Mi no save gut long dispela ‘go pinis’
While Mendi burns, Peter O'Neill hides out in Moresby

Informal economy keeps us going as our country struggles

Street vendors
Selling convenience goods, sweets, cold water, soft drink and betel nut - all part of PNG's informal economy


HONOLULU - Luckily Papua New Guinea has an informal economy that sustains the life of citizens despite an economic recession that is badly affecting the country.

With the sale of items like buai, daka, cold-water, ice-block and the like anywhere that’s convenient without regulation on trade, PNG commerce keeps going as usual.

We’re lucky to have an informal economy where everyone is minding their own business and earning an invome.

Most of these people hardly notice the economic recession which mostly concerns only the working class people and those who pay tax from their wages and salaries.

That said, however, everyone pays GST to access goods and services in urban areas and such people are not excluded from the overall economic cycle.

If we were a country without a large informal economic sector, we would face a different scenario. Most of us would be homeless or starving.

But take the informal sector out of the picture, and the recession in PNG is real. Working parents, boyfriends, girlfriends and wantoks are burdened with expectations for assistance and requests for money.

The best we all can do is to keep afloat with little we earn and to try to make sure our families are OK.

We Papua New Guineans have a tendency to accept this and live each day by luck and dinao [borrowing] until the next fortnight when the cycle continues with family commitments and customary obligations.

We really need to teach each other about the realities of our economy and try to be prudent with our money and stop that reckless spending beyond what we can afford.

There is a gap between the elites and the normal citizens of PNG in which cash plays a major role.

The cashed-up elites are on the upper end to do everything they can with their money; including making more money in every way they can.

On the other hand, the ordinary citizens and honest income earners face the realities of living a life with more expensive goods and services.

The prices seem to increase each week and people have to sacrifice much (or all) of what they earn just to get by.

Having a decent family meal is not an everyday thing but families that on most days resort to cheaper meals like hard scones and cordials or cold water.

Children are going to school without breakfast and lunch, affecting their studies and depriving the future leaders of this nation of the learning they need.

The hospitals are running out of drugs and people are dying of curable diseases.

These are very worrisome issues for the present and future of PNG.

Adding to the economic recession is that major PNG companies and investors are laying-off their employees or severely rationing their capital. We have significant unemployment which we should be managing with prudent judgement and effective policies.

This is not helped by the cheap imported labour from Asian countries taking jobs which our own people could do as PNG citizens are left on the streets jobless.

Papua New Guinea is a fine country with fine people but it seems to me we all living each day by chance and not worried about what is actually happening with our economy, with our future and with our children's future.

The magic of our informal economy keeps us going each day, and we can be thankful for that, but the reality is our country is sinking visibly beneath the weight of the predicted resource curse despite once having such high hopes for the mining sector.

Let us take care, take control, be wise and, at the very least, try to manage our incomes cautiously at this time.


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