Saturday, November 19, 2011

Empowering Ordinary Papua New Guineans To Create Wealth Through Business And Financial Management Training
I was privileged to be invited to participate in the joint Certified Practising Accountants PNG and Australia Conference this week. The theme of the conference was “Wealth Creation, Management and Sustainability – The Accountant’s Role." What follows is an abbreviated version of my speech.

The topic I have chosen to speak on – Empowering Ordinary Papua New Guineans To Create Wealth Through Business And Financial Management Training - is very important because I am convinced that Papua New Guinea is at the social cross-road! The development journey we took as an independent country 36 years ago has not led anywhere for the majority of our people. Most of the ideals our founding fathers aspired to and wrote into the preamble of our Constitution have yet to become a reality. We basically started off well but lost track along the way.

Our development experience thus far can be summarized as follows: The country has been advancing economically, but the lives of the majority of the people have not improved. By majority, I am referring to 85% of the 7 million people that are not educated like all of us in this room are. We are indeed a privileged lot, and I have come here to remind us to spare a thought for our fellow Papua New Guineans who are struggling to make a living on a daily basis.

I will be making reference to various social indicators to lend support to my assertion that the lives of the majority of our people have stagnated in the face of economic growth. Let me refer you firstly to the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI), which is usually used to determine the level of progress made by the people in different countries of the world.

The UN uses four indicators to determine the level of human development in its HDI. They are:

1) Life expectancy at birth;
2) Mean years of schooling;
3) Expected years of schooling; and
4) Gross national income per capita.

These indicators are further divided into three dimensions of human development:

1. Health;
2. Education; and
3. Living standards.

This year PNG has been ranked as a country where human development is low on the UN HDI. The UN gives scores between 0 to 1 to determine where countries rank on its HDI. For 2011, this is what the UN has stated about PNG: “Papua New Guinea's HDI is 0.466, which gives the country a rank of 153 out of 187 countries with comparable data. The HDI of East Asia and the Pacific as a region increased from 0.428 in 1980 to 0.671 today, placing Papua New Guinea below the regional average.”

If we consider this ranking from the least developed to the most developed country, Papua New Guinea comes out number 35, which is near the bottom of the pile.

The Vision 2050 document states that Papua New Guinea aspires to be among the top 50 countries on the UN HDI in 2050. If we are currently ranked as 35th least developed after 36 years of nationhood, can we be counted among first 50 countries in 2050? We shall know in 40 years’ time.

In comparison, Samoa and Fiji, which are much smaller and less endowed countries, are categorized as medium development countries on the HDI. These countries are ranked 99 and 100 respectively.

Referring to Fiji, the UN report states as follows: “Fiji's HDI is 0.688, which gives the country a rank of 100 out of 187 countries with comparable data. The HDI of East Asia and the Pacific as a region increased from 0.428 in 1980 to 0.671 today, placing Fiji above the regional average.”

The Fijian people have done better than Papua New Guineans over the past 21 years, despite the political problems they have been through, and despite not being endowed like we are.

Let me present to you some more social indicators. All of us are no doubt familiar with them, but I would like to remind us in order to build up my case for the topic I have chosen to speak on at this conference.

• The proportion of people living under the international poverty line of US$1/day (US$365 = K870/year) has increased from 25% in 1996 to 40% today. This means that around 2.8 million people in PNG don’t see K900 in a year. PNG is a resource-rich country filled with cash-poor people.

• The number of school drop-outs is very high – over 80%.

• 90% of school-leavers cannot find jobs upon graduation.

• The army of educated but unemployed young people is filling the streets at a rate of approximately 40,000 per year.

• Only 500,000 people out of a workforce of 4.8 million in the country hold paid jobs. The unemployment / under-employment rate is 87%.

• Frustration and disillusionment among the youth is mounting…the “time-bomb” is ticking!

• While the elites find security behind barbed-wire fences (prisons), the under-privileged are taking control of the streets and the highways.

• After 36 years of independence, only 10% of businesses are nationally-owned while 90% is foreign-owned. The wealth of the nation is in the hands of foreign entities! The majority of Papua New Guineans are passive spectators on the “economic playing field”.

• Prostitution is on the rise. An increasing number of women are selling their bodies for a living.

• Prostitution and promiscuity stand as major impediments to the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

• The rise in the number of so-called “single mothers” indicates that the family – the basic unit of society – is falling apart.

• The rise in the number of “street kids” shows that many parents are not able to look after their children. They are either poor or negligent.

• The increasing rate of drunkenness and drug addiction indicates peoples’ desire to escape the realities of life in 21st century Papua New Guinea.

I am involved with a growing number of former marijuana smokers in the Western Highlands Province. When I ask them why they decided to take the drug, the common reply I get is, “Laif em hard.” In other words, taking drugs helps them to forget their hardships. They find comfort in living in an imaginary world because the real world has nothing good to offer them. I guess the same goes for young people (both males and females) who are drinking ‘steam’ and other alcoholic beverages on a habitual basis.

Ladies and gentlemen, the acid test of development is peoples’ living standards. Development is not about constructing nice buildings like hotels, office complexes, cities, roads, etc. These are only means to an end. Development is really about raising peoples’ living standards. That is the bottom line. Sadly, the majority of Papua New Guineans are getting left behind.

Economic growth hasn’t trickled down to the micro or people level. The past 9 years of consistent growth have not been translated to raising the peoples’ quality of life. Growth has actually improved the lot of a very small minority while the vast majority has heard about it but not seen it impact their lives.

The picture on the human front is depressing.

Is all hope lost? Can something be done? Whose responsibility is it? Can I do something?

These are probably the kinds of questions going through your minds right now as concerned Papua New Guineans or friends of the people of Papua New Guinea as the case may be.

Let me suggest to you what you as an accountant can do to address some of the social problems the Papua New Guinean people are facing right now. This, I guess, is the gist of my message at this conference.

Let me start by making this statement: Financial problems lie at the root of social problems and law & order problems in PNG. I have been either directly involved in or interacted with several NGOs, churches and charity organizations who work with disadvantaged and under-privileged people in different parts of the country. What they have told me invariably is that most of the social problems they have encountered in their work are related to people’s need for money. People steal, kill, rape, hold up others, get involved in prostitution, etc because of lack of economic opportunities.

But I have established that what our people really need is not money (handouts), but empowerment through information and ideas with which they can sustain their lives. Yesterday somebody raised the issue of information-sharing in the workplace. I am saying that we also need to share our knowledge and ideas with the common people as well.

We all know the Chinese saying which goes: “Give a man fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to catch fish and you feed him for life.”

My version of that philosophy for the purpose of this conference is this: If we the educated elites give ordinary people money, we feed them for a while; but if we give them information and ideas, we will empower them to feed themselves for life.

This includes both other people and our ‘wantoks’ – yes especially our ‘wantoks’! A lot of our people have land, their physical strength, skills, time etc with which they can make money. When we give money to them, we help them become lazy and dependent. They go away for a while but return again when they have financial problems. So we don’t really help them; we actually destroy them.

Coming back to the topic of empowering ordinary Papua New Guineans to create wealth, my proposal to all of us that are gathered here is this: The accounting fraternity needs to design and deliver simple training programs aimed at enabling ordinary people to make money as well as to manage and multiply it.

School drop-outs and other under-privileged people (youths) need training to start their own small businesses. And they need training to manage as well as grow their businesses.

As some of you may know, I have been publishing articles in the news papers. In the Sunday Chronicle I encourage readers to start their own businesses, while in the Post-Courier I discuss financial management and investing. I also go around conducting motivational seminars with students, unemployed youth, working class people etc. A lot of the work I have been doing has been free of charge too. Why have I been doing this when I could be busy minding my own family’s interests as most of you in this room have been doing?

Here is what I believe: As long as people don’t have enough money to look after themselves, they will cause problems for everyone else. They will stop scratching for a living, and start scratching and pinching us! I trust you know what I mean.

I would actually go as far as making this statement, which I hope you take home with you for this conference: As long as there is a wide gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in PNG, the “have-nots” will ensure that the “haves” do not enjoy what they have.

We may have our businesses, money, nice houses and cars, jobs etc, but we will not enjoy what we possess as long as the majority of the people are mere spectators. We will always live under a sense of fear and insecurity.

You only have to look at what has been happening in Lae recently to appreciate what I am saying. The situation there started with Morobeans aiming at driving off unemployed youth from the Highlands who were harassing other people on the bus stops and streets of Lae City, but ended up with business people from that region becoming the target of peoples’ anger and frustration.

My prediction is that it is not going to be long before riots and civil disturbances go from ethnic clashes to clashes based on social status, basically the “have-nots” fighting the “haves”. In other words, it is going to be the “have-nots” fighting the “haves” to have what the “haves” have.

The greater the gap between elites and ordinary people, life will become risky for the elites, such that many will migrate out in search of peace and prosperity.

It is in therefore in the personal interest of educated elites to empower the ordinary people to live sustainable lives. Empowering people is not just a role for the Government, NGOs, donor agencies etc. We the educated people need to do our part. In fact we are better-placed to teach, train and motivate our people to improve their own lives.

Ordinary Papua New Guineans must be transformed from being passive spectators and beneficiaries of handouts to becoming active players on the economic playing field. The people in this room have a very important role in this regard.

The Prime Minister stated in his address that accountants used to be number crunchers but are more becoming strategic business advisors. I am saying that accountants need to take their skills and knowledge to the ordinary people of this country, not just limit their activities to the walls of their corporate organizations.

Papua New Guineans need to shift from a poverty-alleviation (scarcity) mindset to a wealth-creation (abundance) mindset. Once again, the accounting fraternity can facilitate this transition.

Ladies and gentlemen! When I was asked by the organizers to participate in this conference as one of the speakers, I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish. Instead of just providing some information to add to what you already know, I wanted action from members of CPA to rise up and contribute to addressing the social problems we face in our country.

I came to an assignment to this conference. My assignment was this: To motivate elites to leave your high offices and go down to the level of ordinary people and empower them to rise up from poverty, create wealth, and live sustainable lives.

I hope I have succeeded in getting some of you to think about and see things that are happening in the lives of our ordinary people a little differently. Instead of just blaming them or the Government for the problems, I have brought part of the responsibility for solving those problems straight to your door step. I hope that you will rise to the challenge.

I trust that some of you will start talking to your relatives and sharing ideas with them this coming holiday period instead of just handing them money.

I hope some of you will gather a group of unemployed people and talk to them about starting their own businesses.

I hope that some of you will use your holidays and free time to offer free financial advice to struggling local business people.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for your attention!

I really hope that the accountants took something back from my presentation. I also hope that elites in other professions take this message to heart. Send your comments to or text me on 7688 0033 or 7280 4588.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

“How Do Sell My Shares?”

Last week’s article was on to buying shares on the Port Moresby Stock Exchange (PomSox). This article sets out the basic steps people who hold shares and want to offload or sell their shares have to go through. The steps are basically the opposite to those of buying shares.

Here the basic steps to selling shares:

Step # 1: Contact your broker by phone or email and advise them that you want to sell shares. Confirm with them the number of shares you currently hold in the particular company whose shares you want to sell.

Step # 2: Place a “sell” order with stock broker. The order is either “at market” or “at limit”. Once again, a “at market” order tells the broker that the transaction is to be completed at or near the prevailing market price. For example, if the closing price on the last trading day was K1.20, that is the price the broker will attempt to sell at. Failing that, a “at market” sell order gives him the freedom to sell at K1.15 toea if he cannot attract any buyers at K1.20/share. If you say that your sell order is “at limit”, you will also need to state the exact price or price the range within which the broker will sell your shares.

Once again, your instructions to the broker must be very clear, and verbal orders must also be confirmed in writing (fax or email). Good brokers should repeat the order back to you to verify what you have asked them to do.

Step # 4: The sell order is then placed on the market through the electronic trading system. The matches your “sell” order with “buy” orders. A trade occurs when “sell” and “buy” orders are matched by the electronic system. Please note that the matching process takes place immediately as information is entered into the system, but that does not necessarily mean that a transaction takes place. Sometimes (and this is especially so in an illiquid market such as PomSox) orders will takes days, weeks and months to be completed, simply because there aren’t any “buy” orders in the system that match your “sell” order.

Step # 5: Once a transaction is successfully executed, the broker should send you a note specifying relevant particulars of the transaction, especially the number of shares he has sold on your behalf. The note should also show the broker’s charges associated with the transaction.

Payment of the shares sold and the brokerage charges are required to be settled within 3 days of transaction being completed. The broker should credit your account with the proceeds of the sale, minus his charges. He will then send you a cheque or deposit the money into your bank account and advise you accordingly.

Step # 6: Once settlement is made, the broker arranges with the company’s share registry for the shares to be registered in the buyer’s name and your name to be struck off the list of shareholders.

The steps to buying and selling shares are straight forward, but the secret to making money on the share market is timing. In other words, when to buy or sell is very important. Your reason or motive for wanting to buy or sell shares is also important. If you just want to feel the pride of owing shares, I guess timing isn’t important. You can buy shares in any company at any time and at any price. But if your objective is to make money, your entry and exit times are vital.

I have referred to the PomSox as being an illiquid share market. This means that the number or participants is very small, such that you cannot buy or sell shares as easily as when there are many buyers and sellers. If you look at the list of shareholders of the companies that are listed on PomSox (you can obtain the information from individual companies’ annual reports which are published on the PomSox website), you will realize that the bulk of shares are owned by corporate entities such as the super funds rather than individuals.

There may be many reasons for this, but I suspect that one reason is lack of information and understanding on the part of Papua New Guineans of how the share market works. Because people don’t understand, they don’t participate. I hope that this column will shed some light.

Send your comments to or text me on 7688 0033 or 7280 4588.

Should I Invest In The Share Market?

Many readers have been asking the question, “Should I invest in shares as a way of making money work for me?” My answer has been both “Yes” and “No”. Yes, it is a way of making money work for you; no, because most readers are probably not ready yet.

Before I explain why I think most readers of this column may not be ready to invest in shares, let me briefly explain what the share or stock market is. Shares are basically parts of a company which the owners of the company make available to members of the public as a way of raising funds to either start or expand the operations of the company. When you buy shares, you become a shareholder, or part-owner of the company. A stock market is where such shares are bought and sold.

You can buy shares when a company first sells them. This is called an Initial Public Offer (IPO). can also buy shares when those who bought during the IPO decide to sell their shares for whatever reason.

Another point that needs to be made is that you can buy and sell only through stock brokers. There are two such companies in PNG. They are BSP Capital Ltd and Kina Securities Ltd.

You can make money in two ways. Firstly, by buying and holding shares. When the company makes money (a profit) and the directors decide to pay the shareholders, you get your portion depending on the declared dividend rate and number of shares you hold in the company. Dividends are paid periodically (quarterly, half-yearly or yearly). When you buy and hold for dividends, you are an investor.

The second way is by buying and selling. You buy shares when prices are low, and sell when they are high. For instance, you may decide to buy a certain number of shares of a particular company when the price is K1.00 per share, and sell when the price rises to K2.00 per share. Your profit (also called a capital gain) is K1.00 per share minus transaction costs. When you buy and sell, you are a share trader. You may also be regarded as a speculator if you buy shares with the expectation and intention of selling them when prices will rise.

So, yes, you can make money by buying and holding shares or by buying and selling.

Now, why do I think most readers of this column are not ready? Two reasons are as follows:

1. The share market is risky. You can make money, but you can also lose money if the company does not make money or the share price falls. You don’t have any control over what happens to your shares, because share prices are driven by the market forces of supply and demand. A large portion of the risk is also associated with ignorance of the market and how it works. My assessment is that most people in PNG have little if any knowledge of the stock market.

2. To really make money, you must hold a significant number of shares. You can make small amounts by investing small amounts, but we are talking about making money work. The majority of readers of this column would not have the kind of money that is required to make real money.

My advice to readers is usually that they need to learn about the share market first. In other words, people need to invest in themselves first before they consider investing their money in the share market. They can get educated by reading books, attending seminars, and even asking people who know about the subject.

Secondly, I advice is to start a business first. A business presents you the opportunity to make the most money. A business is essentially a money printing system. The business may fail, but it can also succeed. When it fails, you lose their investment. This is always possible. But it is also possible that the business really takes off and makes a lot of money for you.

When the business makes money, my advice is for you to invest in rental properties. When you have a firm asset base of several properties which are generating income, you can start investing in the share market. Hopefully by now you would have educated yourself as well, so you can make real money investing or trading shares.

Send your comments to or text me on 7688 0033 or 7280 4588.

“How Do Buy Shares?”

In last week’s article I discussed whether you can invest in the share market now. My advice was basically that in order to really make money in the share market, you need to educate yourself first; and secondly, that you should start a business and invest in real estate as necessary steps towards investing in shares.

However, from the feedback I have received from readers, it seems like share market investing holds a lot of fascination for Papua New Guineans. As this column is about empowering readers with information to help them become financially literate and thereby make wise financial decisions, I have decided to provide the basic steps people go through in buying shares. This is for those who really want to buy shares. My advice on starting a business and buying rental property still stands.

Here they are the basic steps you will have to go through to buy shares in the Port Moresby Stock Exchange (PomSox):

Step # 1: Make contact with one of the stock brokers. Establish what type of services they provide, and the fees they charge per transaction.

Step # 2: Sign a client agreement and establish an account with the broker. The agreement states basically that you have authorized the broker to act on your behalf. The account opens the way for you to deposit funds which the broker will hold in trust for you and pay for the shares.

Step # 3: You place a “buy” order with stock broker. The order is either “at market” or “at limit”. A “at market” order tells the broker that the transaction is to be completed at or near the prevailing price of the particular share you are interested. A “at limit” order tells the broker that the transaction is to be completed at or within a specific price limit. Brokers usually charge different commissions for “at market” and “at limit” orders. Usually “market” orders are easier and cheaper to execute than “limit” orders.

There are also other (more exotic) types of orders. Examples include “stop orders” (which remain dormant until a certain price level is reached, when it becomes a market order.); “all or none” (the broker has to buy/sell the entire quantity of stock, or none at all; and “good till cancelled” (the order remains active until you decide to cancel it).

It is usually a requirement that the order is repeated so that there is no ambiguity as to what the broker is expected to do. Verbal orders must also be confirmed in writing (fax or email).

Step # 4: The order is placed on the market through a computerized (electronic) trading system. All participants in the market are connected to the exchange, so every time an order is placed; it appears on their computer screens. This makes the market transparent, and enables all the participants to see what is happening in the market. The system operates to match “buy” orders with “sell” orders. A trade occurs when “buy” and “sell” orders are matched by the electronic system.

Step # 5: Once a transaction is successfully executed, the broker sends the buyer a contract note specifying relevant particulars of the transaction, especially the number of shares bought and the price. The note also shows the broker’s charges.

Payment of the shares purchased and the brokerage charges are required to be settled within 3 days of transaction being completed. The broker draws on the buyer’s account to pay for the shares as well as receive his charges.

Step # 6: Once settlement is made, the broker arranges with the company’s share registry for the shares to be registered in buyer’s name. The registry is usually an independent organization which maintains the details of all the shareholders of companies whose shares are traded on the stock exchange. Previously share certificates were posted to owners. Today shares are usually kept on the registry.

The buyer is now a proud shareholder!

There may be some additional processes you are required to go through to buy shares, but the above 6 are the basic steps. You need to ask your chosen broker if there is anything else you need to do to buy shares.

The following are some of the privileges of being a shareholder:

1. You receive company updates including annual reports.
2. You attend annual general meetings and participate in decision-making.
3. You receive dividends if declared by directors.
4. You participate in dividend-reinvestment plans.
5. You receive other benefits such as discounts on company products or preference on new share issues.

Next week’s article will be on how to sell shares.

Send your comments to or text me on 7688 0033 or 7280 4588.