions of dollars by the Papua New Guinea Government. Next week an item on the Australian news reported that PNG had lost its voting rights at the United Nations over unpaid annual contributions. That article went on to tell how the state owned electricity supplier, PNG Power, had cut supply to several government agencies, including the national Parliament, because of unpaid bills totalling over $11 million. Then in early March came news of the PNG Government asking the Australian Government to use their aid money to directly support health and education because they are struggling to support these services themselves.
The dire state of PNG Government finances was not news to BU Kofi, the Banzaid supported coffee project in the Baiyer Valley. They have only received half of the promised support from the government, even though they are now coming to the end of four years of operation. Repeated requests for further instalments get “Yes, Yes” answers, but no action. The problem is not only the failure of promised funding grants, but also failure of other government services. Set up as a trading company, BU Kofi should be eligible for GST refunds from the tax department, but these have never come through.
By the end of 2016 BU Kofi finances reached a point where key staff members became discouraged and left. The company was in hibernation and we had to consider whether it was time to close. At the end of February Paul Thompson visited Mount Hagen to meet with the Baptist Union Executive Leadership Team and decide – was it time to close BU Kofi, or was there a way forward?
The decision of the Baptist Union leadership is that BU Kofi is a priority for the sustainability of their communities and should not be allowed to close. BUPNG will take direct responsibility for management, and will put together what financial support they can. They will continue to follow up with government departments, particularly to try and get the release of the $40,000 worth of GST refunds. NZBMS will contribute $20,000. For the time being the farm activity will be suspended, and they will focus on the trading activity, with the goal of seeing this make a profit through the current coffee season. The trading staff will be told they have to use what they have to make a profit each week!
Please pray for the BU Kofi staff as they face this challenge.