Bad attitudes, corruption holding us back


PAPUA New Guinea is easily, by way of size, resources, population and potential, the largest of the Pacific Island nations.
That is an undeniable and undisputed fact and, yet, we lag behind our Pacific neighbours.
In our own Melanesian sub-region, we are, in terms of development and attitude, behind Fiji.
One cannot argue that despite not having suffered a coup or being under the yoke of a dictatorship, we are still worse off in many regards to a country such as Fiji.
The difference here is our attitude and perception of corruption and corrupt behaviour.
It is a morally sensitive issue and one where we Papua New Guineans differ in our approach to others.
From clear buying of favours and the use of cash or kind to prompt a certain response, people in this country take a decidedly different view than do, for example Fijians and Australians.
Unfortunately, in this country, appropriately titled in many tourist brochures as the “land of the unexpected”, the giving of gifts and tokens of appreciate for services rendered or promised is looked on as a normal every day, ordinary occurrence.
It is practically accepted standard operating procedure for transactions in many government departments and business.
Many individuals in business and Government operate this way.
It is hard to say when and why this method of doing things became so deep-rooted in the lives of many Papua New Guineans, but one can state categorically that it is one of the principal reasons why this country has not advanced in an appreciable level given its abundance in natural resources in its 46 years of independence as a sovereign and free state.
Corruption in all its forms has single-handedly held back PNG from reaching its full potential as a nation.
Sadly, everyone – from the tea boy up to the members of parliament – are guilty of corruption in one form or another. We cannot continuously blame foreign business and political interests as being the sole cause of our current state.
The other famous argument to explain our weaknesses is that is in our culture to accede to the “big man” syndrome which is supposedly used to excuse morally reprehensible behaviour as culturally acceptable.
We must realise now that this kind of response is not only silly but cowardly and it serves no purpose in correcting the underlying problem which was famously by a former prime minister as “systematic and systemic”.
There is absolutely no acceptance of responsibility here.
The blame must surely lie with us – Papua New Guineans.
Despite the constant awareness campaigns in the media about avoiding unethical and illegal conduct, citizens still want to commit the very sins which they read about, her or see preached in the media or public notices.
Why is this?
Because in this country, saying the right things is a world away from actually doing them.
And seldom is anyone held accountable for one’s action.
If a rapist or a wife-basher can pay the relatives of the victim an amount in compensation then all is well and good, never mind the person who has been abused; if the victims also accept this as a resolution then this only enforces what is an disgusting means to an end.
We must change our attitudes if we are to reap the benefits of a diverse, resource-rich nation.
It starts with the individual and what he or she is willing to do.