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Civil servants - Making financial pressure a way of life


Maket meri 3PAPUA NEW GUINEA has a plethora of “money-rain” institutions and human cash mules (maket meri) that will give loans to any working class man or woman in need of immediate cash.

The “money-rain” institutions are good at exaggerating the benefits of getting loans through advertisements and luring gullible workers into financial bondage. The interest rates range between 150 - 200 % in most cases, even though they are repaid over an extended period of time. 

The maket meri set their interest rate at K1 for every K2 borrowed and are easily accessible on the streets.  Not much paper work is involved.  With this challenge from the maket meri, the “money-rain” institutions have adjusted their operations to give loans within a few minutes.

Some of the things that drive public servants and others to seek loans are pressures from their tribesmen and families back in the villages and settlements. A typical PNG community will have first menstrual feasts, compensations, clan warfare expenses, funerals, school fees and bride prices and so forth that each member is expected to contribute to in cash or kind. Nowadays, with the aid of mobile phones, workers are constantly bombarded with demands, even for the funerals of stillborn babies.

But not only that, over half the public servants and workers are polygamists and the women’s families also have highs and lows that demand contributions too. In Melanesian culture, polygamists have to show their manhood by dishing out huge amounts of cash to the wives’ clans. The accolade the polygamist receives is like a short ego-orgasm.  

However, when the polygamist returns to earth, it dawns on him that his debt from all these commitments and cash handouts are soaring. At that point the wives normally get a good battering and a volcano erupts at home to the amusement of the neighbours.

Wait on, half of these public servants and workers also love drinking beer with their peers and playing poker machines with their concubines. They have to find money for that too. Add rentals and daily food rations for their wives and children and one can see the drain of energy in their eyes from pursuing their male egos.  

Maket meri in actionMany female public servants and workers also take out high interest loans.  A woman working in Vulupinidi Haus was grabbed and dumped on her head by a Tari maket meri in front of the building one day.

While the woman was gasping for air on the pavement, the market meri announced to the spectators that the woman had borrowed K800 seven months ago and had avoided her since.

The sturdy Tari lady had her right foot on the throat of the public servant and was pressing hard. The prey was gasping for air and was agonisingly humiliated. Everybody knows that market mules are dangerous to deal with but some people wish to dice with death.

Loan obsessed public servants and workers are adults with a supposedly sharp rational capacity, so they should be able to plan, budget and manage within their means. How can someone who earns K27 000 per annum spend K40 000 per annum? That is irrational. The difference between K27 000 and K40 000 is K13 000 and is called financial pressure and the difference is found through “money-rain” institutions and maket meris on the streets.

But it comes with a huge price because the interest is triple the normal rate if they borrow from the “money-rain” institutions and the principal is multiplied twice if they borrow from the maket meris.  In reality, they are looking at forking out K19 500 to K26 000 as loan repayments. This is a huge burden that the public servant or worker is bringing upon himself or herself.  

There are often scenes in Port Moresby government and private enterprise offices where people witness a worker being bundled out by his or her collar to a police car.  Their loan debts force these people to go to work with only K5.00 in their pocket to cover their bus fares and betel nut or smokes. They don’t have a decent lunch. Half of them have noodles for lunch. The wrinkled and worn clothes they wear are signs of a heavily drained public servant or worker.

Some of them literally work for no pay because they take loans from four or five different financial institutions and human cash mules.  These people literally receive nothing or very little because their fortnightly pay continuously goes to repaying debts. They have no joy and enthusiasm for work so they come in for three days and take two days off due to the pressure of their debts.

Their wives and children take refuge in shelters provided by relatives or tribesmen in settlements.  As pressures on the family and from the financial institutions mount, public servants use government hours to do private “consultancies” for landowners and any Tom, Dick and Harry that want a drummed up proposal or court affidavit and are willing to pay a pint for it.

The end result is obvious. There is less productivity from the depressed and debt burdened public servants and other workers. The ripple of it also affects the family unit and the worker tries to halt his self- inflicted agony with state or company resources and the civil society is held ransom.

The government must ban public servants from getting loans from the “money-rain” institutions and the human cash mules. Sensible free enterprise companies should do the same. 

With the current trend, the debt burdened workers will continue to only deliver only one year’s work every three years.


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Awel Steven

The ordinary people do not care about what the government is doing. Their lives are entirely dependent on the land and the informal business they do. This is why people won't rise up to debate on certain unfavorable decision the government make.

Those already working in education, private and government departments fear of their jobs been lost if they have to rise up against the government. Thus they ignore those decisions.

The public servants are poorly paid. Most frequent absenteeism is common. Recent sites report that public servants are now frequently out of the office during the days. We need to find out why this is happening.

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