NOOSA –Papua New Guinea has underestimated its population by nearly half, research by United Nations and British experts have found.
Previous estimates, based on the last census 12 years ago, had put the population at about nine million.
But now The Australian newspaper reports that the figure of 17 million people halves the average income for each Papua New Guinean at K4,328 a year “putting it in the same class as Africa’s struggling African states such as Sudan and Senegal”.
The newspaper said the PNG government was so sensitive about the new estimate that it refused to allow it to be published locally.
Most of the growth is thought to be in the Highlands, many parts of which are being torn apart by tribal warfare.
PNG prime minister James Marape told The Australian he doubted the new study.
Marape said he believed the population was possibly 10 or 11 million but conceded he may be wrong and that even his lower estimate “is too high for the size of my economy”.
“Whether it is 17 million, or 13 million or 10 million, the fact remains that my country’s formal economy is so small, job availability is so small, the resource envelope is so small, I cannot adequately educate, provide health cover, build infrastructures and create the enabling law and order environment,” Marape said.
The newspaper also reported Paul Barker, the respected director of PNG’s Institute of National Affairs, saying that large areas of the country were effectively ungoverned, relying on churches and traditional tribal structures for community cohesion.
“Formal sector employment has been virtually nil over the past 10 years,” Barker said. “It’s causing big frustrations for young people in particular, whose aspirations of course have grown.
“The other problem is that the government has been chasing its tail trying to provide basic health education and other services,” Barker said.
Thanks to John Greenshields for spotting the article