Are we ready for new electorates?

Editorial

THE Electoral Boundaries Commission has recently announced that all but two provinces want an additional open electorates created for fairer representation in parliament.
This would be done by splitting present electorates, whose populations have grown too large since the last boundaries review was done.
The time is right to have additional electorates, but is the country prepared for that?
Understandably, the main reason for additional electorates since the last boundaries review was undertaken decades ago, is the obvious growth in population in the electorates.
In some cases, population plus the geographical size of electorates warrant splitting them into two.
Growth in population gives rise to what is known as malapportionment which refers to divergent ratios of voters to representatives.
For example; if one electorate has 10,000 voters and another has 100,000 voters, voters in the former district enjoy more influence, per person.
Electorates with fewer people, have higher and therefore better representation than those with larger populations.
For instance; based on 2011 census figures as alluded to in a 2019 study, Enga’s Lagaip-Porgera was the largest electorate in terms of population while East New Britain’s Rabaul was the smallest.
The former had a population of 158,873, land area of 4,608 km2, and a population density of 34 persons per km2.
Rabaul, a largely urban electorate, had a population of only 39,387, living on an area of 95 km2.
Statistically, if one were to compare these two figures, add the data from the other 87 districts, then find the mean and median, the results would turn up wildly divergent figures.
Again, comparing Lagaip-Porgera and Rabaul, there is definitely a serious case of malapportionment there.
Lagaip-Porgera would rightly have a case as while they have four times the population of Rabaul, they only have a single MP just as Rabaul.
There is a long overdue need to redraw the electoral boundaries.
However, for obvious reasons including logistics and funding, it will not be done overnight.
Time and funding constraints would be the main factors which could delay the creation these proposed electorates.
While the process may take a while before those electorates become reality, the immediate question should therefore be a fair or more equitable resources to the existing electorates.
Fair in terms of population and remoteness from Port Moresby and main centres.
The country has seen lopsided development over the years simply because resources and funding allocation have been done without consideration for the cost of goods and service deliver to each of the electorates.
It has been argued many times before, that the cost of an identical project an urban electorate and a rural one differs greatly simply because of the added logistics and manpower involved in the process of procurement, mobilisation and actual construction or delivery. Another obvious issue is the cost of 22 additional electorates to the taxpayer and the implications on the annual budget.
An ordinary MP is paid over K12,000 fortnightly or K150,000 annually inclusive of allowances.
Ministers and committee heads are paid higher.
Obviously, an additional 22 electorates would entail a huge cost to the public purse.
It has even been alleged that MPs, unlike other workers in the country, are not paying taxes on what the public is paying them in salaries and allowances.
The performance of some elected officials also leaves the electorate wondering whether they are actually earning their keep.
Although justified, creating vacancies for 22 more parliamentarians sounds like a gamble therefore.

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