Wartoto’s Travel Air and complications before take off

I love business and I especially get excited when its a local business that has done well. Someone or a group of people achieving something against the odds. I guess that’s also what makes Hollywood movies tick.

But it’s always disheartening to learn that perhaps something may have been a bit shady about them for them to get so far ahead. As a media/IT focused sort of person my biggest let down recently has obviously been Rupert Murdoch and his phone hacking scandal that’s engulfing his empire in the UK at the moment. I mean I always knew  he was aggressive but he or his company has certainly gone too far in this instance.

Closer to home, I’ve been personally quite excited about the prospect of a nationally owned and financed airline. Thoughts of a local entrepreneur such as the likes of Richard Branson and Virgin were swirling in my head, I thought Wow, finally some of us PNG’eans are making it big. So the prospect of Eremas Wartoto and his emerging Travel Air company putting PNG business on the map was a story I really hoped would take off without a hitch.

Pic from Bernard Sinai http://bernardsinai.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/a-new-airline-coming-soon/

Then yesterday’s Post Courier comes out with the allegation that parliamentarian Paul Tiensten had assisted with illegally financing the company to the tune of K10 million. Is it a case of the Tall Poppy syndrome or is there something really wrong here with how Travel Air is being financed?

PNG and the pacific in general have so few role models in big business, there are some success stories like Kelly Taureka, Noreo Beangke, Simon Korowa to name a few. But obviously  not enough role models yet to make people realise that you can change your life with simple honest hard work or maybe even by not being Friends with politicians full stop.

*See Travel Air’s website here, http://travelairpng.com

Update 14/07/11

K10m to Wartoto not bogus

By Yehiura Hriehwazi, Post Courier

Kokopo businessman Eremas Wartoto last night confirmed he had received K10 million for his new airline Travel Air but strenuously denied it was received through bogus deals.

Mr Wartoto said it was the Government’s 10 per cent subsidy of his company’s K100 million investment in transport infrastructure which will be based out of Madang.

Speaking from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by telephone, Mr Wartoto said he had genuinely submitted a project proposal to the Government which was appropriated in the National Budget and the K10m was released in March this year.

He said two aircraft have been bought in Maastricht, Netherlands, and will be delivered next month. Another three aircraft will also be delivered from Malaysia about the same time and in addition, two more will be bought in October this year from Maastricht.

“We are talking about an investment infrastructure of K100 million over the next five years. ln 2010, we applied for a subsidy from the government budget and appropriated this year,” he said. “We appreciate the government’s vision to at least subsidise 10 per cent of that investment.” He said the investment is now being based in Madang replacing the Airlink services.

“My reputation as a PNG businessman has been tarnished by your publicity. I have attached below an email from one of my lenders now declining one of our commercial arrangement due to your unresearched publicity which I will be seeking legal opinion,” Mr Wartoto said.

He also complained that the “K10 million man” page 1 story in yesterday’s edition of the Post-Courier had caused his financier, Bank South Pacific, to review its position on its leasing facilities to his company.

BSP’s corporate banking relationship manager Jason Edwards had sent his company an email saying: “In light of reporting in this morning’s Post-Courier, we will be placing a hold on the approval for the leasing facilities. In the event you can provide evidence that the payment in question has met all required approvals and pending court action is complete, we will review our position.”

The Post-Courier report yesterday did not refer to the K10m to Travel Air as bogus.