By PATRICK PANUA
SEVERAL logging companies have failed to pay 90% tax on the shipments of logs leaving the country.
This has been happening for more than 35 years and the loss to government revenue amounted to millions of kina.
Minister for Forestry, Douglas Tomuriesa, revealed in Parliament on Thursday that the forest industry exports earned foreign currency through log exports at $US350 million (K1.2 billion) per annum and it further contributes about 5% to PNG’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He told Parliament that its contribution to the GDP is very low because the State through the PNG Forest Authority failed to account for the accurate figure of logs leaving PNG.
According the to the GPS reports, there are more than 60 companies involved in the harvesting of timbers and exports of logs in the country and the records show only 34 companies are exporting the logs ,” he said.
He said these companies only report 10% tax from their shipments of raw logs and they do not declare 90% of the shipments in order to avoid paying tax to the government.
He said significant number of these companies are not genuine logging companies who do not pay tax and do not even provide proper long-term benefits to the forest resource owners over the last 35 years of commercial logging in the country.
“Our political leaders and public servants like forest officers have allowed illegal logging companies to evade taxes and stole forest resources revenues of the country,” he said.
Oro Governor, Gary Juffa said: “There are large number of companies which are not genuine operators because I was investigating many companies and some of them ceased operations while others have re-emerged in another form to avoid paying taxes to the government.
“We have a vast forest resource and we must manage it in a prudent manner so that we can maximize the benefits even to the resource owners.
“The illegal logging companies manipulate our politicians and public servants that they can be so successful in such a way that you do not realise.
“We are sovereign nation and we cannot be manipulated by the criminal enterprises.”