THIS is a letter to the people of Bogia in Madang.
We should count our blessings.
The challenges faced in other parts of the country are a lot worse than ours.
Compare Rai Coast, Middle Ramu and Usino-Bundi to Bogia and see how we are reasonably well-connected, except for Ramu River communities and some hinterland pockets of Almami and Yawar – plus of course the Boisa and Manam Motu cousins set adrift by the Stephan Strait.
The district should be a lot easier to manage.
But we have not taken full advantage of our blessings as yet.
We have chosen to dwell largely on the negatives and past failures.
Here is a wish list for those who have a few minutes to spare.
Roads and transport: From Kumil Bridge to Bogia station, the road is in great condition.
We hear that work has commenced on the stretch from the district centre to Awar.
Feeder roads can be upgraded regularly so inland and river people get easy access to the national highway running from Madang town to somewhere near the mouth of the Ramu River.
A needs assessment should be done on a possible extension of the jetty at Bogia.
The district’s agricultural produce (and possibly produce from Middle Ramu and Angoram in East Sepik) could be shipped directly out of there to reduce transport costs for vendors and boost commerce in the district.
- AGRICULTURE: Major coconut and cocoa plantations should somehow be handed back to the locals so they manage them in smallholder family-operated blocks.
Plantation jobs are no longer attractive.
Elsewhere all around the district, family-owned small scale plantations or blocks of cocoa, coconuts and vanilla are the away of the future.
Direct exports and downstream processing should be factored in somewhere in the near future for the district to get the best returns from its agricultural output.
Small to medium enterprises: This is a tricky one but it can be done, if we are serious enough.
More citizens need to go into the retail and wholesale business.
Incentives, training and mentoring are needed here.
- EDUCATION: There have been way too many reforms in the education system and school managements and communities are left struggling to meet expectations.
The new 1-6-6 structure of education means one year or early childhood learning, six years of primary education and six years of secondary education.
More vocational or technical training (TVET) is required in the district.
Each local level government (LLG) should have at least one TVET centre and a high school.
The district focus should be on relevant, technical and small business-oriented education as these are global trends in learning and training.
- HEALTH: Family planning, hygiene and nutrition should be part and parcel of any health planning in the district.
Smaller, well-cared for families who can afford good education and health should be encouraged rather than unplanned large families by parents who cannot provide well for children in basic health, education and good nutrition.
- RESETTLEMENT: Work on Andarum should be expedited.
If the traditional kukurai leadership is still intact, this could be used to some advantage here to develop well-organised, healthy and harmonious communities.
The resettlement site could even be a small business and education hub itself. Allowance should be made for all deserving Manam (and Boisa) communities even if individuals or families choose not to take up the offer.
Look at the brighter side of things; the eruptions have brought us closer together now, so service delivery should be much easier if things are done well.
- CULTURE and history: For there to be a Bogia spirit today and into the future, surviving elders should be encouraged to teach and pass on noble traditions that are fast disappearing in some parts of the district.
Obviously, sorcery is a downside of such traditional knowledge but efforts should be made to retain other aspects of customs and traditions to be stored and passed down to provide a sense of history of the people’s roots.
We cannot afford to lose our history and traditional foundations.
- THE money question: District funding is a significant component of district revenue. On paper, we are entitled to K10 million annually or K50 million in five years.
Disbursement is beyond our control and determined by cash flowing into the national coffers.
Can the district and provincial bureaucracy explore other legally allowable sources of income?
There has to be something else apart from DSIP funding.
On the other hand, we can learn a few things from districts such East Sepik’s Maprik to increase business activity so money would flow in naturally to change livelihoods.
- POLITICAL leadership: PNG politics generally has been about a candidate winning a mandate and doing the best he or she can within a five-year term.
Development attempts have therefore been dictated by political agenda, based on short term planning and ad-hoc at best.
Evidence of that is seen in incomplete projects or programmes nationwide.
Rather than funding projects and programmes for the sake of political expedience or survival, public money should be better spent on a district development roadmap such as a five-year plan or a longer term plan.
Of course, the district plan would be a sum of ward and LLG plans.
Spending resources strictly according to such plans will leave no room for elected officials or public servants to do as they wish or devise any other plans.
The electorate should go into an election every five years knowing how well how an elected official and the public service had managed to implement projects according to the district plan.
As in the business world, politics should no longer be about smart and influential politicians planning and directing.
It should be about guiding and inspiring people to excel in whatever they are doing.