Prime Minister Hon. James Marape has lauded the Government’s ground-breaking ‘Connect PNG’ programme, stating that it is transforming Papua New Guinea like never before. His remarks came after Works and Highways Minister Hon. Solan Mirisim presented a comprehensive report on the initiative in Parliament on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

The ambitious ‘Connect PNG’ programme, spanning a 20-year period from 2020 to 2040, aims to construct and maintain 16,000km of roads, including national highways, ‘Missing Link’ roads, bridges, provincial roads, and district roads. The Government’s Medium-Term Plan sets the goal of completing 16 priority national highways, totalling over 4,200km, and 1,800km of ‘Missing Link’ roads by 2027. Notably, this includes the highly anticipated Trans-Island Highway connecting Lae to Port Moresby and the New Britain Highway linking Kimbe to Kokopo.

PM Marape expressed his happiness in the transformative impact of the ‘Connect PNG’ programme, stating, “I invite those self-proclaimed ‘Think Tanks’ who dedicate their time to social media criticism of me and my Government to witness the tangible progress of ‘Connect PNG’ in the rural areas of our nation.”

He further commended Minister Mirisim, former Minister Michael Nali, Works and Highways Secretary David Wereh, and the department’s staff for the successful implementation of the programme thus far.

Highlights from the ‘Connect PNG’ report presented by Minister Mirisim include:

• The commencement of work on upgrading and enhancing 4,200km of strategically important economic highways, with a projected investment of K3.5 billion by 2027. These highways, such as Hiritano, Magi, New Britain, Boluminski, Manus, Highlands, and Sepik Coastal, account for 85 percent of freight and passenger movements in their respective regions. Already, more than 50 percent (2,500km) has been completed between 2019 and 2022, amounting to a cost of K1.35 billion. Presently, there are ongoing contracts valued at over K3 billion for multi-year maintenance and capital works, with an additional K2 billion worth of projects in the design and tendering stages.

• Improvement of ‘Missing Link’ roads, encompassing 1,900km, with an annual investment of K200 million from 2023 onwards, and a target of K1 billion by 2027. These road enhancements will benefit areas such as Finschhafen, Karamui, Telefomin, and Menyamya, collectively supporting a population of over one million.

• The completion of the Trans-Island Highway, connecting Lae and Port Moresby, is expected by 2025 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of independence. This crucial route will also link Goroka, Madang, Mt Hagen, Wewak, Mendi, and Tari.

• Other ‘Missing Link’ roads to be upgraded include Southern Highlands-Gulf, Central-Milne Bay, New Britain, Madang-Baiyer, Gulf, Fisika, Madang-Gulf, Trans-Fly Border (Kiunga-Aiambak), Tabubil-Telefomin, and Trans-Fly Border (Oriomo-Wipim).

• Recognising the importance of provincial and district roads, which serve 85 per cent of the rural population, the Government has allocated K300 million annually between 2023 and 2027 to deliver 9,000km of such roads in partnership with sub-national authorities. This initiative includes the enhancement and improvement of major arterial roads in urban centres such as Mt Hagen, Port Moresby, Kokopo, and Lae. From 2019 to 2022, the Government has invested K1.29 billion to complete 1,066km of provincial and district roads out of a target of 3,000km.

• Under the ‘Connect PNG’ programme, the Government is committed to upgrading and replacing 3,000m of overdue bridge structures to meet design standards. This component also encompasses the development of 2,000m of rural standard bridges. The total cost for this endeavor will amount to K1 billion, with an annual budget of K200 million allocated from 2023 to 2027. Over the past four years, the Government has spent K195.57 million on 165 bridges, covering 3,000m of rural roads and 591.44m on national highways. Additionally, major bridge replacement and upgrading of 71 bridges on the Highlands Highway to a two-lane standard are underway, with an additional 2,000m of rural bridge development currently in progress.