Critics argue roading upgrades in rural PNG should be focus
A US$315 million road improvement programme in Port Moresby is expected to transform Papua New Guinea's capital but not everyone believes the government is spending money in the right place.
A US $315 million road improvement programme in Port Moresby is expected to transform Papua New Guinea's capital but not everyone believes the government is spending money in the right place.
The improvements will ease traffic congestion and open up new areas of the city, but critics point out that the vast majority of the population lives outside of Port Moresby.
They say money should be spent to improve roads in the provinces where most of the country's economic activity takes place.
Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:
The CEO of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce, David Conn, says gridlock is having a big impact on the city's commerce. He says while some business owners are lamenting the disruption that will be caused by the work, they are looking forward to the long-term benefits.
DAVID CONN: Some areas of the city have become terribly congested in the last couple of years and a trip that normally would have taken 10 minutes is taking half an hour. Some of the trips from just out of the city normally have taken 20 minutes now can take one and a half to two hours if you do it at the wrong time of the day.
Seven major roading projects within Port Moresby are either underway or are in the planning stages. The city manager Leslie Alu says about 40 percent of the road in the Gordon Industrial area has been completed, and the road from Six Mile Market to the airport is also progressing well. Mr Alu says a flyover and carriageway, a first for any Pacific Island country, will form a vital conduit from the Jacksons Airport to Waigani. He says it will be a huge improvement.
LESLIE ALU: It will definitely help with the traffic congestion that we are facing now mainly because we do not have a large network of roads that connect one suburb to another suburb to an alternate route so these major road upgrades will definitely help ease the traffic congestion that we are facing right now.
But Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Tobias Kulang, says the government needs to put more money into roading infrastructure outside of Port Moresby where far greater economic gains could be achieved. Mr Kulang says it doesn't make sense to allocate such large sums on the city, given about 85 percent of the population lives in rural areas. He says there is a dire need to increase employment and engage rural populations in economic development.
TOBIAS KULANG: It's good to profile the cities but after that what kind of value do you generate so the country is in dire need to increase employment rates and engage the rural populous meaningfully in the economic development of the country.
Tobias Kulang says upgrading the Highlands Highway, which connects several major cities, would be a better investment. A researcher from PNG's National Research Institute Peter Anga recently looked at the deteriorating state of the Highlands Highway which is subject to frequent landslides and washouts. Mr Anga says the highway is a lifeline for thousands of people and if it continues to be neglected, will lead to economic and environmental problems.
PETER ANGA: It will affect the road for people to do their business activities and for the environment it will affect the water or the nearby creeks, and the aquatic life may be affected.
The improvements are expected to be completed well before Port Moresby hosts the Pacific Games in July 2015.
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