President Momis, Lady Momis and the People of The Autonomous Region of Bougainville are to be congratulated on achieving 98% positive votes for the referendum to become the world's newest independent country!
Seagate Global is proud to have been a small part of this historic event as economic advisor to President Momis, since 2012. It was our honor to have drafted the economic development plan leading up to the vote. If desired, we look forward to assisting the new country of Bougainville in the development of its financial system and economy, as well as to assist in attracting international investment.
For those unfamiliar with Bougainville, it is a breakaway island from Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific. The island is around 9,000 square kilometers with 300,000 inhabitants. JFK’s PT-109 collided with a Japanese destroyer just off the coast of Bougainville during WWII to help locate the island. Bougainville is rich in a variety of resources and was once home to one of the largest copper and gold mines in the world, the Panguna Mine.
The modern history of Bougainville is like a bad movie. In fact, the film Avatar was based on the story of Bougainville. It includes an evil mining company. A greedy government conspiring against its own people. And a mining operation to extract as much gold and copper from the pristine tropical island with limited compensation to the unsuspecting indigenous population. Worse, the rivers were polluted to the point that the population was getting sick due to the use of toxic mining chemicals.
Bougainvilleans asked politely to renegotiate their contract and were denied. So, they fought a civil war and won over PNG and Rio Tinto surrogates. 10% of people on the island died. $3 billion of mining equipment was destroyed. Panguna Mine was closed. The UN brokered a peace agreement that gave Bougainville autonomy from PNG in 2001. Complete independence would come after a plebiscite on whether to become completely independent from PNG or rejoin PNG. This is the plebiscite that just passed with 98% approval. Now, Bougainville and PNG must negotiate the final exit deal, after which time Bougainville will become a completely independent country.
The period since the 2001 peace agreement has been difficult for Bougainville due to its uncertain status as an “autonomous region” making it hard for international investors to come in. Also, PNG did not make the payments required under the peace agreement to Bougainville which were to be the only source of funding for the new government. So, despite the abundant natural resources, the post-peace agreement period has been difficult for Bougainville.
Complete independence from PNG is the beginning of a happy ending where Bougainvilleans finally can take control of their island, country and future. All legal, financial, and regulatory issues can be codified and enforced for international investors which will encourage development dollars to flow to the island.
To get to this point has taken a tremendous amount of work on the part of President Momis, Lady Momis, and the People of Bougainville.
President and Lady Momis implemented the Program of Momis Excellence (POME) with the assistance of Seagate Global’s Program of Global Excellence (POGE) under the supervision of Professor Tupaz. POME organized villages in Bougainville as groundwork for independence. POME has put in place the beginnings of a more efficient goods and medicine distribution system to help lower the cost of basic goods to Bougainvilleans. They have set up warehouse facilities and facilitated direct importation of basis commodities like rice to lower the cost. POME set up a training center in The Philippines for key citizens of Bougainville to go and learn about good governance, entrepreneurship in agriculture and small business development and how to make people bankable. POME has also laid the groundwork for construction of government offices, a hospital, and eco-friendly homes similar to what Seagate is building in Malaysia.
Seagate Global has provided a draft for the design and implementation of Bougainville’s central bank, sovereign wealth fund and financial system, taking ideas on what we learned from assisting China set up their central bank and financial system. We have recommended Bougainville move to the front of the pack of technology leaders in finance. Since Bougainville has no legacy issues to deal with, it can implement cutting edge ideas and technologies based on the internet, cell phones, crypto currencies and other ideas. Seagate has brought on an expert in crypto-currencies and fintech innovation from CalPers, Joel Jacobson, to help implement cutting edge technologies that can be applied to Bougainville should the People want to move in that direction.
The beauty of the current situation for the People of Bougainville is that they now have the opportunity to turn their island into the country they have always imagined for themselves and future generations. For investors, country building 101 means there are many attractive opportunities for investment that will help the People of Bougainville.
Talking with the good People of Bougainville we have found a general consensus that the development of Bougainville should be based on sustainable, environmentally friendly gender equal principals, something Seagate Global supports.
Seagate's Bougainville Development Plan identifies a number of areas for potential development and investment. These include:
· Meat processing;
· Castor oil;
· Organized buying (wholesale);
· Tuna fishery;
· Infrastructure, including power;
· Road development;
· Financial services.
(Just for the record, Seagate makes no recommendation or assumption about opening of the Panguna Mine, a politically sensitive issue. Once Bougainville makes an internal decision on this issue, Seagate will adjust the development plan accordingly to meet the desires of the People of Bougainville.)
International investors interested in learning more about Bougainville should contact me. Good potential for ESG investors.
President Momis, Lady Momis, and the good People of Bougainville, congratulations! Your hard work is paying off. You have taken a bold step in voting for independence. Your future will soon finally be yours. Be confident that you have many friends and supporters in the international community waiting to assist you in the development of your island paradise to improve the lives of people in a sustainable way.