Reflections on Papua New Guinea

July 3, 2012 at 11:34 am (Commentary, Papua New Guinea)

A day or so ago I met with a group of friends who had either lived in PNG or were very interested in the country, and I noted some of their comments.

They mentioned that the problems in the country are easy to identify, but their solving is much more difficult, as most practical solutions would likely be unacceptable to the present-day educated elites.

The Australian government of course can’t just step in, that time has well and truly passed. Neither does it have the resources to pour in to outbid the Chinese in the race for influence. The damage was done years ago with the look north policy of the PNG government, and prior to this with the sellout of West New Guinea. The Indonesians would not relish the idea of Australia once more being their adjacent neighbour on the island of New Guinea. Much better options for PNG and Australia were all there in the early 1960s, but that time is passed.

The group felt that the present elections in PNG would solve very little. The best that can be hoped for is some sort of decisive result that eliminates as many destabilising and psychopathic candidates as possible. We had one particular gentleman in mind.

Early reports from the Southern Highlands indicate that O’Neill will certainly be re-elected with a massive majority, and Somare, now referred to as the old man, will be comfortably returned to his old seat – thus PNG will be back just where it was six months ago. One of us quoted a commentator who said: “ God Bless New Guinea!”

It was felt by us all that the electoral roll like the census is highly questionable. The true population of PNG is more likely to be around 8 million. This would leave more than a million people not accounted for.  The PNG government should give serious consideration to the population explosion in their country. We considered that family planning measures must be given top priority as government policy in the country. One person said that the Catholic Church should be politely sidestepped on this issue.

The following measures for consideration were put forward:

There should be a total revamp of the once proud police force (now a tattered and largely disgraced image of its former self).

An expatriate deputy principal should be appointed in as many schools as possible in the country (the average grade X student today is at least two grades worse than his or her counterpart of thirty years ago – he or she would not rate for reading and comprehension against a good 11- year-old Australian student).

Every government department should be subjected to intensive auditing.

Public service conditions must be revised and dismissal made much easier for misconduct (although care would be needed to ensure that this was not used to facilitate nepotism). The dismissal process in practice in the private sector is the reason why performance in middle management in this area is so much better than in the lax public sector.

Everyone in this small group has many friends in PNG and we all want the best for the country.

David Wall

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