World Bank says PNG business owners frustrated
One of the authors of a report into violence in Papua New Guinea says the country's security situation is forcing businesses to rely on private security companies.
One of the authors of a report into violence in Papua New Guinea says the country's security situation is forcing business owners to rely on private security companies or face victimisation.
A World Bank Group report has found eight out of 10 businesses in Papua New Guinea are suffering substantial losses due to the country's high rates of crime and violence.
One of the authors of the report, Alys Willman, told Bridget Tunnicliffe there is a feeling of frustration among the private sector that the Government could be doing more.
ALYS WILLMAN: In our survey we found 81 percent of businesses said their decisions were affected by the law and order situation and in our town hall meetings and our interviews that we had with them they talked about how everyone loses in this situation. So the businesses have to think about the crime and violence situation when they want to diversify to different products, they might not be able to protect their inventory so they don't diversify to new products which means consumers don't get more selection. They're not able to expand into new geographical areas because they can't ensure the products will arrive safely so there are clients and consumers in those regions that don't have access to these products and those high prices get passed down to the consumers because not only do they have fewer products to choose from but the products that are available cost more. There are also new businesses that never open their doors because they can't afford the security cost upfront to be able to protect their business as it grows and that's not to say anything of the jobs also that are not created because businesses are not able to open their doors or expand.
BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: So it's deterring people from setting up businesses?
BT: Is there a feeling that the Government is doing enough to try and combat crime and violence?
AW: I think on the part of the private sector there is a general frustration that the Government is not taking it seriously enough and in several ways. One is a surveillance system that would even allow us to know the scale of the problem and where the problem is most intense right? Because we know that anywhere that you go, crime and violence are not spread evenly across a country or a population, it tends to concentrate in hotspots and you need good data to be able to know where the problem is most intense and that helps you target your resources more effectively and Papua New Guinea has not built an effective surveillance system so far that would allow them to be able to target their resources more effectively. The other criticism was really in the growth of the private security sector. That is really the elephant in the room for Papua New Guinea's law and order problem. No one knows how big that sector is, no one knows how many people are employed in it, the ways in which it overlaps with the formal law and order sector are really not well understood and companies spoke to us about feeling trapped, they felt like they had to hire private security guards because they couldn't necessarily depend on the police but they also knew that in some ways, hiring private security was actually undermining the longterm stability that they would like to see in order to grow their businesses in PNG.
BT: Is there a feeling that the Government is sort of relying on these security firms? And that maybe as a result they're not putting as many resources as they could into the police force?
AW: I think it's hard to say, I think it's a mix. One thing is that the security situation continues to deteriorate and companies have to protect their investments so the option is to hire private security and now everybody is hiring private security so if you don't hire private security you're going to be victimised. But then you have situations where the security guards themselves are fighting for territory and causing law and order disruptions themselves and there's no regulation. There is a body that is intended to regulate that industry but it's traditionally been pretty weak and it's hard to know exactly, like I said, the scale of the sector, how big it is and what's actually going on there.
BT: This is the kind of thing that there is no easy fix for but are there some practical things that the Government could do to go some way towards combatting the problem in the short term, in the next, one to three to five years?
AW: I think there are, I mentioned before that there are a lot of private companies that have taken individual intitatives that could be built upon, those could be connected, there could be knowledge sharing between those initiatives. There's also the issue of building a good information system to understand where the problem is most intense and where resources need to be targeted, so improving data collection and data sharing across agencies, not just the police but the health sector and the justice sector, could go a long way. The other area is understanding the youth violence problem. There's so much talk about these rascal gangs but no one has really taken the time to understand who these young people are, where they're coming from, why they do what they do, and why many youth don't get involved in violence. I mean we just don't know the answers to those questions and the answers to those questions are important in devising an appropriate policy response. And probably the other aspect is to think about a different type of policing. What is happening now is not working and so thinking about a more community orientated approach, policing in Papua New Guinea that could address some of these social dynamics.
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