The National, Tuesday October 8th, 2013
NATIONAL Capital District Governor Powes Parkop may be committing political suicide by instigating controls on the sale and distribution of betel nuts in his city but it has been a long time coming.
He just had the guts and gumption to do it in 2013, a year into his second term in office.
If he never wins another election at least he can say he was the first Member of Parliament to do something constructive about betel nuts.
Perhaps the two main reasons for instituting some form of regulation on this product is to put an end to the careless disregard that many chewers have of spitting the contents of their mouths anywhere in public and the health risks associated with chewing betel nuts in combination with lime and mustard.
Buai is not chewed by a particular demographic. Originally buai was consumed by people predominantly from the coast and island communities.
However, the practice has spread to all provinces even those where the betel nuts tree does not grow.
As you can imagine the red stained sidewalks, streets, bus stops, markets and other places where people frequent, do not give a positive or healthy look to the city. With Port Moresby set to host the 2015 Pacific Games plus a host of other international gatherings something drastic needed to be done to put some controls on an industry that has for years grown unchecked by city and provincial authorities.
Visitors to this country may find the practice interesting but mostly their opinions are negative about buai chewing.
Health concerns are the other reason that buai chewing must be regulated.
Like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, buai chewing will eventually have an effect on the body.
In this case, the mouth and throat areas are at risk of developing conditions, some of which are life threatening, such as cancers, and others like ulcers that can significantly reduce the quality of life for the individual.
Being a stimulant the habitual consumption of buai will have an effect on the cardiovascular health of an individual.
It is inevitable that a combination of a poor diet (high cholesterol and sugar intake) coupled with a lack of regular exercise and the habitual chewing of buai will eventually take a toll on the body.
The third reason that buai sale and distribution is being scrutinised by City Hall is that it will provide another revenue source for those who run the NCD.
On average a buai vendor can make upwards of K200 a day. Multiply that by a week (K1,400), a month (K5,600) and a year (K67,000) and you see how lucrative buai selling is and what it means to many people in Port Moresby.
Even on an average day a vendor can make close to a K100, far more than someone on a minimum wage earns per day.
But that is all the more reason to in effect tax buai. People may argue that it is a great and in many instances the only source of income for the unemployed, students, impoverished, house wives, etc… but even those people have to pay their way just like their fellow working Papua New Guineans in the city.
The point here is that the piggy backing days are over and not just for the fiduciary reasons alone.
Port Moresby is the capital city, the door way to Papua New Guinea. We cannot have this habit continue to paint a poor image of us as a society.
If buai chewing has a place in our culture and traditions then let it keep its value and significance in that realm.
But if this is to be an everyday practice that a large slice of the population partake in then buai has to pay its dues.