State ownership of PNG’s natural resources is a relic from the colonial days.
The rationale behind the State’s ownership of subterranean, mineralised ore-bodies, gas and petroleum deposits found below 6ft was to exploit these resources in order to develop PNG.
But the lack of development in PNG, despite its tremendous wealth from natural resources, is not due to whether the State or landowners own the resources but rather with governance issues.
The State continues to fail in its functions to implement development across the country and also to ensure that the rightful landowners receive their correct and rightful share of the pie.
In other words, the wealth is not being divided up properly and used for its mandated purposes.
Instead, leaders are “capturing the people’s wealth” for their own selfish interests, thereby, effectively hijacking national development and growth.
Resource-rich provinces like Western and Southern Highlands provinces are no better off today than when Ok Tedi and Kutubu respectively first started to come on stream years ago.
The same is true for other such provinces.
Educated elites, bureaucrats, politicians, so-called landowner representatives and company executives, village/clan leaders, etc, abuse their positions of trust and executive privileges to siphon off wealth intended for the common good.
Now there are calls for the transfer of ownership from that of the State and into private hands.
However, there is no guarantee that this transfer will eliminate the problems mentioned above.
The current system lacks transparency and governance in its entirety.
In view of this, the transfer of resource ownership from the control of a “dysfunctional State” to private ownership is only a relocation of chronic and deeply-imbedded problems from point A to B without resolving key underlying issues.
As it is, under private ownership, the benefits will continue to be plundered at the hands of a few greedy, powerful elites at the expense of the common good.