Situated at the eastern-most point of the New Guinea islands and in a different time zone from the rest of Papua New Guinea, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville is composed of two large islands, Buka and Bougainville, separated by a narrow tidal channel. Together with 168 smaller islands and countless atolls, it forms an archipelago that is geographically, geologically and culturally closer to the neighbouring Solomon Islands than to PNG, and its population of over 300,000 speak a dozen different languages. Bougainville’s development needs closely echo PNG’s own growth priorities, with infrastructure, improved services, health care and employment all featuring high on the list. Investors will watch with interest to see how the politics of the region develop in the run-up to the referendum, against a backdrop of untapped minerals and an agriculture sector that could prove to be highly lucrative drivers of growth.
This chapter contains interviews with Joe Lera, Minister of Bougainville Affairs; and Brenda Tohiana, Acting Secretary for Finance, Autonomous Bougainville Government.