Independence celebration a sign of unity


INDEPENDENCE celebrations have come and gone.
As in past years, wherever people congregated to celebrate, there was a spectacular show of unity in a diversity of colour, song and dance.
Credit should be given especially to schools and colleges where thousands of young Papua New Guineans staged their own events to mark Independence Day.
Most of those young people were not around that Tuesday, Sept 16, 43 years ago when Australia lowered its flag for the last time and the newly-independent PNG hoisted its own in its place.
But those school children and young people needed no prompting and prodding to join the older generations to mark this day and, in some cases, they took the lead in the festivities.
In the mood for celebrations, the thousands who attended the celebrations may have forgotten the speeches delivered on Independence Day.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, for instance, reminded us that it is us Papua New Guineans who can deliver a stronger PNG.
It, therefore, calls for some serious soul searching to correct the many social ills the nation is confronted with.
It would have been a nice patriotic feeling to wear a good quality shirt or cap made from imported material but designed, sewn, printed or embroidered right here in PNG.
Yet, almost all of the Independence gear was manufactured elsewhere. Small point that may be but it powerfully underlines a big dream – that of economic independence.
The sea of red black and gold on Independence Day and the few days prior and after was a great sight to behold.
It evoked fresh floods of emotive national pride.
The thousands of men, women and, especially, children in national colours were a sight to behold and to be proud of.
And, if you did the arithmetic, it would have been lucrative business in those few days leading up to the big day – all fed by a pervading sense of national pride.
It’s been 43 years and we have not gotten some basic things right when other nation had made remarkable achievements when at our age.
Days before Sept 16, speakers at the Apec Business Advisory Council (Abac) made reference to economic independence and, especially, via the SME sector.
Minister for Commerce and Industry Wera Mori talked about how technology and connectivity is extremely important in the MSME sectors. And that lack of technological advancement is hindering the progress of Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSME) to connect and develop rapidly in PNG.
These are in the form of very high costs to business. If successful, existing businesses are crying over the encumbrances, chances for a small business starting and staying in the game are rather slim.
Impediments such as the complex and slow business registration processes, the high cost of electricity, and perhaps the greatest of them all is the high cost of real estate.
Finding a reasonably sized office accommodation for a smalltime local businessman or woman takes quite a while and a lot of nerve.
Access to finance is still a near impossibility for new and aspiring PNG business people.
Economic independence, if it is to become a reality, is best generated by the SME sector.
An initial step to that still far-off dream of the average Papua New Guinean having sufficient cash in the bank to enjoy financial freedom should be removing impediments to starting and sustaining successful SMEs.
We hope to have a better story to tell on Independence Day 2019.

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