Compensation holds back progress


THE compensation culture in Papua New Guinea can be a scar on economic progress and modern advancement.
The frequency of various compensation claims is a real hindrance to development in this country.
Compensation demands for the use of land, for the damage to State property on traditional land, for individuals hurt or affected by State actions in one way or another seem to be prevalent in these times.
Most often these claims are made using threats and coercion as tools to leverage a positive response.
One example of such behaviour that included aggression and intimidation was by some Hela landowners last year over a K20 million claim for Angore township. They also demanded another K12 million for their business development grant allocated in 2011.
Other instances include villagers claiming payment for the destruction of their property, food gardens and homes because the Highlands Highway runs through their land.
These instances have made the news and, unfortunately, shown Papua New Guineans to be people who put their own needs ahead of the greater good.
An example of this would be how a group of locals in Madang are charging the travelling public to access the bypass at Banab Bridge.
That along with intimidation had hindered the progress of the reconstruction and completion of the new bridge last year.
This sounds unreasoned as a bridge in most parts of the country, if not all, is a very valuable part of infrastructure.
However this perception is lost on the people.
We can say their ideas and attitudes are those of uneducated villagers who fail to see the advantage of such a service, and would rather hold the State accountable for providing something that improves their day-to-day lives.
But can they be blamed for this?
Yes and no.
Yes, because there are proper procedures to follow in order to put a claim against the State.
The use of legal counsel should be the first course of action.
This is seldom the case as direct acts on State assets or the threat to sabotage them seem to be the default reaction when the Government fails to meet demands.
The reason why we have many groups laying claim on the use of their land or the damage to their property or natural environment is that our laws are not properly enforced.
Because of the lax attitude by the State – the buck passing and ultimately the inaction – you have groups that will to go to extreme lengths to get what they feel is rightfully theirs.
Another reason why land and resource owners are claiming huge sums is that corruption is rife in the Government departments that handle claims and evaluate them.
There have been instances of individuals and groups putting together false claims in order to access State funds.
They do this in collusion with public servants in such certain State agencies.
That alone has been responsible for millions of kina in fraudulent claims.
There are genuine claimants.
For the most part, landowners are entitled to ask a price for the use of their land.
They must, however, follow civil and proper avenues to address their grievances.