Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Independent but dependent: Papua New Guinea 34 years on

By GELAB PIAK

Wednesday, the 16th of September 2009, will mark the 34th year of Papua New Guinea’s independence.

We, as Papua New Guineans, are proud of our nation but on the other hand, are troubled by the torturing thought: what really are we celebrating about?

Yes, we may be celebrating our freedom, or may be are celebrating our independence.

Both are right.

However, what is freedom.

Freedom is the power to express one’s thoughts, action, words and rights without objection or intimidation.

Freedom is having no objection to your rights, unless they violate the law of the land.

Last month, Metropolitan Superintendent Fed Yakasa, in stopping the infamous’ NGO political march said that the actions of the police were to protect the people’s rights.

First of all, what rights are the police protecting, when in fact, contradictorily, they are depriving the people’s rights and freedoms.

The people have the right, under the law of the land to expression of freedoms, such as freedom of speech and as such they had a right to express their thoughts, actions and words without objection.

Secondly, people have the right to services and the duly-elected government has the obligation to provide services to the people.

When the government doesn’t do what it is obliged to do, then the civil society has to stand up.

The vibrancy of any democracy depends on the freedoms and the liberation of its civil society to exercise its rights.

When the civil society’s freedoms are suppressed, a nation’s democracy is under threat. The opposition has on several occasions cried foul about Parliamentary democracy not being exercised.

Are these tell-signs of suppression and oppression, and at the highest level?

Thirdly, what is independence?

Independence simply means being independent.

Independent and independence are two big words.

So what is it like to be independent?

Being independent is being able to fend, provide for oneself, and meet one’s own needs. Put it that way, it is very hard to see the PNG government fending, providing or meet the needs of its people, now or in the future.

There is a great need for policy makers to draft effective medium term policies.

Malaysia and Venezuela are good examples of countries that have been transformed through short, effective medium term policies.

Long-term policies and plans such as 40-year plans, may not be effective, may not realise and may be thrown out by future government that may not understand the need to make such policies.

Big projects: an illusive idea

Our future mustn’t depend on ‘big projects’.

The idea of ‘big projects’ is an illusive one that is luring landowners to give away their land without proper consultations with other villagers and community members, who, to the landowners’ misunderstanding, will be affected by the landowners’ decisions.

‘Big projects’ are creating a lot of problems in our Melanesian society of communality, brotherhood and peace and harmony.

‘Big projects’ are often rushed, and when they are rushed, no proper social mapping is done, no proper assessment for environmental damages is done, (e.g. how would the project affect the ecosystem of the particular area, etc, have we had any thought of that?), landowners form factions as self-interest eats away at the morals of society, corruption becomes rampant in the Government, and unwise decision are made.

It has also created a mentality in this contemporary society where villages wait for big projects such as oil, gas or mining and do not take initiatives to develop themselves with small projects that are community orientated like small holder plantation estates (coffee, cocoa, copra, etc) or sawmills instead they often wait for the big projects.

Overall, once the projects fail, we, as a nation, tend to lose millions or even billions of Kina.

We need to look at ways of becoming self-reliant, (almost can be better than fully), with a government that is the main services and goods provider.

Thus we can say that we are independent, because by then we have a government that fends, provides and meets its people’s needs.

A sad fact is that the Australian government, through AusAid, is more popular in rural areas than the PNG government.

This paints a picture of a government that is not able to provide and meet its people’s needs so other governments have stepped in.

Does that mean we are dependent?

Yes, it does, as we are dependent on overseas aid and that nevertheless means we are dependent.

We must, as our Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare always says, be an export orientated economy or nation.

Not an exporter of raw materials and vast natural resources, but an exporter of finished products.

But that will only come about if there is government leadership, and there must be government leadership.

A good example is Japan.

Japan today is the floating factory of the world.

How did Japan become the floating factory of the world?

By government leadership and a bold move towards industrialisation, only now known as the industrial revolution.

The government must lead by investing in downstream processing.

The government must build factories; enter into partnerships with companies to build factories and produce locally.

Producing locally would create more jobs, boost the economy, increase our GDP and greatly reduce our imports.

Exporting and producing locally maybe deemed as a far cry or something that happens in the future, but for it to eventuate in the future, we must start now.

PNG should start producing small products such as peanut butter, coffee jam, copper wires, etc., and then we can look at bigger products and projects like partnering with auto giants Toyota or Nissan to produce cars and trucks locally; as PNG imports thousands of vehicles every year from these two companies.

We can then become a cheaper option for our close neighbors when they want to import cars as these cars will be genuine Toyota or Nissan made products.

The Government must also enact tariff laws for a certain period of time to help local products gain popularity among consumers.

This type of Government leadership is lacking in our country and that is demonstrated by the fact that many of our exports are raw materials and do have a higher value thus the returns are mere peanuts to what is made and earned by other countries out of our resources, that are later sold back to us as finished products.

Until then are we really independent.

Infrastructure, education and health: the secrets to prosperity

The secret to a nation’s prosperity is its infrastructure, education and health.

The government of Papua New Guinea needs to seriously consider the state of its infrastructure such as bridges, roads, airstrips, government hospitals, schools and communications infrastructure; i.e. towers for two-way radios.

Are they in good, useable conditions?

Does the state of the infrastructure affect the economy and puts a strain on the economy?

Yes.

Bad state of infrastructure is a bottle neck to the economy.

The PNG economy while enjoying growth over the years, is struggling and the tell-signs are evident.

Exports of products such as coffee, cocoa, copra, and rubber may drop if road conditions are not improved and more farmers can not have easy access to markets.

This will have much greater impact on the smaller farmers who grow cabbages, tomatoes, ginger, and other crops for sale at local markets and also markets outside their province. Such is the case where farmers of garden produce from the highlands bring their farm produce to Madang for sell at the local markets.

The state of the Highlands Highway is also costing trucking companies thousands of Kina.

With the deteriorating road conditions pot holes form and becomes every truck driver’s nightmare; they either avoid them or go through them.

If they avoid them, they risk the chance of bumping into an oncoming vehicle, and, if they go through them, it wears out the truck’s tyres other parts under the trucks.

This is cause for concern to bosses of trucking firms as they know they will be ordering more parts, thus losing thousands.

This is a call for the Government to invest in infrastructure.

Investing heavily in infrastructure will not only improve the economy but also provide jobs.

Road condition must be fixed and maintained to acceptable standards where they are in a useable and working state.

Roads must be built to villages far out in remote areas which are in isolation.

Using these roads the people can then access markets to sell their produce or other services provided in the towns.

Bridges that have broken down due to lack of maintance must be fixed, so that people can have access once more, and may revive agriculture and farming in the ‘cut off’ areas.

The government must look at putting aside funds to rebuild bridges and other infrastructure destroyed by disasters.

An educated nation is a healthy nation.

Education must reach all the rural areas.

Schools that have shut down must be reopened, and teachers must be sent up there.

The government has to invest in education by building schools in both town areas and rural areas, and must pay teachers properly so that they are happy to go into the bush and teach, and they must also have good houses so that it boosts their morale as educators of tomorrow’s generation.

With an educated populace a nation will progress, as most of its citizens will be in a position to understand the problems facing their country or the economics of their country.

If many of the citizens are educated, PNG would find itself having a competitive work force.

Today, PNG’s workforce is not that effective, in the sense that there is no competition and workers are not competing for jobs.

What happens, and is happening now, is that the current work force is aging and there isn’t a younger generation to fill the gap created.

Thus, the education of the youths and not only the younger generation and children, must become a priority for the Government.

It must focus on equipping its people with knowledge, as the present world is a world where technology rules and a young, striving nation like Papua New Guinea must equip its people with knowledge so that they understand the technology and use it for the benefit of their nation.

A meaningful and effective start would be investing in vocational training education. Why don’t PNG start training its next generation of welders, carpenters, plumbers, and mechanics?

These people are equal contributors to the immediate building of the nation.

As well as providing scholarships to universities, the government should provide scholarships to vocational training schools.

It is again these very people who will be involved in the infrastructure building and building of huge investments such as factories and hotels in this nation.

We need not bring other people from outside; that happens when a nation forgets about building its own workforce through investing in its people’s education.

Thus the nation is not healthy.

Healthy citizens contribute meaningfully to the building of a prosperous nation.

When a nation has a healthy workforce, production is said to double its normal rate.

The recent outbreak of cholera shows clearly the concern our government has for the health of its people.

Little that is, and that’s demonstrated by its snail-paced response to the recent cholera outbreak.

Not only had that, but the lack of health services also contributed to the deaths that have occurred in the affected areas; as some of the deceases are treatable.

Cholera was a time-bomb waiting to happen, as many rural areas do not have aid posts or the aid posts have been run-down and shut for many years now.

Even in towns, the standard of healthcare provided by the Government is no where near any standard at all.

Port Moresby General Hospital is no exception with rotting wood, ill-equipped and lowly funded; the hospital now cannot cater for Port Moresby residents.

The government is now planning to build a second hospital in the city or outside of the city.

This is good, but the government must build more aid posts with proper and enough medications in rural areas to ease the number of patients seeking medical help in towns and cities and putting a strain on the services the hospitals provide, as the hospitals built in towns and cities are built to cater for the town or city residents and cannot cope with increased number of patients.

The increased number of patients put a strain of health services provided by hospitals in towns and cities.

Nurses and doctors must have good housing and transport must not be a problem to hospitals, which need to transport patients or staff.

Providing a better healthcare system will ensure a brighter future for Papua New Guineans and a more productive workforce, resulting in a growing, demanding economy, thus a prosperous nation looms in the making.

A challenge for everyone:

Members of Parliament really need to stop their corrupt practices and have a true nationalist feeling that drives them towards nation building.

Nation building is not an overnight job. It takes, many people, in fact a whole nation, many years, and many hearts.

One pure heart can not turn the many unclean hearts.

It has to take courage for everyone to change, and if the politicians are not serious about building this nation called Papua New Guinea, then who else?

No one may take the courage to build our nation, as you politicians are the top leaders, everyone are looking at you, and this Independence, everyone will be looking at you to hear what you will say.

Together, let’s build a nation in Papua New Guinea, so that we can have something to celebrate about.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog!!
    If you like, come back and visit mine:
    http://albumdeestampillas.blogspot.com

    Thanks,
    Pablo from Argentina

    ReplyDelete