‘A $100m investment in Papua New Guineans’: Three Major New Projects to Build PNG’s Human Capital

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved three new projects totaling over US$100 million for Papua New Guinea aimed at addressing some of the country’s most pressing human capital needs.

On the back of the World Bank’s recently-announced US$20 million COVID-19 emergency response package for PNG, the three new projects will deliver critical improvements in some of PNG’s most urgent priorities: health services – particularly in rural areas – as well as agriculture, nutrition and youth employment.

“This is a milestone day for our partnership with the World Bank in Papua New Guinea,” said the Hon. James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. “Each of these three projects aim to address some of the country’s most critical development challenges: improving health services in rural areas, addressing youth unemployment, and ensuring our agricultural sector can achieve its immense potential. Each of these projects approved today are significant commitments from the World Bank to the future of Papua New Guineans.”

“At the heart of these three new projects is our commitment to support PNG to build a healthier and more prosperous population,” said Stefano Mocci, Country Manager for the World Bank in Papua New Guinea. “We look forward to continuing to ensure more Papua New Guineans, no matter their current circumstances, can achieve their full potential.”

The first project approved today, the US$30 million IMPACT Health project, will strengthen the quality of health services, particularly in rural areas. With PNG continuing to slip further behind in many critical Human Development measurements, including maternal health, infant and child mortality, among others, a child born today in PNG will be only 38 percent as healthy and productive when they grow up as they could be if they enjoyed full health services and complete education. This new project aims to address critical bottlenecks in the PNG health sector to improve the delivery of services on the ground, ensuring medicine, equipment and expertise are reaching the ‘frontlines’ of health in rural areas.

With this in mind, the new project aims to address the quality and efficiency of health services being delivered in clinics and hospitals across the country. The project will initially be piloted in two PNG provinces – Enga and East New Britain – with the plan to expand to further provinces by the project’s third year. The project also includes additional funding (US$2 million) to support trial of innovations for community-level health service delivery in partnership with non-governmental organizations.

The second project approved by the World Bank’s Board, the five-year, US$40 million PNG Agriculture Commercialization and Diversification Project aims to support the growth and diversification of PNG’s agricultural sector, particularly in rural areas where more than 80 percent of the country’s population live. The project has been designed to build on the success of the World Bank-funded Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP), which has seen more than 68,000 coffee and cocoa growers across PNG improve their yields and incomes from two of PNG’s most important crops.

The new agriculture project will help consolidate the work of PPAP and address critical roadblocks to the growth of PNG’s under-performing agricultural sector, which is constrained by high transaction costs, lack of access to markets and poor rural infrastructure. The project will support micro, small and medium enterprises to commercialize and expand further into emerging agricultural opportunities, including coconut products, small livestock and spices in addition to coffee and cocoa.

The third project is the US$35 million second phase of the Urban Youth Employment Project, PNG’s national youth workforce scheme in the country’s two largest urban centres: Port Moresby (National Capital District) and Lae, the capital of Morobe Province. The project’s first phase has provided 18,500 young Papua New Guineans – 40% of whom are women – with income, training and employment opportunities. Nearly half of young people who completed the On-the-Job Training reported that they had secured full- or part-time work in the six months following their participation in the project.

The second phase aims to support 6,700 young people in Port Moresby and Lae with employment opportunities and on-the-job training, with the potential to include additional locations. Young people will be involved in urban renewal and improvement projects, including upgrades to footpaths and drainage, concreting and landscaping, paving, painting and fencing.

IMPACT Health, the PNG Agriculture Commercialization and Diversification Project and the Urban Youth Employment Project II are all funded through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s most in-need countries, and are part of the World Bank’s Human Capital Project; an effort to drive greater investment in health and education.

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 84 projects totaling US$1.79 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.