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For his credibility, Marape needs to gaol O’Neill

Let’s make our country more self-sufficient


PORT MORESBY - Last month, I went for an interview for a fellowship program to study and work in the United States for a year.

One of the interviewers was interested in something I had stated on my application. It was about a meeting I attended in Tehran, Iran, in June.

“So you’ve been to Iran? I don’t think I’ll ever see that part of the world. What’s it like there?” he asked.

I hesitated to answer that question, conscious of the tension between the US and Iran. I didn’t want to say anything that might jeopardise my chances of selection.

“Iran is one of the oldest civilisations,” I responded carefully. “After Egypt, Persia (includes Iran) was the second world power. A lot of the buildings in Tehran are built from brick in ancient architecture style.

“The people are friendly and I love the traditional Iranian kebabs. But what interested me the most is that Iran has developed a resistant economy.”

“That’s interesting,” the interviewer said.

Interesting indeed! Four decades of sanctions have made Iran more creative to generate solutions to maintain trade and the economy.

It now produces its own cars, computers and industrial equipment. The government has invested a lot in local scientists and engineers to achieve the current fast rate of scientific development.

During the Bougainville crisis, the PNG government enforced an economic blockade affecting the supply of medicines and basic store goods to the province.

The Bougainvilleans relied on traditional knowledge of herbal medicine to cure sicknesses and treat wounds. They even produced diesel for their vehicles from coconut oil.

These two scenarios show us that sanctions and economic blockades can be a blessing in disguise. They can force people to pursue sustainable, locally driven solutions to the challenges facing communities.

PNG is largely a consumer of imported products and has not accorded importance to innovation as a catalyst for economic growth.

To have a ‘resistant economy’, we need to substitute imported products with PNG made products. A strong manufacturing sector is crucial for economic growth.

A resistant economy not only encourages economic self-reliance. It also promotes a knowledge-based economy and the reliance on domestic or local capacities.

This means that we should not rely on foreign advisors and consultants. Instead, we should send our best students to study at the best universities in Australia, the UK or the US to specialise in areas that will reduce our reliance of foreign expertise.

We can’t continue referring patients to hospitals in Australia, the Philippines or Singapore for specialist treatment.

We should train our doctors to be cancer specialists, neurosurgeons or heart surgeons and equip them so that they can provide the best healthcare for patients’ right here in PNG.

So if our good prime minister aspires to make PNG the ‘richest, black Christian nation’, he should start by imposing a ban on  importing rice and other food crops which can be grown locally like brown onions, carrots and oranges.

Perhaps, we could also try growing apples and grapes in PNG too.


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