Empower our rural people

Letters

WE can see that our beautiful country is seems to be dominated by criminals and opportunist.
One issue that came up repeatedly is mobility – or the lack of it; the basic ability to travel to and from the workplace. It is no secret that parts of Port Moresby are dangerous and crime is high. There are regular stories of carjacking but public transport is also a huge risk, an issue which disproportionately affects workers coming from poorer parts of the city.
I witnessed a group of young men armed with factory-made guns and knives hold up the bus we were traveling in from 4-Mile to Town at 2-Mile.
They told us to lie down and then they took everything from us.
Anecdotally, attacks on public transport seem to be increasing, and this was a major issue for staff which is affecting the businesses and normal lives of our innocent people.
As with most workplaces, there is a staff bus that ferries staff to and from work, but even this bus has no-go areas – parts of the city where the risks are seen to be too high for it to enter.
Workers who live in these settlements will have to make their own way and they face considerable risk, especially if it’s after dark.
A new World Bank report attempts to quantify some of the costs Papua New Guinea faces from violent crime.
According to official figures, crime rates have stabilised over the last decade, but there are significant regional disparities, with crime seemingly on the rise in ‘hotspots’ like Lae, the Western Highlands and the National Capital District, and it is also increasingly violent.
The use of firearms is escalating.
The reports look at the direct costs faced by local firms – finding, for example, that the average business loses K90,000 (US$33,000) in stolen property every year, and close to the same amount as a result of closing early due to threats of violence.
But it also details many indirect costs that are more difficult (though perhaps not impossible) to quantify.
Issues like staff absenteeism or lost productivity.
Businesses being unwilling to expand into new areas or sectors, resulting in significant foregone investment, or small firms unable to get going because of high security costs.
The burden on the healthcare system as a result of rising violence in urban areas, or employers not wanting to employ people from certain areas – thus escalating exclusion and inequality.
The issue of Gender-Based Violence, which is a known, though too often silent reality across PNG.
It is a human tragedy but its impacts are wider – incurring costs from disability, illness and accident, on productivity and motivation.
The causes of violent crime are largely structural – linked to poverty and inequality: a context where economic growth hasn’t yet benefited the majority of the people.
As a consequence security costs are a spiraling expense.
Private security accounts for an average of 5 per cent of annual operating costs for a business in PNG, with nearly a third of firms reporting that for them it’s more than 10 per cent.
But obviously crime is not prevented by such huge investments, but displaced, and these investments will keep increasing.
For many emerging businesses, especially smaller enterprises, they are also prohibitive.
From my observation, the government structure of PNG is very complex and tightly bottle-necked that the delivery mechanism itself consumes most of the funding for services, either through the delivery process or through corrupt practices in the delivery processes.
This results in the current sociology-economic state of the country.
There is no clear protocol of monitoring and assessing process in place for government funds dispensed for projects and programs.
Rural Community Development and socio-economic potential is nonexistent, forcing high school leavers to move into towns and cities in search for employment, of whom most end up as crime participators.
The gap between the rich and poor is expanding very rapidly.
An example is my province Southern Highlands, Nipa Kutubu District, Nipa Local Level Government Council, and Ebil Ward Area.
Since my village in the Ward 1 area of Nipa Local Level Government Council is on the side of Okuk Highway and there is almost no significant infrastructure developed over the last 40 years of the government’s independence, I cannot go home to my village and traditional land to develop it ever.
To go to my village, I need to wait for a PMV to travel on a bumpy and potholes road, it took approximately about two hours to reach my village from Mendi Town.
Sometimes we get robbed by criminals while travelling.
The National Government and the provincial governments only focus on the urban populations, especially the elite workforce, and throw a blind eye on poverty, lawlessness, and lack of job opportunities for the majority population who are the ones marginalized, who mostly live in make-shift and bush material houses within the vicinity of the towns and cities.
It is about time the government can give priority to the people living in rural setting.
Empower them through the SMEs, invest in agriculture and decentralize the power so that respective mandated provincial and electorate leaders can go and empower their own people.

Nason Mul Solo

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