BY GRACE LIMA

A working committee has been set up to collate data on the local economy of the province of East New Britain as part of the Gazelle Agro-Industrial Special Economic Zone (GASEZ).

The committee is made up of 11 members representing different stakeholders in the province and has already prepared the first draft of the feasibility report.

GASEZ Chairman Sam Manikot said after the project was launched last month by Prime Minister James Marape, they established a group to collect and establish data to be used to inform potential investments and formulate policies for SEZ.

At the first board meeting earlier this week, Manikot said he was pleased with what the technical team has put together.

The team compiled detailed data on economic, environmental and risk assessments and provided some options on how the free trade concept will look like for the Gazelle district.

He said the report basically assesses the economic resources available to the province and what the committee has proposed under the special economic zone concept and the way forward.

“The team has been working on the report for over six weeks. We want to let the public know that’s how far we’ve come after launch.

Mr. Manikot said the project does not reinvent the wheel, but complements and concretizes the provincial government’s strategy on developing growth centers and spreading urbanization closer to the people in designated areas.

He said that for Gazelle there are three main growth centers including Lassul, Open Bay and Kerevat.

Mr. Manikot said that one of the items on the meeting’s agenda was the approval of the budget for the first 12 months.

He said the national government has commissioned these two economic zones to be pilot projects to help the government develop relevant policies which are currently absent.

The two economic zones in the province are the Rabaul tuna export zone and the Gazelle agro-industrial special economic zone.

Mr. Manikot said that within the policy framework, the relevant aspects to consider are the one-stop government support needed within its own approved funding requirements to align with other key stakeholders and the demand of the private sector.

“At the same time, the approval process can enable marketing investment opportunities with equal participation for the people of Gazelle and the rest of the province and the most important part is to use the Gazelle district as a study It is also a case for the government to adopt and declare its own laws that govern these SEZs.

This will provide a model for other provinces,” he said.