Participation of citizens in growth seen as key to PNG's future
The UNDP says Papua New Guinea's goal of being one of the top 50 ranked countries in the human development index by 2050 requires citizens to work together for the good of the nation.
Papua New Guinea's goal of being one of the top 50 ranked countries in the human development index by 2050 requires citizens to work together for the good of the nation.
That's according to the United Nations Development Programme's local representative Roy Trivedy.
The UNDP's latest country report on PNG notes that despite its remarkable economic growth of the past decade on the back of extractive industries, employment and social conditions for PNG citizens remains parlous.
Roy Trivedy told Johnny Blades it's not too late for PNG to convert its resource wealth into sustainable benefits for its citizens.
ROY TRIVEDY: It's precisely at boom times, when the economy is doing well, when the sun is shining that you set the foundations in your house, you know if you are building a house or you are building a nation. So getting your systems right, you know, investing in better public financial management, ensuring that you are tackling corruption, ensuring that some of the base things around investment decisions, you're really starting to put in to bust poverties. Strengthening your institutions because in the future once the extractives boom starts to wane, you are not going to be able to rely on that and you need to have diversified your economy, you need to have strong institutions that can both be world class in their own right, in whatever they are doing et cetera. Trying to make sure that the people of PNG have the right skills and capabilities to respond to a globalised world in which we are going to have to compete much more and the report also has this sub-narrative which runs along and says 'look these are some choices that leaders need to make now on some of these things because if we don't make these decisions now we are going to miss the boat on some of this'.
JOHNNY BLADES: One of those key foundations which people have been talking about for a long time is the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund [SWF]. What do you think of what this Government has done to set this thing up?
RT: When we launched this report, the Minister for Planning, Charles Abel, he shared with us the fact that you know the legislation has now been tabled in Parliament on the Sovereign Wealth Fund so it is going to go ahead.
One of the remarks I made at the launch of this report is that I think that the country is missing a trick because if I go and talk to most people, either at national level or provincial level and certainly in villages, nobody can actually tell you what the trade-offs are - how should the SWF be designed and so on and I think we should be having a broader public debate about how you construct a SWF that supports people in making the right decisions, investment decisions now, but also guarantees people future generations and I think there are probably only a handful of people, or slightly more, in PNG who really understand all this and I think that by not having the public debate and the discussion means that the majority of Papua New Guineans are left in a blind spot - they do not know all these things. I think having the public discussion, getting some of those options out in the public domain, discussing them and then having the legislation which starts to say 'here is what leaders in this country, based on everything they have heard from the public, this is how we are proposing to construct the SWF and we will monitor it over time' and so on and that will put us in a much better place.
JB: PNG is at a juncture isn't it. It has had this amazing growth for a decade or so. Do you think expect PNG will make good or could it lapse into something sort of far worse in terms of the human development outcomes?
RT: We think it is at this critical juncture and key decisions need to be made and those decisions don't just need to be made by leaders here and it is not just about government - part of this is every PNG citizen needs to take more responsibility for development of the country. There are positives to build on, as I have said. I have just got in front of me a small fact from the paper which says between 1990 and 2009 in Porgera, the mine that has been set up there, Porgerans received 597 million kina in compensation, wages, dividends and royalties. You know, that's averaging 3900 plus kina per Porgeran resident. You know, those are some of the things that really improve people's lives. About making sure that the money you are investing, you know we are building the systems for the future, we're trying to support research and development, trying to build skills and capacities among our people in the country and preparing them for the future.
JB: What you are suggesting though in a way would require a whole change of mindset because in PNG tribalism is just so prevalent - people don't necessarily care about the nation - PNG the nation state - it's more about wantoks and so forth.
RT: And that is a really important point which is again one of the bigger issues that the report flags is the need to have a much clearer, national and regional development strategy. At the moment what we have in PNG and we are struggling with, the country as a whole, is that people are taking initiatives, local people are taking initiatives, but as one person, that was consulted in this whole process and it has gone through a huge consultation exercise, said, you know part of our difficulty is if you are miles away from Port Moresby we have the Waigani factor. We make decisions here that we think are in our best interests, we send through and things are not acted upon and that leads to a breakdown in trust between national level work, and provincial and district level work. The future for PNG has to be everybody working together towards a common vision. The country has set out a clear vision of trying to be in the top 50 human development index countries in the world by 2050 - to get us there we need everybody to work together and that includes international partners bringing the best experience into PNG and taking some of the really good things that are happening in the country out and telling them to the world.
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