Celebrating 47 Years of Failure

Eddie Tanago, Campaign Manager

While we celebrate 47 years of political Independence, we must acknowledge the fact that as a Nation we have failed to fulfil our development aspirations and we should reflect on the reasons why this is so.

Why have our social and economic development outcomes fallen so short of what we dreamed was possible, despite the fact that our Nation is so richly blessed in natural resources?

The answer is that our failures have mainly been caused by successive governments choosing to follow the wrong development model.

Rather than a people-centered approach which was central and promoted in the years leading up to Independence and was enshrined in our Constitution, successive governments have diverted to rely on foreign investment and natural resource extraction as the main economic driver.

This strategy has failed to deliver the promises made by our governments and their advisors, just as our Founding Fathers warned that it would in their Constitutional Planning Report.

PNG has opened numerous large-scale mines, increased export logging, and commercial fishing, and tapped huge oil and gas reserves but the benefits have not trickled down to the people and the resource owners.

Profits made from large-scale extraction are banked offshore, companies evade paying corporate taxes and contribute very little as government revenue, local employment is very low and the projects operate as enclaves with little connection to the rest of the economy.

They have also destroyed local communities, created inequality and conflict, and undermined good governance and the rule of law. As a result the theft of public funds and corruption which starves rural people of basic services have flourished.

But despite the evidence of failed promises, increased rural poverty, and devastating environmental impacts, we have kept on doing the same thing over the last 47 years, always believing that the next mine or logging project will have a different result.

After forty-seven years of failure, we need to reflect and rethink our development pathway and make changes now before its too late.

Large-scale extractive industries have caused more harm than good. Whole river networks have been destroyed, social and environmental damages are high, human rights are breached, cultural sites destroyed and people are made landless. Meanwhile, the promised riches, the improved rural services, decent hospitals, roads, and schools never materialize.

The change of course that is required need not be drastic or difficult. The pathway is already set out in our Constitution.

Let’s put in people back at the centre of our development model and concentrate on direct help to them to improve their lives and livelihoods rather than focusing on the profits of foreign corporations and their corporate greed.

Let’s halt the attacks on customary land, which is the foundation of our village communities and provides a livelihood for the mass majority of the rural population.

Let’s stop the export of unprocessed round logs, let’s stop issuing new logging permits to foreign-owned companies, and focus only on value-adding and downstream processing.

Let’s stop spending millions of Kina of taxpayers' money to help foreign corporations open new large-scale mines and focus instead on supporting and promoting PNG-owned businesses operating at a small and medium scale.

You can read more about why PNG’s adopted model of development has failed and how we can change course for a better future in our report:

Other useful resources include;