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AusAID in PNG: simple-minded neglect


FROM HIGH SECURITY offices within the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, AusAID gives more than $400 million in aid to PNG each year.

Wanting to know where the money was spent to try to find out exactly what AusAID does in PNG, we went to the AusAID website. Basically since 2007 (in some cases since 2004) its achievements for an expenditure of over $1.2 billion are:

Education - 539,000 textbooks; 176 double classrooms, 47 teachers’ houses, 13 other school buildings.

Health - 900,000 children immunised against measles and other childhood disease; support acquisition of medical supplies; assist develop clean water plan and Cholera Command Centre.

HIV/AIDs - fund 60% of HIV response; increase number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy from 2,250 to 6,342; provide 108 million condoms.

Infrastructure - help maintain and rehabilitate 2,034 km of roads including Highlands Highway from Lae to Goroka.

Security & stability – work with PNG on projects to increase village courts; assist to train Bougainville police force.

Economic reform - support PNG to change the way funding is provided for provincial and local service delivery.

Yumi Lukautim Mosbi - rugby and netball programs; help city youth to volunteer to work with police.

That is basically the AusAID input to the life threatening problems that face the vast majority of Papua New Guineans.

Keith Jackson has asked us to assess the AusAID response from a grassroots perspective and we will to do this with the knowledge and experience of living in one of the worst communities in all PNG, the Kaugere Settlement.

Kaugere is one of the oldest settlements in PNG, having started in the 1960s, and is home to the notorious raskol gang, Koboni. Even other raskol gangs will not tangle with these boys.

These are the boys we live and work with; they are the boys who built our school, teach our children and take care of CUMA – the Chilren’s University of Music and Art, which we established. They have renamed themselves the “Fox Tribe Youth Development Program”.

We must point out that Kaugere is not a geographically isolated community: it is part of Port Moresby, less than 3 km from the centre of town. We can see the town from our school.

Every man, woman and child in this community lives in a state of abject poverty. Home is a makeshift canvas tent or a tin box built in the dust. There are at best just two hours in each day when water is available; and this has to be collected from a broken pipe in the street and carried long distances. There is little electricity and no proper kitchens or bathrooms.

Over 80 percent of school-age children do not attend school because they are unable to pay school fees. Starvation is common. There is no clinic or police presence. This community fends for itself as best it can.

It is estimated that, of a population of some 10,000 in Kaugere, only 300 people are employed. This community has a nationwide reputation of being the breeding ground for the worst criminals – and that is true.

The whole of PNG complains about the raskols and expresses disgust and dismay at their activities and calls them violent and useless.

The whole country is wrong! These are our loved children. They are intelligent, talented, resourceful, resilient, loyal and caring. They are hard-working, helpful and tough. Very few, if any, would be involved in criminal activities if they were not the victims of the most extreme poverty you can imagine. It is not the life they chose and it is not the life they want.

These raskols are the result of an uncaring society that has neglected its poverty stricken families, especially the children.

The AusAID program called Yumi Lukautim Mosbi is implemented under the guidance of AusAID advisor Steve Sims, also known as ‘Showbag’ Sims.

The program aims to reduce law and order problems in Port Moresby by finding an alternative for crime for settlement youth. As such it was the perfect place to go when we were setting up CUMA.

At CUMA we believe that educating settlement children is the answer to reducing the number of raskols on the streets. We have proved that when you take a raskol and provide him with something to eat every day and a purpose in his life, he will gladly leave his life of crime.

During a meeting with Steve Sims in 2007, we were told our plans for CUMA did not fit AusAID's criteria and, while they had “plenty of money”, they could not assist us.

After questioning Steve on the criteria, we were able to ascertain a few answers. We were not impressed.

AusAID could not assist with buildings; there had to be a clear connection between the program and a reduction in raskol activities; it could assist with sporting programs and equipment; it may be able to provide some gardening tools and ‘experts’ to teach the boys how to garden, but only if the gardening equipment was securely locked away in a sturdy building when not in use (but it could not help us with the building).

This essentially negative discussion went on for over an hour and we gave up and left.

It was as if we had to squash our real needs to fit academic criteria; no doubt devised by someone who had never been to a PNG Settlement.

Here’s an example of the Kaugere Community’s contact with Yumi Lukautim Mosbi. Late in 2008 about a dozen of our street boys came to us wearing brand new white and red Lukautim Mosbi tee-shirts.

They reported they had volunteered for the program to clean up the streets and reduce crime. We asked them about the deal and they confirmed they would not receive any food or money for their efforts and were expected to apprehend thieves and take them to the police station to be charged. But they did get a new tee-shirt.

That was the end of that. The boys wore their shirts for a few days and went about their normal business.

The program was simplistic. These kids are criminals because they are hungry; not because they are bored. You can spend as much money as you like on sports and run them around from sunup to sundown; at the end of the day they will be hungrier than ever and the need to steal will be greater.

We know that our meagre efforts at CUMA have really made a difference. We have proof that, without a single toea of the $1.2 billion funding, we have removed dozens of raskols from the street and turned them into productive and caring members of their community.

It costs us a meal of rice and tinfish for each of them every day, a lot of love and encouragement, and our personal belief in these kids. Our only help has come from the PNG business community and social clubs; not a single toea from the PNG government or any aid organisation or church group.

The other area where we have experience is the AusAID response to HIV/AIDS in PNG.

The funding for this through the National AIDS Council has become one of the most lucrative scams in PNG history.

While researching funding for a musical drama to generate AIDS awareness, we were advised that we could go to the National AIDS Council and get an immediate grant of K70,000, provided we returned K30,000 to the person as a ‘gift’! We decided to find the funding elsewhere!

PNG desperately needs every cent of AusAID funding, but the money needs it to be spent in an accountable way to fix the problems within PNG communities. That $1.2 billion could make a huge difference if it ever got to the grassroots.

In our assessment, AusAID is trying to fill a bucket that is full of holes. Unless corruption and waste are addressed, the aid will never achieve its objectives. And we have seen from the response from AusAID PNG to questions raised by PNG Attitude that it is not willing to confront the demon of corruption.

Meanwhile the children of PNG - 40% of the population of 6.6 million are under the age of 15 - continue to suffer and die every day.

They die the way they were born, in an environment of poverty and hopelessness, often as a direct result of violence or starvation. Often, their bodies are left to rot in a mortuary because there is no money to bury them.



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Reginald Renagi

The Prime Minister is at all times Captain of his Ship.

Many people in the government try to cover up for him when he does not immediately give a quick answer when taken to task by the citizenry.

Any Captain worth his salt would by now have trained himself through time and experience. He would know just about everything there is to know about his Ship's operations, and more.

As the Captain, he would know well what is really going on in the engine-room, or what's fallen into the bilge. Every part of the Ship.

On behalf of the Captain, the ship's Executive Officer (XO, Deputy PM) must always have his finger on the pulse of daily operations.

The XO knows about the intimate details of every department's operations, and what makes the Ship move ahead.

What's my point? It's simple.

If PNG was run on an even-keel by a good competent Captain then he would know what is going on in his ship at all times.

His XO would always put him in the picture of what every department or division is doing.

This is done at the strategic level so the PM does not micromanage everything himself.

If PNG was run like a tight ship with a good disciplined Captain of State, the country would not be in the present mess that it is in at the moment.

The PNG political and government system can be made to work in an efficient way through systematic political reforms and administrative refinements.

PNG must now advertise for a good Captain and crew.

The people have only two years to change its present crew. They must start preparing by identifying a good ship's crew now until 2012 national general elections.

Peter Kranz

The ABC just showed a very entertaining lecture by PJ O'Rourke. One relevant comment was drawn from engineering and argued that short control loops are more efficient than long ones.

Apply this to politics or government policy, and the more you get to having control exercised closest to the problem you are trying to solve, then more likely your chances of success.

For example, don't bother complaining to the Prime Minister about a local broken sewer. And don't place your shower taps three rooms away from the bathroom.

There's a lesson there for AusAID.

John Fowke

This truthful, challenging and well-expressed piece says it all about aid-projects in PNG no matter which foreign agency plans and funds them.

At the time when I involved myself as a frequent contributor to Keith's valuable blog I stated that AusAID and others wanting to help PNG to achieve better outcomes in public health, education and social welfare should spend their money with well-established NGO's and the major Christian churches.

An immediate reaction came from some of the recalcitrants whose names and aliases are well known here. These related their own youthful experiences at the hands of arrogant Christian missionaries and went on to outline their own naively negative ideas on religious bodies in general in support of their rejection of my proposal.

I'm sure there were many who agreed with me, however, and whether my five cent's worth helped or not, quite soon after this it was announced that AusAID would allocate a large amount to bolster the educational and health services provided by major, established Christian NGOs.

One assumes that this meant the old-established churches rather than the plethora of "lauspika" driven happy-clapper missons. It would be nice for us taxpayers to have an update on the outcome of this sensible decision.

AusAID and others should now be looking at smaller NGOs like CUMA, asking for information from the still-existing but never consulted Chambers of Commerce in the main provincial centres.

These all have constant contact with such organisations and can provide estimates of value and effect for any funding proposal, as well as percieved needs, from an unbiassed point of view.

Some of the big-name charities which are mainly self-funding - but which may draw on AusAID and others for all I know - are institutions very much like AusAID itself; staffed by young, naive graduates with a do-gooder outlook which is employed and enjoyed under fairly comfortable conditions of service and residence.

People who have the guts and the initiative and the compassion to man the pumps in sinking ships like Kaugere, or the Warakum slum beside Hagen City, or Lae's notorious Tent Siti and 4-Mile slums, deserve all the help which is available from neighbouring and distant friends.

Not just in recognition of what they do, but to enable them to do more and better.

It is pragmatic, hard-working idealists like Lydia and Peter Kailap at Kaugere, and Mama Rose and her husband and group of supporters at Warakum, who can turn resources into a product that is many times more valuable than almost all of that put out by the middle-class graduates.

These people work with foreign resources, both from aid-providers and from the major "brand-name" charitable organisations which operate in PNG.

Reginald Renagi

A true assessment by Lydia and Peter Kailap of what can be life in a settlement. Now try juxtaposing that all over PNG and the cost can be unimaginable.

As apart from AusAID, it's a great shame that the PNG government is not doing more for its own people.

This comes at a time when, last week, the Prime Minister and his cohorts (MPs) paid themselves by doubling their own pay and shutting down parliament for a six months holiday at the expense of the taxpayer.

This is criminal. Parliament and the government must be brought to account by the power of the people.

For this, they will all be replaced by the 2012 election.

Trevor Freestone.

I spoke to the medical orderly at Watabung in 2008 who was responsible for AIDS management in that area. He informed me that he was expecting the problem to increase by 1,000 per cent by the end of the year.

The actual figure was 20 current patients. The predicted number at the end of the year was200. This is in spite of the AIDS program.

He was offering free condoms and AIDS testing to anyone who wanted to visit the centre.

This means that, at the current rate of spread, in ten years time 20,000 patients will have AIDS. This is only in the Watabung area. Imagine what the problem is over the whole of PNG.

I wonder if the Ausaid budget for aids programs will increase by 1000 per cent each year.

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