PAPUA NEW GUINEA’s failure to capitalise on its natural resource boom has been described by award winning blogger Martyn Namorong as the curse of the rent seekers.
Namorong highlighted this today when he presented a paper at the Australian National University in Canberra stressing that corrupt behaviour has resulted in many lost opportunities for PNG.
Namorong was critical of the way those entrusted with the nation’s wealth have not created opportunities for the participation of broader society in the resource boom.
“If you look at the system we have in place,” he said, “the wealth of a nation of six million is controlled by a few powerful individuals and entities.
“In theory these parties are supposed to distribute the wealth equitably but that has not been the case.”
Namorong said that what transpired was the creation of a predatory elite class who capitalise on the general population’s apathy and ignorance to squeeze out the nation’s resource rent.
“This predatory elite does not just exist in Waigani but also in the provinces where natural resources are being exploited,” he said.
Namorong suggested that the way out of the curse of the rent seekers was for broader economic development, particularly focussing on empowering the rural majority through smallholder agriculture.
His presentation was well received by the academic staff of ANU along with staff from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Ombudsman Commission and the Australian Federal Police.
Namorong, who is currently on a two week anti-corruption study tour sponsored by the United Nations, later held private talks with George Masri of the Ombudsman Commission (photo).