How Much Did Hillary Clinton Cost PNG?
A lot was made out of the US Secretary of State’s planned visit to PNG on January 14, before she decided to return to Washington to oversee aid efforts in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there that killed up to 200,000 people.
It’s not every day that arguably the most powerful woman in the world comes knocking on your front door for a formal state visit – even if the proposed schedule was not limited to just bilateral meetings. Meetings with local civil society leaders (which would have included Dame Carol Kidu) to discuss environmental protection and women empowerment were also on the agenda.
Despite this, Clinton’s visit did not eventuate and the question must be asked, how much did the US Secretary of State’s no-show cost the PNG tax payer?
It was interesting to note how much both Australia and New Zealand spent on Clinton’s proposed visit. According to figures obtained under the Official Information Act, the New Zealand government spent approximately NZ$108,000 on Hillary Clinton and her entourage – even though the American secretary of state never actually set foot in the country. The majority of this money was spent on travel and accommodation, VIP transport, a major function, and a huge security operation involving police, security forces and government officials.
Clinton has since publicly committed to re-scheduling her trip to both Australia and New Zealand. I’m not too sure about PNG though. What will prove the difference is how much Washington actually values a visit to Port Moresby. If Clinton does reschedule her trip to PNG, it will no-doubt confirm the country’s strategic importance in the Pacific region to US interests.
What is worthy to note is the ministerial agenda that was planned for the Secretary after she was to depart Port Moresby for Auckland then on to Canberra – meetings with the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith, and Australian Defense Minister John Faulkner.
The topic of discussion: key global and regional security challenges.