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PNG one of world’s most ‘fragile’ nations says report

Fragile-statesJACKSON GOTHE-SNAPE | SBS | Extracts

THREE of the world's most fragile countries are on Australia’s doorstep, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that implores the international community to maintain its aid commitments.

The OECD’s States of 'Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence' report identifies 56 countries or regions as being fragile based on how exposed they are to risks like economic shock, youth unemployment, disease, corruption, crime and violence.

Three of Australia’s closest neighbours - Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste (East Timor) - are assessed as fragile.

PNG is rated as more fragile than countries that have endured recent coup attempts such as Egypt, Libya and Burkina Faso.

The report calls on the international community to provide adequate, long-term development assistance for these countries and focus funding on the real drivers of fragility. It also wants countries to develop better financing strategies.

According to the report, PNG and Timor-Leste are more vulnerable to political risks, while the Solomon Islands most substantial vulnerability is to environmental and health risks.

Together with Indonesia, these three countries represent the largest four recipients of Australian aid. PNG was given $554.5 million in 2015-16, the Solomon Islands $175.9 million and Timor-Leste $95.3 million.

Despite ongoing conflict from West Papuans over Indonesian rule, Indonesia was not deemed fragile by the OECD.

Although the Australian government has cut the aid budget in recent years, the cuts have not significantly affected allocations to these countries.

In the 2014-15 budget, which reduced spending by $650 million, there was an increase in the outlay to PNG.


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Peter J Yearwood

This is no doubt the view from the gated compound. Yes, PNG democracy is flawed. So is American democracy as has just been so vividly displayed.

PNG has maintained a constitutional system of government for more than 40 years, quite a good record for a newly independent state.

There are sources of stability which outsiders usually overlook.

1. The bulk of the population still survives comfortably in the countryside, where there has not been the long tradition of oppressive social relations that there has been in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. This gives ordinary people control over their interactions with the modern world in a way which is probably unique. (See the works of Tim Anderson for more on this.)

2. While PNG is a very violent society, this does not operate at the political level. For the better part of a year PNG had two competing governments. In most places this would have led to civil war; here life went on pretty normally.

3. There is a surprising degree of respect for the idea of the rule of law.

4. In the cities there is a considerable degree of intermarriage across tribal lines, adding to a strong sense of Melanesian identity. PNG has problems, but I am more impressed by its robustness than its fragility.

Chris Overland

Across the world, our politicians collectively share a continuing fascination with the idea of what I call "big bang" solutions to economic problems.

Whether it is the Trumpian idea of massive debt funded infrastructure spending and drastically lowered corporate taxation or the eerily similar 5 year plans that were the hallmark of communist countries, the basic notion is that big spending necessarily leads to big benefits.

Sadly, history is not on the side of those who promote truly grand plans for economic development.

Such plans can seem to work for quite a while, especially in the early stages when money is poured into whatever new giant projects the government is promoting.

However, like a heavy night out with your mates, you are going to wake up in the morning with the mother of all hang overs, a significantly lighter wallet and not much idea where all your money went. Perhaps it was at the pub or, more likely, at the Strip Club?

The truth is that truly solid and lasting economic development happens mostly on a small scale and usually over a relatively long period of patient development, with a lot of problem solving in between.

This is not a glamorous process. You cannot put plaques on small scale developments and get good photo opportunities from it. It is a bit boring, so given the short attention span of the average politician, it is no surprise that they are not really that interested in it.

In colonial times, the administration tried to promote development in PNG mostly on a small scale basis. The theory was that by seed funding small projects at the village level, it would be possible to stimulate modest but sustainable development in the long term.

It was not that there was no interest in big projects, but no-one seriously believed that these would necessarily lead to large developmental gains at the village level.

So, like many kiaps, I carried out area studies during which I laboriously counted things like coconut, cocoa and rubber trees, as well as cows, chickens, pigs and even baby crocodiles. The aim of all this counting was, in part at least, to try to measure the extent to which development was happening on the ground.

Now, so it seems, such distinctly unglamorous activity is beneath the dignity of either politicians or bureaucrats in PNG. Better by far to foster large scale forestry (otherwise known as ecological vandalism) or gas production or mining, where benefits flow into the treasury or various pockets in great abundance.

It can come as no surprise to anyone knowing this background that PNG is now being described as one of the most fragile countries in the world.

It amazes me that Papua New Guineans continue to endure a succession of venal, corrupt and incompetent governments without someone, somewhere deciding that a revolution is needed.

Whatever his faults, the late Fidel Castro at least attempted to replace one such government with one ostensibly aimed at raising his people from abject poverty.

It was a noble aim foiled by the inherent contradictions within the socialist ideal, plus the usual array of ideologues and idiots who somehow gravitate to the top in so-called revolutionary governments.

One can only hope that the Gary Juffas of the world finally claw their way into power when enough voters catch onto the massive fraud that the lamb flap and SP bearing local MP has all too often perpetrated.

Jeffrey Elapa

Yes we have problems. Every country in the world has problems like corruption and so forth.

The aid development funds of Australia are boomerang aid. 75 percent of the Ausaid goes back to your own expensive consultants and firms and there is nothing to show on the ground.

How can you expect change when you consume your own aid funds?

Sounds like your making excuses to me, Jeffrey - KJ

Daniel Doyle

Until the government and its people are focussed on the real drivers of development little can be expected in terms of national development regardless of how much aid is given.

Caspart Yoanes

Papua New Guinea is by far one of the dumbest, stupidest and useless countries in the wide world. It is never improving even after we are given so much aid over decades.

Peter Pirape

Other than risks associated with climate change, corruption, accessibility to decent health care & education, thought with introduction of OLIPAC that has provided political stability within the country over the last 15 years appears to be a solid indicator of political stability thus minimising the risk associated with politics on the economy and country.

SBS may have a different criteria of measuring political risks just like all other measures it has used against PNG.

SBS was reporting on a statement by the OECD, which is a credible interantional body and which offered a much clearer analysis than your apologia, Peter - KJ

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