The National,Friday August 14th, 2015
WEST New Britain Governor Sasindran Muthuvel should be commended for his foresight and positivity when addressing the East New Britain-West New Britain Border Forum in Kokopo on Monday.
He spoke passionately about the new trans-national highway linking East New Britain with his province.
A fluent Tok Pisin speaker, this businessman-cum-politician did not mince words. Examples Muthuvel gave were based on his own experiences when he set out to tackle the business world.
The two provinces differ in many things, especially in the areas of economic and infrastructure development.
This major road network will provide the catalyst to drive development and service delivery in both provinces. It will encourage economic growth at a pace neither seen nor experienced before in the Islands region.
While appreciating this major road link for New Britain, we share his sentiments.
Muthuvel was particularly concerned about the social issues and/or problems that will come about as a result of this road-link, posing huge challenges for both provinces.
“The challenge is for both provinces to ensure the highway is safe and user-friendly. We must change our attitude towards development; this is the greatest challenge. Unless we change our attitudes, our communities will continue to deteriorate.”
This, we take, are the words of a business and political leader who had seen it all happen in West New Britain where he had called home for many years.
Building infrastructure and pursuing development will not change a person. People must first change their attitude and accept infrastructure.
Tourism was another major industry that Governor Muthuvel spoke about at length. Tourism, no doubt, is a thriving industry among the islands provinces due to their pristine oceans, colourful cultures and traditional practices and friendly smiling people. And the new highway link will obviously bring many new developments and benefits to the people.
East New Britain had always been the tourism hub of the Islands Region, closely followed by New Ireland, Bougainville, West New Britain and Manus. And to come on par with its eastern neighbour, those in the west would have to accept changes and these changes will come with challenges.
Changing the mindset of people will be the priority, and the rest will settle in as the tourism industry develops and progresses over time. Muthuvel told the forum: “We are looking forward to work closely with East New Britain in promoting tourism in the region; but we must first deal with our social concerns in both our provinces.”
This, in a nutshell, is what everyone wants to see; from the prime minister and his deputy to members of the cabinet and those at the provincial and local level government. But, what we must all realise is that the road-link has already created high hopes among the people in both provinces, especially local farmers and growers of cocoa, coconut and oil palm.
In East New Britain, a vast majority of the population can read and write; and they are already talking real development along and through the trans-national highway.
So, what is there to stop them? v
Government and state agencies have a major role to play in ensuring safety along the highway. And, they must put their heads together now and get down to business. We all, in East and West New Britain, need them to help us prosper in our own little ways.
Muthuvel, while appreciating the connection, said there were social issues regarding the connection that appear challenging.
West New Britain is widely known for its substantial oil palm plantations along the north coast, especially in Kimbe. Logging activities had recently entered the interior and on the south coast.
East New Britain has a dual economy: A cash economy operates side by side with the subsistence-farming sector. The main crops produced for export are cocoa and copra.
However, tourism continues to be an increasingly important sector of the provincial economy. We are certain that the new road-link will provide the impetus to all forms of development in both provinces.
We are of the view that these developments will far outweigh the social concerns and other issues stemming from this road-link.