The National, Thursday February 25th, 2016
THERE has been enough talk on Papua New Guinea’s tourism potential.
Politicians especially have been criticised for not doing enough for the tourism industry apart from simply talking about their desire to see it fully developed to benefit the large rural-based section of the local population.
The former chief executive officer of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority, Peter Vincent for one, in his parting shot, again decried the rhetoric on tourism and called for money to be poured in where it matters so the much-talked about potential is realised.
It can be said that part of the problem lies with the Government agencies tasked with the coordination, promotion, development and marketing of tourism and tourism products in the country.
The creation of at least four such agencies, although done with a clear vision of their roles, may have resulted in a lot of overlapping functions and duplication of roles.
This has resulted in the very offices being under-funded and therefore ineffective.
There are at least four such institutions that immediately come to mind when one thinks of culture, arts and tourism and they are: the National Cultural Commission (NCC); the National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG); PNG Tourism Authority (PNG TPA) and the Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
All of these agencies have their own mandates but even working in tandem, it seems they have made very little difference in harnessing that much talked about tourism potential of PNG.
The problem, from all indications, is money; the Government is not putting money where it matters. Or seen from another perspective, whatever financial resources are provided in the name of tourism promotion and preservation of cultural and natural products have been spread too thinly over the above named government agencies.
This week Minister for Sports, Tourism, Art and Culture Justin Tkatchenko announced the amalgamation of two of these bodies. The National Museum and Art Gallery has been merged with the National Cultural Commission.
The amalgamation, says the minister, will save the country K4 million.
In Tkatckenko’s own words, we have had a set up where there were too many chiefs and not many Indians. That by the way, does not require a minister responsible to point out; it was a known fact to anyone who had an interest in the tourism, arts and culture sector.
Put simply there is too much bureaucracy and very little real work or very little money to do any work.
And that heavy bureaucracy remained largely incapable to function at its full mandatory capacity due to limited funding from government.
The National Museum and Art Gallery, for instance has faced with funding problems over the years. The existing building and the storage facilities within need a fair amount of rehabilitation.
In the minister’s mind, the amalgamation of the NMAG and the NCC would trim down the latter and create a single, more efficient body.
One of the functions of the NCC is to assist and facilitate, preserve, protect, develop and promote traditional cultures of the indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea.
It would appear that the NMAG also has a similar role – to preserve and protect traditional cultures.
The amalgamation of the two therefore would not only save costs but bring the personnel and other resources together to work better.
Over the years these statutory bodies have been working in tandem to preserve the art forms, traditions and the indigenous culture of the country and market them to the outside world.
Amalgamation of these bodies would not only save costs but we hope make them more efficient and closely linked to the tourism developers and more so the rural majority of the population where the great assets of cultural and natural diversity of PNG are found.
Perhaps the next step would be to bring the TPA and OTAC roles and functions and under one organisations also.
There has been enough talk already and in Minister Tkatchenko we see a man who can walk the talk and take that lead required to make an impact in tourism development.
It would require other like-minded leaders, and especially politicians and bureaucrats to work with the minister to make a difference to translate that tourism potential into monetary gain.