What Has Become of Our Beloved Country, Papua New Guinea?
By Lucas Kiap
What has become of our beloved country after independence, 16th September, 1975?
The leadership in this country since independence, instead of exploiting our abundances of natural resources to progress and advance the country forward by competing with other countries and the rest of the world, for every forward step taken, the country has moved two steps backward. Read the full article to the end to understand what has become of our beloved country.
The gap between the richer and the poor has been widening every day. With increasing population growth and the fact that more than eighty-five percent of the populations are rural subsistence farmers whom their income is below the poverty level, this trend of wealth disparity is set to be increasing steadily as the leaders they vote into the parliament often disappear in Waigani.
People have no longer respect for the life, property and privacy of others. Violent crimes are occurring in every parts of the country – rapes and murders are reported daily. Tribal fights are still common and active. Elections related violence is increasingly becoming common during every election. Women and young girls are always among the worst affected victims. It’s no longer safe for anyone to walk around the streets during anytime of the day freely without having to worry about their safety. The PNG Police Force and the PNG Defense Force are these days becoming a law onto themselves than law abiding institutions for the protecting of the people and the country.
The cost of living in the country has been hyper inflated than all developed countries, despite being a third world country with more than eighty-five percent of its population are poor and rural substance farmers, who hardly have the opportunity to move above the poverty line. Worse still, there is no control over the prices of basic goods and services, forcing most of the working class population in towns and cities to join their rural counterparts in living below the poverty line. It seems the country’s continued economic growth is more of propaganda for political gain than an achievement for alleviation of poverty.
Human development indices have always been remaining negative despite the country being rich in natural resources and has been enjoying decades of continued economic growth. Where have our political leaders spent all the billions of Kina from the revenues of our natural resources?
Foreigners have taken control over the business opportunities which should have been classified and preserved for locals, often flooding the local markets with expensive yet low quality and fake products, cheating and robbing the poor illiterate and unsuspecting poor people of their hard earned cash. Do we have leaders who really care for the people of this country?
Street sellers are everywhere in every street, sometimes making it unsafe for people to move around freely and littering our towns and cities with betel nut stains and rubbish, a situation which is getting out of hand with the increasing in population growth. Drunkards these days are increasing and are everywhere; terrorizing innocent people, mostly affected are women and young girls, which is a cause of great concern for the country as PNG is continuously being portrayed by the world media as a lawless society, no longer safer for women and children.
In cities and towns, squatter settlements are quickly developing, becoming a breeding grounds for street ‘mangis’ (boys) who eventually found themselves on the streets searching for opportunities to survive – they simply don’t care if taking another person’s life is a crime or a crime commit to survive.
Despite billions of kina have been spent every year on infrastructure development alone to deliver basic government services to the people, people still complain about the lack of such vital services and how they struggle to survive without it. It has been and it seems, the cries and struggles of the people desperately wanting basic government services will never stop as most of the existing infrastructures have deteriorated and run down due to decades of lack of funding, mismanagement and negligence, destroyed by natural forces or by men themselves. When calls are made to the government for intervention, such desperate calls are often fallen on deaf (or dead) ears.
Corruption has also been a major issue in this country, responsible for the disappearances of billions of kina budgeted for development every year, monies which normally stolen under the close watch of the elected leaders in the country. Corruption is also wide spread across the natural resources and extractive industry, where politicians and officials allowing foreign corporations cheaply exploiting our people and natural resources without much benefit to the State and its people.
Owner a home and a land in the city or town these days has become a luxury than a necessity. It has been next to impossible for an average working class Papua New Guinean to obtain a land title these days. While on the other land, foreigners especially of Asian origin have been finding their way too easy, obtaining land titles to prime lands in major cities and towns.
What even more worrying is the public service mechanism in the country which has been dysfunctional, capacity constraint, corrupted, lack of drive and motivation, and lack of control and discipline, yet is a monster consumes a large junk of the budget with minimal or no output. This raises a lot of questions about the government’s ability and big budget plans to achieve PNG’s Vision 2050 to make PNG a better, healthy and a smarter nation in 2050. Then one wonders where all the billions of kina budgeted every year will eventually end up? This is a sad scenario of PNG’s future.
What has become of this country? PNG is in fact facing a difficult future despite the positive outlook of continue economic growth.
The current states of affairs as outlined above are the reflections of the standard and quality of leadership we have had since independence, 16th September, 1975. In fact we have leadership “syndrome” in this country. In a nutshell, leaders simply have been lacking vision and knowledge about the long-term development of the country. They have been adopting temporarily or short-term measures to solve deep and complicated problems which need long-term solutions. Sometimes they have been making decisions which often been driven by personal greed than common good.
To understand the standard and quality of leadership in this country, let’s go back to the start of making of the leaders we desire to run this country. The constitution allows us to make our leaders – that is to elect them through the democratic process of voting them through the ballot paper after every five years. The constitution clearly states that every person shall be at liberty when choosing a leader – that is someone’s right to choose a leader must be done so without undue influence such as force, intimidation or bribery, etc.
Unfortunately National Elections in Papua New Guinea cannot be described in isolation with force, intimidation, bribery and cheating. This is contrary to what the constitution requires for the election of leaders.
Perhaps, this country would have been developed quickly if we had leaders as those defined by Dr. Cornel West as “if your success is being defined as well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference, then we don’t want successful leaders. We want great leaders - who love the people enough and respect the people enough to be unbought, unbound, unafraid and unintimidated to tell the truth”.
Unfortunately, the system of bribery and cheating to elect leaders has never produced great leaders in Papua New Guinea. Instead it has produced leaders with low moral conduct, questionable reputation and credibility, vast personal interests, and hidden agendas to the parliament whom have been promoting bribery, wantok-system and corruption, which are the dark forces acting behind the scenes slowly destroying our beautiful country.
Our leaders have always invented shields of ignorance and pretended that nothing has been happening at our doorsteps or that of our neighbors, by preaching about the good shape and outlook of the economy, numbers which means nothing to rural substance farmers as everything else has remained the same or worse over the years. Our leaders have been defending themselves when being criticized, exposed or investigated for corrupt practices. They have always been trying to play the game of not guilty, knowing well that they will eventually come out clean by manipulating an already corrupted and often flawed judicial system. They always take refuge as Christians in a Christian Country; pray, and attend church services to be trusted and accepted. They take temporarily relief by blaming others for the problems – the very problems they created by their poor often self-interest driven decisions, taking advantage of a very large illiterate population.
My country men and women, we are at the crossroads now to decide the fate of our future. We either continue to follow the path of our forefathers with their same standard and style of leadership, where PNG’s big man gets everything and are above the law, and ended up remain the same like our ancestors and beggars in our own rich country or, choose a different path to liberate the country for everyone to have equal opportunities to live a better life if they choose to work hard. For me, I don’t want to see things remain the same for my children.
The only opportunity we have to secure a better and brighter future is now, while we still have half of our natural resources remaining. When they all are raped, dig and piped out of this country, we will have nothing more to boast about our country by giving tax breaks here and there to any international multibillion dollar corporations in the name of attracting foreign investment as if there will not be a tomorrow. By the time our natural resources are all gone, we will have nothing remaining except the poor rural people who will then be beggars in our own land that has been once a rich country of untold wealth and beauty.