Weekly Commentaries

This is Sunday Chronicle's weekly commentaries on various issues of interest affecting the country. All individual commentators are done by elite Papua New Guineans from diverse educational backgrounds.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

So rich yet so dependent


I WOULDN'T be writing this if it is not for many of us running around looking for 'street lenders' or what I call 'local ATMs' to borrow money. 

Don't blame yourself for doing this. There are a lot of reasons for doing so. One justification is a flow-on-effect. We are simply being forced to because our government is living on borrowed money as well. What is happening up there is trickling down to the little people. Because our pay packet cannot sustain us for two weeks we opt for options like the so much professed 10% consultancy arrangements. Corruption creeps and it is pretty tricky to say 'no' for the simple fact that we are so poor to say no to some quick cash to feel big for nothing and to settle some overdue unnecessary bills. Blame the system!

So naturally rich in resources and yet being economically poor is an allegation we've heard and read time and again.  Promising politicians speak of those dreams come Election Day to turn the tide around however, the tide keeps on turning them as we become spectators in a nation that stands to lose if nothing radical is done today.

Our little Europe became politically independent in 1975 but to date we are still economically dependent on aid from other countries, especially Australia. Maybe independence is only for political intentions, not economic reality. Regardless, we can't blame Somare for our political independence as premature. He was guided by the wisdom of the day to do so. Anywhay, if our national budget is largely being funded by foreign aid then our nation is being owned by someone else, don't you think so? It is the highest stakeholder that takes control of the business affairs of any business venture.

Aid is a two way thing and, yes we must admit that we have failed to manage it against the intended purposes. Because we failed at the first place to prudently manage it we become entangled by the strings tied to it. The donor nations can now capitalise on our failures and influence or even dictate a lot of decisions that are made by our politicians and bureaucrats. This is why we are very silent in aggressively taking our economic status into the secondary level as we continue to be a major supplier of raw materials that come back to our shore in cans, packets and manipulated forms.

When dependency falls in beggars can't be choosers. We can't choose our destiny to decide for ourselves. The donors, the developers, the sponsors alike decide how the game is played. By day's end we become foreigners in our own land. We can cut ribbons and hold feasts to celebrate the commissioning or opening of infrastructures but someone else will have the last laugh because they have other things in mind - what lies beneath your land. Maybe third world nations were made to be like that so that there shall continue to be levels of worlds.

The current Somare-Temu government's stand in reducing foreign aid and increasing foreign reserves is the way forward to reduce dependency. The funny thing is the more you try to do it the heavier they bombard you. They can't afford to lose the warehouse supply of raw materials. It is the source of their existence. Some evil, clandestine manoeuvring is involved in this thing about aid. They are thinking in the fourth dimension while we see it with our five senses as normal. Do we have a government think-tank?

Aid is not something you cling on to until end of time. Somewhere down the line it must be phased out. The World Bank was established by a number of now the G8 nations who pooled their resources together to help rebuild those nations that were destroyed in the war. China suffered in its war with Japan and loaned so much millions to rebuild itself. Within 10 years it paid off its loan and now, look at it. After serving its purpose the World Bank diverted its course to nations with decaying economies and that is where it found you and me. You can have your own thoughts about the boomerang aid from next door. As I have said, aid is a two-way thing where you give and take not as your literally understand it to be some kind of charity help. This is a loan under the pretext of aid. It is the power of reciprocity at its best. For the one who gives is given twice.
Never like before, all over PNG now someone is gasping for air with a gold or oil find at their backyard. It is like an ants' enclosure has been disturbed sending all armies running riot in all directions. Christianity has it that the custodian of this wealth is running out of time to win more souls. This is what we must pay ultimate attention to. But one must not put normal human living in discomfort. The scary thing is quick heavy cash in connection to these natural non-renewable resources seem to cloud the possessors from functioning normally. The cash goes out faster than it comes in. Be on guard!

Successful outcomes or productivity of other resources depends heavily on the resource that drives it - human resource. If the human resource, better still, the human being, is incompetent, ignorant, or demoralized, other resources will be heavily impacted. For instance, an innovative idea by a countryman is downplayed by the option to engage consultants offshore. Consultants are mere con sultans. They have their own agendas and just be mindful of which organisations they are engaged with. This is morale killing when we cannot trust our own countryman who has the country in his heart.  Another attitude problem. Such oversights lead to a lot of our brains leaving for much better paid off-shore jobs. It is long overdue that we must put a total stop to this brain-drain and look after our human resources. Papua New Guinea has enough brains to run its own affairs now.

This leads us to the current boom in the mineral resources industry. It is not a bad practice to open up many projects simultaneously only if you have the competent human resource to operate it and the money, too. By that I mean seeing it to the end product of it. Another concern is the managerial and supervisory roles are taken up by expatriates. Only a few are Papua New Guineans mostly in the liberal fields like human resource management and administration in the core functional areas like operations and development.  Most of our PNG managers are 'yes boss' type of managers who cannot stand up to see Papua New Guineans getting the most out from a project.

So our little competent human resource is stretched to the limit allowing semi-baked personnel to be taken on board who spend hours-to-end trying to picture the whole operation. You still struggle to get nowhere because of the mushroom-effect created in the management circle. Management problem should also cop the blame for our dilemma here.

On the other hand, having said all the above, we have to blame ourselves, too. Our attitude problem. We don't even believe in ourselves nor our countrymen and women alike. For instance, a white-man walking into the shop with his handbag, the securities are scared to the bone to tell this white-man to put away his bag at the bag shelf. If it was a countryman or woman these securities go berserk as something terrible is about to happen. The recruitment of 'save pes' who are incompetent adds salt to the wound where it contributes heavily to productivity level. Morale drops as one regional faction takes control of the entity and start serving their own interests. To be considered you have to bribe your way in.

PNG time phenomenon is one total setback that defeats our chances of getting ahead and be counted. We can't be masters of our destiny if we simply cannot tell what is right from wrong - conscience. Many of us need to go back to Sunday school.

It will really take a long time before we will come to know what it means to develop our resources to fullness and come closer to industrialisation take-off. Maybe when our race is full of quarter-casts who will now claim themselves as complete Papua New Guineans who have a lost identity and no birthright then we can see less wantokism. Vision 2050 is the roadmap to seeing a drastic change in our way of thinking and behaving accordingly for what we can hold and say is ours, otherwise we will be foreigners in our own land.

Email me on pohromo@hotmail.com for comments. Keep reading your Chronicle for our next 'Small Man Issue' on "Settlements - not bad as we think".

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