The PNG government has approved K10 million (USD 2.8 million) to fund what appears to be a Biotech startup company. From the report published by the Post Courier the approval was given in September 2020. And attempts by the Post Courier to obtain comments from PNG’s Health Secretary was not successful. Furthermore, senior PNG doctors who are involved with this startup have refused to give public comments.
These developments are very concerning given the current COVID-19 pandemic and the need for the government to finance and support existing health infrastructure to adequately respond to the pandemic. Why invest in a biotech startup when the country has pressing new and existing health needs? Starting a biotech company in PNG is the last thing that should be on the mind of the Prime Minister.
The snake antivenom project which has been going in PNG and at the University of PNG has been requesting financial support from the PNG government to produce antivenom locally but there has been no support in the last 5 years or so. This project has proof of concept and has successfully completed clinical trials. Why not support this project? Rather than invest millions of kina in a biotech that has no track record or traction. From my opinion, this money should be invested in the snake antivenom project to produce antivenom in PNG so that it is cheaper. Also there are young PNG scientists already working on the project with international collaboration so the new startup will provide a career development parthway.
PNG is known for systemic and systemically facilitating corrupt practices in the public service and I am concerned that this “investment” is another carefully crafted scheme to siphon public money into corrupt government officials’ bank accounts (and maybe doctors). Or is it another corrupt scheme to fund members of parliament given the looming vote of no confidence for the Prime Minister?