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Australia to pay for high-speed internet cable for PNG and Solomons

Staff Writer |
Australia has promised to build a new high-speed internet cable for Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

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But questions have been raised about the Government's decision to pay for it out of the aid allocation in Tuesday's budget.

The body representing Australia's aid groups has issued the Government a stern warning that the money should not come at the expense of education and health aid programs.

But its chief executive is also predicting that it is the start of a new trend that will see Australia increasingly promise to fund large infrastructure projects in the Pacific, to counter the Chinese Government's promises of convention centres, new roads and wharves, which are often paid for by concessional loans.

While final costs for the submarine cable are yet to be settled, Canberra has announced it has agreed to pay two-thirds of the cost, while PNG and Solomon Islands are expected to foot the remainder of the bill.

Based on previous estimates, the cable is expected to have a price tag of about $200 million.

A deal on the final funding arrangements between the three countries is expected within weeks, while Sydney, Townsville or the Sunshine Coast are being considered as the Australian link point for the cable.

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