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Something wrong when PNG’s wealth benefits others

ExploitationARTHUR WILLIAMS

CARDIFF, WALES - I’m a simple person who lived in Papua New Guinea for over 30 years and who feels there is something very wrong with the political system when a very large island nation with a small population and blessed with a super abundance of resources has experts talking about its fragile state.

Indeed why has the former Australian territory of PNG with such an abundance of wealth has depended for over 44 years since independence on Australia for many billions of dollars in grants and other forms of aid.

I would love someone to research how many massive billions have been earned by the various extractive companies over those 44 years plus the billions earned in cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, copra, oil palm in addition to the many billions transferred from tropical logs and the wealth derived from PNG’s huge marine zone fisheries.

Surely the economy of PNG would have been different if past governments had managed all these resources in a properly considered manner.

Instead there was a rush by under-educated and often inexperienced public servants and their political masters to rapidly close poorly considered deals with the very savvy and skilful negotiators of multinational companies well practised in dealing with poorly regulated or blatantly corrupt third world nations.

I can only dream of the many commercial projects that could have benefited the majority of PNG’s people if the early post-colonial elites had not allowed themselves to be blinded by bribes, handouts or promises of Elysium Fields.

One has only to read the media to see how even resource rich provinces have remained for the most part in a pre-independence time warp.

Each day many people in rural villages hear the chainsaws at work in their forests or eat the dust stirred up by huge trucks laden with logs, oil palm and coffee bags while others watch the ships laden with liquefied natural gas leave Moresby every week or logging ships leave isolated beaches laden with their forest plunder.

Yet when they walk the muddy bush tracks or paddle miles to the nearest aid post, these same people find there are no drugs to treat the most common illnesses or medical conditions.

Even basic treatment for eyes and teeth are lacking, and maternal and neo-natal mortality still soars. The children sit at rough-hewn timber desks on earthen floors and read chalked notes on old decaying blackboards. Inap pastaim![I must stop now!]

There must be a better way than this. Waigani, sit down quietly and reconsider that much of the benefit to be derived from Gulf LNG must stay in the Gulf for the benefit of the Gulf people.

The Wafi Golpu and Frieda mines must be carefully re-evaluated and Total and other exploiters told in no uncertain manner that any extraction project must be on PNG’s terms for the well-being of its citizens not distant wealthy shareholders wanting to see excessive returns for their investment in distant lands.

Forest ministers must keep their never-fulfilled decades long promise of banning of round logs exports and no more oil palm must be allowed to denude virgin forests.

Only onshore processing should be allowed of fish caught in PNG’s economic zone. If they don’t like PNG’s conditions, these companies must be encouraged to go elsewhere.

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