Claims LNG project could cause Hela unrest
Trouble in Hela ... and a K20 cry for help

Is Rev Malthus’s theory relevant to PNG?


Essay_on_the_Principle_of_Population MORE THAN 200 years ago, the Rev Thomas Malthus wrote about the dangers of population growth in his famous treatise, An essay on the principle of population (1798). 

Malthus maintained that one need only look at human history to understand that populations will eventually outstrip the means to maintain themselves. "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man", he wrote.

Living at a time of strife and turmoil due to the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution and the American Revolution, Malthus took a pragmatic view of the world and warfare, famine and disease.

Given that one cannot change human nature, as a clergyman Malthus believed the perils of overpopulation were divinely imposed to promote ‘virtuous behaviour’.

The contentious Corn Laws had been introduced to protect British agriculture but had impacted severely on the price of food. There was plenty of labour and wages fell to the point where it was again economical to grow more food, whereupon the cost of food dropped.

However a never ending cycle appeared to be inevitable. Once food prices were reduced, the population increased past the point where food again became scarce. Then the population diminished through misery and hunger.

PNG’s population of nearly seven million has doubled over the last 30 years and is set to double again. Some people are now expressing doubts as to the nation’s ability to sustain future population growth when traditional methods of food production cannot produce large surpluses.

The imminent introduction of profits from the sale of LNG may well be pushing rental prices in Moresby through the proverbial roof. Yet this is another example of local supply and demand.

If the price of food also increases due to demand outstripping supply, one could expect further adverse social pressures on those who can least afford them.

Perhaps the new PNG government should try not to be blinded by the glow from the LNG project. Planning for PNG’s future is now more important than ever.


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Paul Oates

All the best intentions in the world won't stop over population. That is the lesson of history. Official advice from a Family Planning organisation is of no use unless it is rigidly adhered to. As a PNG Minister is reported to have said publically, family planning starts in the bedroom.

I remember where a whole PNG warehouse of condoms was left to become useless as they passed their use by date instead of being issued and distributed. This was because no one officially knew how to undertake the process.

Actions speak louder than words. Wantoks. Exactly what has changed?

philip kai morre

rev Thomas Malthus insights is real in Papua new guinea today. population growth is beyond our control because of no laws in place to regulate population growth. even poor people who can not afford to pay school fees for their kids are producing more kids who are venerable to all sorts of problems. population policy and control is long time overdue in png. we need to be strict on 2 or 3 child policy to cope up with economic situation and social problems. teenage pregnancies and early marriage should be discouraged. family planning method at our clinic should educate the family to produce few kids that are manageable.

Paul Oates

Thanks Tomas, it all depends on whether the current leaders of PNG and their supporters are prepared to learn from history.

Clear thinking people like yourself now have a responsibility, like the Taubada of the Lakatoi, to steer your nation in the best direction.

Thomas Gavia

Paul, this is very true of what the Reverend has prophesied if you like about the likely economical impact of what an increasing populace would face. Currently as I write PNG's population growth is at 3% per annum with 10 million plus people already. The number of Tax paying individuals who generate nearly K4 to K5 million for government budget revenue has grown at a very slim rate thus we are seeing only a quarter of the total population paying taxes. 3 quarters of the population are paying other forms of taxes such as the normal GST and the rest are back home surviving on subsistence farming and agriculture. The size of the chewing cake that was used to be distributed at your time suited the PNG populace and financial pocket that was intended to stimulate the economy to maximize returns for the government. In other words money was used by the government where the government strategically knew it would make money in the long term, which it did get high returns. Fast forward 30 years later, the size of the cake is still the same while the number of mouths to feed has increased dramatically and has created stress on the economy, social and financial aspect of the country as a whole. For the past 10 years, PNG has literally survived on deficit budgets time and again by successive governments amidst decisive options to stimulate and message the economy through conditional borrowings tied to high interest rates. The Oil and Gas industry was intended to be the life saving mechanism
to stabilize or better still save us from this stress, however it too rubbed salt into an already chronic problem. Cost cutting mechanisms have been put in place but have failed drastically to be maintained. SMEs have gained courage to bring financial stability to the country as a whole and individual tax payers but the internal revenue commission from my point of view needs to identify a balance to which it allows SMEs to operate at the same time comply to statutory regulations. All these and some more issues are truly prevalent today. It is truly difficult to say how and where we will be heading in the next 10 to 20 years time given the current situation but we hope the government can maybe go right back to its roots which is Farming and Agriculture because this is really where people like the old kiaps and DPI officers have managed to do their little bit which contributed to the greater and common good of the country.

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