LUFA - There's disagreement about whether Papua New Guinea is rich or impoverished.
Many people, including leaders like Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and current prime minister James Marape, support the view that we are in fact rich.
Many others, including myself, differ. We believe Papua New Guinea is a poor nation.
Perhaps the difference in opinion stems from the definition of ‘rich’ that each group subscribes to.
Let me refer to the two groups as Group_Rich and Group_Poor, where the former supports the rich PNG view and the latter supports the poor PNG view.
The Group_Rich definition of being rich sees Papua New Guinea as a nation with fertile land that sustains lush tropical forests and great biodiversity.
In their eyes its land has, without fail, fed its growing population for over 40,000 years, perhaps 50,000.
In recent times, minerals and hydrocarbon wealth have been discovered across the breath and length of the land, giving it the unofficial title of an ‘island of gold floating on a sea of oil’.
Simply put, in this more optimistic view, the land provides sufficient free food and its people own the land and everything on and in it.
So by virtue of this, Papua New Guinea is rich.
The Group_Poor definition of being rich is very different. It perceives Papua New Guinea as a part of the modern world that relies on complex international trade and economics.
Its place and value in this world is determined by international standards and rules. And these set out clearly the criteria that defines how rich or poor a nation (and its people) really are.
Simply put, a nation is rich if its people not only have assets like natural resources, education, skills and capital, but are able to meet their basic daily needs of health, education, water, and food security without difficulty.
Now, if one uses the Group_Rich definition alone, Papua New Guinea is a filthy rich country. But is this true?
Consider the plight of countless people seeking medical treatment who die trying. How about those people who continue to face countless adversities just to get an education despite the low quality it comes with?
Do we even care about the long walks mothers and daughters take almost every day to fetch water for drinking and cooking?
Perhaps the most honourable thing to say is not that Papua New Guinea is rich, nor is it poor, but rather challenged in every way possible.
We have yet to find a way forward.