NOOSA – A study of people’s attitudes towards government and other issues in Papua New Guinea has revealed an outcome that would surprise very few readers of PNG Attitude.
The research showed public mistrust and dissatisfaction with government at the national level as well as a sense that PNG is “heading in the wrong direction”.
The study was commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and conducted in the first half of last year.
Its purpose was to identify Papua New Guineans attitudes towards governance, social and political issues and how they accessed information.
It was conducted in Central, Morobe, Western Highlands, West New Britain, West Sepik and Manus provinces at a politically volatile time as former prime minister Peter O’Neill was tipped out of office.
The main issues underpinning people’s mistrust and dissatisfaction included corruption, misuse of public funds, bad leadership, a declining economy and poor delivery of government services.
Concerns about deteriorating infrastructure, health and law and order were common across all provinces.
More than half of the respondents had problems about personal safety and said that domestic violence, sexual assault and street crime had worsened in recent years.
The difference between urban and rural experience of increased violence was not great, with 60% of urban people and 50% of rural people saying crime was worse.
There was general public scepticism about the qualities of leaders at all levels. Most people designated as leaders were given low levels of trust and respect.
Church leaders were the exception to this sentiment and people who operated with Christian values were valued.
When asked about the qualities of a good leader, participants identified people who inspired confidence and trust and exercised self-control,
They said the leadership attributes they admired were humility, objectivity, patience and kindness.
They also valued leaders who were “good listeners”, who were transparent and honest, who made good decisions, who delivered on promises and who had a clear vision for the future.
Very few people felt they had the power to exert much influence on government decision-making at any level.
Those who said they particularly lacked influence were women, people of less education, poorer people and people outside urban areas.
While three-quarters of men said they felt free to express their opinions, only 58% of women felt the same way. There was a view that, outside the family, women’s freedom of expression was impeded.
The research showed a high level of recognition of the importance of participating in democracy and in civic engagement. But, when it came to elections, a majority said elections have little positive impact on their community.
The church stands out as the single most trustworthy source of information for most people. The next most trusted sources were newspapers, radio and television.
Social media were generally not regarded as trustworthy, with only 40% of respondents saying they were. It was of interest that many respondents spoke of journalism as a trusted and respected profession in PNG.