Donald Trump, fear and the Melanesian big man
Is the public service destroying Papua New Guinea?

On electing leaders: whose wrong first, the people or the State?

Michael Dom hsMICHAEL DOM

PAPUA New Guinea may not be a failed state but the State has consistently failed its people.

We are still surviving but how can we thrive? We are responsible for the state we are in.

“Customary land tenure and the subsistence economy cushion’s the majority of the population against poor monetary or fiscal policy or global economic downturns.”

This is one of PNG’s strengths – the fundamental independence of the vast majority of rural farming households. We can still grow much of our own food and provide shelter for our families.

However, this is also a weakness when rural farming households are dependent on the State for essential services such as health, education, transport infrastructure, access to markets and finance facilities for small to medium enterprises.

Urban households are also disempowered when there is a lack of growth in the domestic economy, fewer jobs, less reinvestment into small business and little means for the majority of working class to improve their lot in life.

The State disempowers its people from becoming prosperous therefore even those with the capacity to thrive continue to survive and subsist along with the majority of people who live in remote outposts.

Great opportunity rests in enhancing the development of agricultural production.

A major threat is that individual farmers and farming communities may continue to try to act alone and not band together to foster collective actions within their value chains, for their mutual benefit.

“Papua New Guineans are good at making individual efforts for the collective good. We need to re-ignite our passion and purposely take this personal journey.”

Yes. Grow the grass roots circle of influence and within that sphere a leadership group will emerge because those will be the individuals who consistently act to return the benefits to the collective.

“The changes Papua New Guineans want to see in their lives and communities will come when people act based on what they can do rather than dwell on what they’ve been told they cannot do.”

What we can do is limited only by our imaginations. That’s dependent on individuals.

Next we need to gather the required intelligence. That’s dependent on the collective.

Then we must encourage the desire to succeed. That needs a mutually beneficial goal.

Then we need a smart action plan. That requires cooperation.

But to direct our actions and implement the plan we need good leadership.

Some argue that democracy is a dead horse and that rather we have an autocracy bordering on dictatorship.

But assuredly this latter kind of rule was not a recognisable aspect of PNG’s past Melanesian societies. To the best knowledge of knowledge our societies were egalitarian, independent households, interdependent tribes and clans, mostly hierarchical albeit politically less organised.

We however live in ‘a hybrid of tradition and modernity’.

Interdependence was a characteristic of our ancestor’s tribal life. Why should it be impossible to achieve in our neo-tribal life?

For democracy to flourish in Papua New Guinea we must transcend independence to interdependence.   

The State may have failed its people, but do the people also fail their State?


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Michael Dom

My friend, Ellison, thank you for your kind words. That's agreed, working with the strengths of indigenous people is important in policy development.

Ellison Musimuko

Most Governments do no recognized the power that lies on their indigenous people and most often than not make wrong decisions especially on foreign policies. Therefore, people will always not fail but the state most time fail their own people.
Good thought Don.

Bernard Corden

Every country has the government it deserves - Joseph de Maistre

Michael Dom

Gary Juffa is doing a great job - no one better.

Wish we had more like him.

Paul Oates

Michael and John,

There has never been a better opportunity than to advertise the true situation and educate the people that are being used.

Just look at what Gary Juffa is not just saying but actually doing.

Governor Juffa is setting the benchmark for others to emulate.

Michael Dom

John, your comment strikes at the core of our fiasco, "gullible and ill-educated people and those who are hell-bent of abusing them".

John K Kamasua

Handouts from politicians even through the distribution of the DSIP funds have painted a very bad picture that people are already not capable, and must now wait upon or look around for easier opportunities.

Blame gullible and ill-educated people and those who are hell-bent of abusing them.

Paul Oates

Well Michael, therein lies the rub. To be fully informed clearly enables better decision making.

However if the only options available are a choice between poor or no management then blind Freddy could predict the outcome.

It is clearly better to keep the broad PNG population uniformed if you don't want to have them question any decision or any mistake you make and if your objective is to deceive, gain uncontested power or if you are just a lazy and indolent spiv.

If those who do know what better alternatives there are available but don't publically speak out, who will? The problem in PNG is that any public utterance will of course be looked at through the local cultural prism that has never really altered. It will inevitably meet resistance from those who stand to lose what they have so far gained or hope to gain. PNG's homegrown culture of public shame should then be considered.

The challenge is for those PNGians who do know proven, better ways of managing government and the public service need to be able to translate that knowledge transparently through the PNG cultural prism and and effectively publicize that knowledge.

Outsiders like myself, even given our knowledge and expressed concern for PNG and her people, can only look on and hope we can help in a very limited capacity. The danger is always that it's easy to be critical when one isn't directly involved however there is really no way we can be at the moment.

Poroman, 'Nhil carborundum reducim'

Michael Dom

It's somewhat insulting to think of the mass of my people being so simplistic as to not comprehend what good government and coherent policy is about.

But I'll readily admit that most people are less knowledgeable.

Another way of looking at that is that my people are less informed.

Whose job is it to inform them?

Meanwhile PNG's elite writer's pussy-foot around with organizing a competition - to what ultimate purpose do we write, mere titillation?

Small-scale = community level, small organizations, big differences.

Which is what we hoped the Crocodile Prize would lead to. Well, SWEP was a flop.

Powerful is what writers can be. Wake up.

Paul Oates

A very succinct postulation Ian.

Ian Fraser

Apart from the practical difficulties in voting freely, can we really believe that the mass of people have a realistic notion of what good government, or coherent government policy, could mean?

It seems to be hoping for a lot. Traditional governance wasn't/isn't about development (that is, change), right? So it's not much of a model, even if it weren't manipulated by unscrupulous politicians. The experience of 'government' before and since Independence was really an experience of administration -- public authorities not representing popular choices in any clear way.

So people don't already know, or remember, what government can be. They have to imagine it. Without much in the way of media, or education, or knowledge of the world. It's asking a lot.

Maybe small, or smaller-scale, happy examples? (Oro?) Maybe a really powerfully motivating movement?

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