Aid in focus as Clinton heads to Papua New Guinea
U.S. Secretary of State Clinton headed for Papua New Guinea.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed for Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, bearing prepared to warn the poor Pacific island nation not to mismanage an energy bonanza many expect is about to break.
With the world transfixed by news of the earthquake disaster in Haiti, Clinton also hoped to highlight a renewed U.S. commitment to aid and development assistance in the world's least developed countries.
Clinton has promised U.S. offers of both civilian and military humanitarian help for Haiti after a large earthquake struck the poor Caribbean nation on Tuesday.
Papua New Guinea, an island north of Australia with six million people grappling with poverty, crime and the region's highest HIV/AIDS rate, was until recently also among the countries deemed most in need of international help.
But that is changing as U.S. oil firm ExxonMobil Corp leads a consortium building a $15 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project which will produce an estimated 227 billion cubic meters of natural gas by 2010. Gas shipments are expected to start in 2014 to China, Japan and Taiwan.
The project has the potential to double the island's gross domestic product. The recent 2010 budget forecast 8.5 percent growth, compared with 6.2 percent in 2009.
U.S. officials said that Clinton, who is expected to arrive in Papua New Guinea on Thursday, would urge the country's leaders to be cautious in managing the riches that could soon be flowing their way.
"We're also going to talk about some ideas about how to preserve this enormous wealth that's about to come into Papua New Guinea," a senior U.S. official traveling with Clinton said.
"What the secretary's primary concern is that this not be one of those situations that oil wealth is just lost, that there is a trust that's put in place that will take care of not this just generation but future generations."
The official said Clinton hoped to help Papua New Guinea's leaders develop a framework to harness both oil and gas proceeds to help a population still mostly made of up subsistence farmers, many in isolated communities.
Clinton's nine-day trip to the western Pacific will also include stops in New Zealand and Australia later in the week for talks expected to include China, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and the deadlock over Iran's nuclear program.
During her brief stop in Papua New Guinea, one of the planet's richest ecological treasure houses, Clinton will also highlight the Obama administration's commitment to environmental issues including climate change.
Reuters Last Mod: 13 Ocak 2010, 20:08