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.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

PNG: A nation in need of reconstruction


THIRTY five years after its political independence, Papua New Guinea is a nation dithering on the brink of economic, social and political anarchy if not collapse.

The wake-up call for our leaders and public officials to correct the status quo is long overdue. They can not hide behind 40-year and 20-year national development plans to say that the destiny of this nation is all mapped out. Crap. This nation is crying out for national reconstruction. Not elaborate academic futuristic plans.

This country needs real hands on spade-work. Our highways have collapsed so has everything else that made this nation the proud one that it was in the first decade of national independence. The next two and half decades have been a period of leadership and management by crisis and trial and error.

This current five year tenure of Parliament will be seen as one that left a legacy of non-performance and an elective forum that became ungovernable, disorderly and without decorum as the paramount haus tambaran of the people of Papua New Guinea. Harsh words to say but that’s true.  

We have huge problems. Our nation’s economic, political and social wellbeing is in big trouble because nobody in leadership and authority gives one hoot where we are heading. PNG as a nation is in shambles and is begging for decisive and assertive stewardship.

Political pundits will dismiss this view as a shot in the dark. Somebody has to say it and I have chosen to say it – knowing fully and consciously that I hold no one’s mandate except my citizen’s right and freedom to say and write what’s in this column. Lump it or leave it.   

It is a bold statement and this columnist says it without fear or favour. This columnist joins eminent citizens like New Ireland Governor and former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, Opposition leaders Sir Mekere Morauta and Bart Philemon and Trade Union leader Michael Malabag in amplifying that the nation is not looking good and healthy on all fronts at present.

Look around you. What has happened to this nation of milk and honey? Why are Papua New Guinean unskilled workers in the agriculture sector or employed as attendants and security workers at city night clubs not recipients of the minimum wages which should have come into force on January 1 this year. They have been exploited for 16 years and now they have been given an award that must be paid to them.

Why are foreign-owned companies not paying PNG nationals in the unskilled category of workers their minimum wages as agreed by the Minimum Wages Board?  Why are enforcement agencies like the Department of labour and Industrial Affairs in a state of comatose and cannot enforce this decision? Bugger. Why have our political leaders not stirred? Or why should 109 MPs be overly richer with all their perks and privileges including K10 million which each Open MP presides over than more than six million people of this country? 

Papua New Guineans live a hand to a widespread mouth life-style. Many homes house several families. School children in crowded homes do not have space and time to do their home or to study at home. The entire economic and social fabric of this country is in dire straits. Papua New Guinea has become a nation of “survival of the fittest”. Nobody – leader or otherwise – will pause to hold the hand of the struggler and lift him to the next level of survival. The ordinary citizen of this country is left to fend for himself or for herself. School fees are hard to come by. Quality schools and quality health facilities are negligible. 

Where did our leaders lose the plot to safe-guard and grow the national interest of a happy, healthy and wealthy nation?  Why are our political leaders seeking to institutionalise their political parties in power? Is it for self-gain, for power or to feed their ego of being indispensable? 

Hey wake up. This nation belongs to all of us. Make it work for all of us. Why is the public finance system tailored to meet the needs and demands of the MPs and cronies associated with them? Why is it  preferrable political pursuit to chip away at the constitutional institutions of this country that have provided the balance, stability and credibility for this nation? Look at the pot-bellied politicians and ask why they are far wealthier than their voters. Look at the institutions of state in disrepair. 

Ask why the police force is ineffective, why the Department of Finance and Treasury no longer can be trusted as the custodian of the public purse of this nation and why the Public Finance (Management) Act is inconsequential as a public finance management guide. Ask why the prison system in this country leaks like a sieve. Ask why the health and education system in this country is not user friendly. Ask why our social indicators are pitiful. Ask why the Parliament of this country makes laws to safe guide foreigners and their investment while citizens of this country are made to pick up crumbs or are deliberately impoverished. All the political hype about the billions of kina the two liquefied natural gas projects will deliver to the nation border on political propaganda. The praises being sung about the two LNG projects are merely facades. 

One politician said not too long ago that the progress to be undertaken to fully realise the worth of the LNG projects is but a “Bridge over River Time”. Parabolic but the message is loud and clear. Do things properly and that means government and developers of the LNG projects have to understand that PNG is not a nation to be hoodwinked, pillaged and denied of what is rightfully this nation’s wealth. Our current political leaders, their political cronies and whoever else are out there carrying briefcases must think nationally and think prominently about the nation’s best interests. 

Often times one wonders whether our ministers are really focused and whether or not they understand the reasons why they make decisions that end up largely impoverishing the citizens of this country. Our current crop of political leaders have not really sat down to do a cost benefit analysis nor have they conducted a strength, weakness, opportunity and threat analysis of these two mega projects so that they can tell the people of this country that the United States Dollar accounts will be kept offshore for the excuse of procuring materials and supplies not immediately available in PNG.   

Why go weak at the knees with upon sighting the colour of money? PNG people have to be told that that because the required level of skills are not immediately available in this country so PNG people lucky enough to get a job at all with these projects will be categorised as skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour and their pay-packets will be determined that way. 

This is our country, our nation state and we must be commanders of our national destiny. Multi-nationals must not dictate to us. No way. Their primary interest is to make money for themselves at higher than 22.5% in our nation’s budding oil and gas industry. These projects will bring in money to pay for locally procured goods and services and to pay local wages. Beyond that this nation will receive some dividends and royalties. Nothing else shall come by unless of course negotiated agreements compel the developers to build much need infrastructure and help to develop economic and social services. Mi les na mi tingim olsem planti Papua New Guinea manmeri tu iles pinis long olgeta longlong pasin ikamap insait long naispela kantri bilong yumi olgeta.

  • Susuve Laumaea is an award winning veteran PNG journalist and welcomes feedback from readers at : Mobile Phone: 72013870 or Email: slaumaea@digicelpacific.balckberry.com.

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