JOSEPH TUAN VIET CAO
BOMANA - After saying morning mass one day, I was preparing my breakfast when a couple from Laloki Village dropped by. The man, in his forties, told me his problem.
He is a member of Nasfund, the national superannuation fund, and eligible to withdraw money. So he needs to fill in a form and it is required that I, as his parish priest, confirm the information with my signature and parish seal.
He left the parish house but returned at noon. He told me that the people in the Nasfund office wanted him to obtain a reference letter from me.
I was surprised and asked to see what other papers he had in relation to this application for funds. I found a letter from his employer, a police clearance, bank statements, and a paper from the courts, among others. I provided him with a letter and he went on his way.
Around 5 pm, he came back and asked for a copy of my national identity card (NID). I have written many reference letters but no one had previously asked for my NID.
In the letter, I had already provided my phone number and email for confirmation. I was so sorry for that man, I made a copy of my NID and gave it to him.
At noon the following day, the man returned yet again and told me he was still unable to withdraw his money. The people in the office had asked him to fill out a new form. They said that the old one was dirty. He filled out a new form and I signed it again.
My parishioner hasn’t returned so I assume that at last he was able to get his funds. But the experience did make me think.
From his village house in Central Province, getting to the Nasfund office took two bus rides. From the office to where I live is another two bus rides. I don’t know how much money my friend spent on bus fares, and how many hours it all took, but the process is unimaginable.
Many other processes in Papua New Guinea are similarly complex, whether getting a bank account, or applying for an NID, a passport, a visa or a driving licence. It is more complicated than anyone can imagine. And it is very time consuming.
Some people have to wait for two or three years before they get their NID and passport. During that period, they often have to go to the office to follow up and check. They often have to apply more than once. Students miss out on study opportunities and workers on work opportunities.
Papua New Guineans are a patient people and used to the unexpected. But, in this digital age, the government surely needs to do something to speed up everyday systems.
Joseph Tuan Viet Cao is a Catholic priest at the Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Bomana. His parish includes 13 chapels in the National Capital District and Central Province