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China's shoddy construction record in PNG just cannot be ignored

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 8 April 2022

Last year I wrote exposing what was and remains a huge embarassment for China, and its flagship construction company in Papua New Guinea, China Railway Construction Company.

The ABC has revisited the status of the project under a huge cloud - the Noble Center - and has not pulled any punches in doing so.

Despite the best efforts of  China Railway Construction Engineering Group (CRCEG), which has an extensive footprint in PNG, it is to their credit that the PNG regulators in the construction and safety sectors have steadfastly refused to give the project the safety and other approvals it needs to be occupied.


The 22 floor office complex on the Port Mortesby waterfront remains unoccupied. The lights are on at night - but no one is home.

The ABC has reported the building regulators have identified over 50, yes 50, major defects - including fire safety measures, lifts, the quality of materials used in the construction, and other significant defects that make the building simply unsafe to be occupied.

It is apparent that CRCEG is not gong to carry out work on the defects in the building including defects that put at real risk public and worker safety. The cost of doing so would reportedly run into the tens of millions.

The other entity which deserves credit is PNG Ports Corporation which is a business partner with CRCEG on the project, having provided the land and agreed to occuipy two floors. It moved in foR a few weeks, but moved out many months ago!

I will keep an eye on developments with regard to the Noble Center approvals - especially during the elction campaign now officially less than one months away.

But the Noble Center case surely must alarm the PNG National Government, given that CRCEG carrys out the lion's share of construction work in PNG - including work funded by the Asian Development Bank, as well as massive infrastructure projects undertaken under the PRC's Belt and Road program.


If the construction of one high rise complex has 50 plus major defects, one has to question the extensive road construction, airport upgrades and other infrastructure work CRCEG dominates?

The Australian Government will say that decisions relating to work undertaken by CRCEG are beyond its influence. True, but there are other avenues Australia can pursue to shine a light where China would prefer darkness remains.

The first step Australia should undertake is to pressure the Asian Development Bank.(of which Australia is a Vice President) to independently review all CRCEG projects it has funded in Papua New Guinea.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu – Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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