WE appeal to the city governments of Mt Hagen and the National Capital City to pause in their determined and single-minded effort to clean up their respective cities of litter and street vending which normally cause the litter.
Other towns like Kundiawa and Goroka which have shown this inclination from time to time in the past should also take heed.
You have been at this for years, running into decades now. Has the policy worked?
The simple answer is a resounding: NO!
We all want clean cities to live in and we should like to encourage you to do everything in your power and that which is legal to ensure there is cleanliness.
The sad truth is: The current policy of chasing vendors off the streets by beating them up, which is unlawful, and by robbing them of their wares, which is also unlawful, just does not seem to be working.
If pain is no deterrent then there must be a far bigger reason driving these street vendors to endure physical beating and theft and public embarrassment daily by going back out there.
You find out that bigger reason and work out a strategy based on that finding and we are certain we will be well on our way to cleaner towns and cities.
How about a reason as basic as dear life itself?
In Port Moresby there were 252,000 people in 2000. With population growing at almost 5 % (this is far higher than the 3.5 % national average because of the high migration rates), 10 years later we can estimate the population in the capital has increased to 400,000. The census later this year will tell for sure.
We know that only 100,000 people are gainfully employed. This leaves 300,000 people who are dependent. There were 42,000 households in the Capital in 2000 and that sector has not improved much. Let us estimate that there are 50,000 households today. Even after we factor in children and dependents (about six per average household) you would come up with a good 40,000 people who have no homes.
Whatever the real picture, we would venture that these many people or more are without jobs as well.
How then do you think they would survive in this city? Many turn to crime as a form of employment. That is why crime is so insidious and so difficult to root out. Proceeds of crime support families.
Those less adventurous turn to gardening the hill sides, to begging or to selling whatever they can lay their hands on that has a willing buyer.
That is the reason for the exponential growth of the informal sector.
Now enter the city governments. They will not provide enough jobs to absorb all those who are unemployed but they will dissuade them by means foul and brutal.
But the city governments will not succeed. And where they do succeed, they would send more people over the edge into lawlessness.
You can never win, even by the vilest means imaginable, against a people who are basically fighting for their lives.
Such a policy is doomed to failure.
For the same reason, we predicted in this space that the betel nut ban in Port Moresby would fail. By and large it has.
We do not mean to dissuade the city governments who only mean the best but a new approach is needed.
It is one that should take in the informal sector as a legitimate and even attractive activity and one which can contribute to the wealth of the cities. The trick is how to capture that sector.
One way we have suggested time and again, is to build mini-marts throughout each suburb of cities and towns. These marts should be provided with shade, with running water, with ablution blocks, with lights and cooler facilities.
Fees ought to be charged but at very minimal rates so as to not discourage vendors. In this way the mini-marts become a useful area for people of each suburb. Fees contribute a sum to the city government. Only after these markets are provided should city governments go to the streets chasing people.
One other thing which seems silly is that these cities are short on police manpower to attend to crimes, yet the few policemen available are out on the streets chasing good people who might, when chased and beaten enough, decide to turn to crime thereby swelling the ranks of criminals.