THIS is the country, so its Constitution proclaims, which declared its second goal to be “for all citizens to have an equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the development of the country”.
So saying the same document calls for:
*An equal opportunity for every citizen to take part in the political, economic, social, religious and cultural life of the country;
*The creation of political structures that will enable effective, meaningful participation by our people in that life, and in view of the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of our people for those structures to provide for substantial decentralisation of all forms of government activity;
*Every effort to be made to achieve an equitable distribution of incomes and other benefits of development among individuals and throughout the various parts of the country;
*Equalisation of services in all parts of the country, and for every citizen to have equal access to legal processes and all services, governmental and otherwise, that are required for the fulfillment of his or her real needs and aspirations;
*Equal participation by women citizens in all political, economic, social and religious activities;
*The maximisation of the number of citizens participating in every aspect of development;
*Active steps to be taken to facilitate the organisation and legal recognition of all groups engage in development activities;
*Means to be provided to ensure that any citizen can exercise his personal creativity and enterprise in pursuit of fulfillment that is consistent with the common good, and for no citizen to be deprived of this opportunity because of the predominant position of another;
*Every citizen to be able to participate, either directly or through a representative, in the consideration of any matter affecting his interests or the interests of his community;
*All persons and governmental bodies of PNG to ensure that, as far as possible, political and official bodies are so composed as to be broadly representative of citizens from the various areas of the country;
*All persons and governmental bodies to endeavour to achieve universal literacy in Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu or English, and in tok ples or ita eda tano gado; and
*Recognition of the principles that a complete relationship in marriage rests on equality of rights and duties of the partners, and that responsible parenthood is based on that equality.
Twelve different points to say the same thing: Equality.
Ironically, 12 provinces are struggling against tremendous odds to raise enough revenue to fund the delivery of basic services to their rural districts.
They are are Central, Simbu, East New Britain, Eastern Highlands, East Sepik, Gulf, Madang, Manus, Milne Bay, Oro, Sandaun and Western Highlands.
In the estimation of the National Economic and Fiscal Commission, these provinces have “no hope” of ever succeeding because they simply cannot.
Said Dr Nao Badu of NEFC: “I have condemned these provinces. They have no hope.
“At the moment, the amount of funding which they (the 12 provinces) need is so huge that they have no hope of adequately delivering their minimum basic services to their people.”
From a government agency, it is singularly most damaging and negative. Indeed, we do not think the NEFC’s commission is to “condemn”. Most likely, it is to find out and provide solutions.
We simply cannot agree with the NEFC and think that while its findings are startling and revealing, such a throwaway condemnation does little to recognise the potential each province possesses to bolster development. Even miniscule Manus might not have land resources but it has adequate marine resources to adequately sustain its people on a decent standard of living. To base all on fleeting gains from mineral and hydrocarbon wealth, which has obviously helped form the NEFC’s conclusions, is short-sighted. Worse, it makes nonsense of the long-term agricultural potential of this nation.
Many of these 12 so-called “no hope” provinces have agricultural potential that would help sustain them and the country for the next 50 years.
We do agree there is a huge lack of equitable distribution of wealth across PNG. But as the NEFC has discovered and reported, such lack of balance is not exclusive to the provinces which do not have at the moment.
The cash-rich provinces just do not know how to spend their wealth in the right areas. So much so that some of the least-developed areas of the country are actually in those cash-rich provinces. The problem is not one of “have” and “have not” provinces but of competently managing today’s windfall mineral and hydrocarbon boom to facilitate the long term and sustainable potential of the country.