SCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country | Edited
LAE - Anyone living in Port Moresby without institutional housing, or support from relatives or parents, knows it’s an absolute nightmare.
Port Moresby is the most expensive city in the Pacific.
The rental price structure is like that in Australia and yet the wages employers’ pay don’t match the cost of living and housing is skewed towards the high end market.
Real estate companies charge a minimum K1,000 - K5,000 a week in rental. The vast majority of Papua New Guineans don’t see that kind of money in a fortnight or even six months.
A salary of between K35,000 and K50,000 is next to impossible to live on if you have a family.
The figure looks great on the payslip. But it can’t pay rent. You can’t save enough unless someone else is paying the rent or your company pays for accommodation.
In Port Moresby, the buying power of an K80,000 a year salary is limited if you pay your own rent. Quality of life diminishes once reality sets in after the first year of work.
It’s a painful reality that many young graduates have to face. What appears to be a big salary is ripped to shreds by the reality of big city life.
In my own case, at one stage, up to 60% of our salaries went to pay rent every fortnight. We were evicted three times because our rent was late. We paid up. But the real estate companies didn’t like it.
Once we lived in a compound where the rent collectors came with bush knives every fortnight to collect payments.
At the end of the fortnight, money was always short. Sometimes food ran out three days before the fortnight’s salary hit the bank. It was frustrating and stressful.
School fees are expensive. They have risen over the years. Sometimes parents can’t send their kids to school because the fees have accumulated from last term. Nobody talks about the difficulties that families face.
Food is expensive. Poor quality food we ignore at Lae Market is sold for exorbitant prices in Port Moresby. People have no choice but to buy it because it adds a bit of variety to their diets.
Who can save money in such an environment?
This is the reality governments don’t talk about. What is large scale investment if our people are paid slave wages or the environment makes their salaries insignificant?
The National Housing Corporation and the evictions it conducts always draws my ire. Housing is a basic need. Yet the corruption in that one organisation continues to rob Papua New Guineans of affordable housing.