Transport access will grow economy

Editorial

THE government has been promoting the concept of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) across the country.
This, of course, is the way to go.
In fact, past governments also had that on their list unfortunately many of those tasked did not have a clue on how to progress the Papua New Guinean’s enterprising spirit.
They preferred to catch the fish for their constituent rather than teaching the person to fish.
As a result, that has grown into the PNG society as an unfortunate culture of far too many fish eaters and too few fishermen.
However, an even bigger issue is not about fish or fishermen but getting to where the fish are, in other words, having the transportation means.
On both sides of a major highway, there live several hundred SMEs owners.
These are trade store owners, passenger motor vehicle owners, poultry and piggery farmers, vegetable farmers, cash crop farmers, betel nut growers and a wide range of other small businesses.
Put a jetty or a wharf at any point along our extensive maritime shores or along the banks of our rivers and immediately there would spring a number of enterprising small businessmen or women.
Papua New Guineans are naturally hardworking and enterprising.
What they lack is not so much knowledge as opportunities, market access and transportation means.
America was settled by Europeans on the east coast.
The huge expense of the west and the interior of what is now Canada and the United States, was discovered slowly on foot and on horseback. Then came the railroad and the boom started.
Settlements became towns and towns became cities.
Churches, schools and health centres were introduced and businesses blossomed.
The single biggest driver of the boom was transport infrastructure which in America’s cash was the railway.
Today, roads crisscross the US, connecting east to west and north to south and every other point in between.
America today flourishes on the back of its very efficient transport infrastructure.
So does Europe and Japan.
Transport infrastructure is a fundamental building block of any successful society.
Its absence automatically renders the society deficient and underdeveloped.
Growing the small to medium enterprises sector in the country and indeed growing the PNG economy automatically involves the growing of a successful and reliable transport infrastructure.
Indeed, as we have attempted to point out at the start of this discussion, develop the transport infrastructure and the SMEs will grow themselves.
Imagine, where there is a road running from Vanimo down to Milne Bay and all the way to Daru via Port Moresby, the road running from Lae and Madang down to the Gulf of Papua connecting this first ring road and another connecting the Sepik to the highlands and the Sepiks to Western.
Highlanders would eat sea food, coconuts, sago and yam while coastal PNG would have fresh vegetables and sweet potato from the highlands.
The volume of imports, particularly, fresh food items would drop significantly.
The cost of doing business too would drop significantly if there was an extensive network of reliable all-weather roads crisscrossing the country.
People would have the choice of travelling by road or by air.
All along the road routes businesses and townships, hotel motel chains and food industries would spring up.
Before PNG can grow the SME sector or any other sector, its first priority must be to provide quality transport infrastructure.
That is an absolute essential to developing the economy.

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