Jacinda Ardern says although New Zealand has given $15 million to help the hosts, she won’t be travelling in a Maserati at the APEC summit that begins in Papua New Guinea tomorrow.
The choice of Papua New Guinea to host the summit has drawn criticism, when the government there has a budget crisis, basic medicines are scarce, and polio, eliminated from all but a handful of countries, has returned.
In 2015, the International Monetary Fund estimated that upgrading the capital for the event and hosting a year of related meetings could cost NZ$1.46 billion.
In an eye-popping move, the government imported 40 luxury Maserati cars to whisk VIPs among convention venues in the secure bubble of the APEC meetings.
Officials said the government would sell them to recover the cost, sparking more disbelief and suspicions of a corrupt scheme.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she won’t be travelling in a Maserati while at the summit, and the $15 million given to the hosts by New Zealand will be used “very specifically among primarily security support”.
“I have been advised that I will be travelling in a Toyota Highlander I believe,” Ms Ardern said today.
What the weeklong talkfest will produce, other than its signature photo of world leaders in locally themed shirts, is unclear.
In the impenetrable language of APEC, the meeting is about “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future”.
The country’s Catholic Bishops Conference has criticised dire shortages of basic services while the government poured resources into getting the capital ready for world leaders.
“We share the concern of many about the huge amount of our limited resources being expended on this event which seems designed to entertain and impress the rich and powerful,” said its president, Rochus Tatamai.
Papua New Guineans, he said, are “suffering and dying in order to make APEC a success”.
– with Associated Press