PM O’Neill reveals plan for new Air Niugini chief executive, outstanding K60 million debt paid

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says a new chief executive of Air Niugini will be announced soon.

O’Neill was responding to questions by Sinasina-Yongomugl MP Kerenga Kua on the political influence of the management of Air Niugini resulting in operational issues affecting the airline.

“We have concluded the due process for recruiting a new chief executive officer for Air Niugini. A well experienced industry expert has been identified with a lot of years of experience,”O’Neill said.

“That person will be appointed over the course of this week, as soon as the minister brings the submission to Cabinet. We want to put Air Niugini bank on track and that’s our aim.”

O’Neill said the minister responsible had got carriage over the responsibility of many of the State-owned enterprises and his briefs came from Kumul Consolidated Holdings where organisations such as Air Niugini provided annual operational plans.

“For Air Niugini, the last thing we want to do is compromise safety. Air Niugini has got a very proud record of a very high standard of safety for any airline in the world. It’s second only to Qantas globally,” he said.

“I believe very much that this tradition is still the case in the management of Air Niugini and its operations.”

O‘Neill said Air Niugini had suffered some losses in recent times and there had been a change to bring in more business sense at the board level.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister O’Neill says the Government paid its outstanding debt of K60 million (US$18.3 million) to Air Niugini a few weeks ago.

O’Neill was responding to East Sepik Governor Allan Bird’s question on the outstanding debts.

“The government’s obligation to Air Niugini is met on a timely basis so that the cash flow position over the airline is improved,” O’Neill said.

He said some tough decisions had to be made to save the airline.

“That is why we need to take these hard decisions that we are doing today.” He said costs of fuel costs, spare parts, servicing and engineering were being paid in US dollars.

“We are now bringing all those services back into the country.”

O’Neill said the board was given specific direction to cut the foreign destinations “we are making losses in” to save money.

He said Bank of South Pacific was one of the financiers of Air Niugini.

“Without BSP’s support for Air Niugini, there would not be airline,” O’Neill said.

“Let’s continue to work with the institutions in our country so we keep our money and expertise in the country and do the capacity building like engineering so we can improve the services for our people,” he said.

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