Working in remote areas a challenge


IT is troubling to know public servants are reluctant to live and work in remote areas.
And most times officers do not want to take their families to live in those areas because of the lack of basic government services like health and education.
Just like police officers, those who are to provide health and education services do not want to live and work in rural areas, citing many reasons from safety, bad roads, lack of non-existent of equipment and materials to carry out their duties and the list goes on.
While the recent investment in infrastructure has made PNG compare favourably with other developing countries, access to many social services is still poor, mainly because the road system is poorly maintained and frequently inaccessible during and after heavy rain.
Given the remoteness and rugged terrain of PNG, the lack of roads may be one of the causes of the poor record of the government in the provision of education, health and other public goods.
If roads are poor and travel time is high, the cost of attending school or seeking healthcare may be absurdly high.
With road access so poor, access to health and educational services are poor.
In PNG, the main challenge would be the long distances that have to be travelled by service users and providers.
This week, again the concern for more rural doctors was raised. We are made aware of the need for police officers, magistrates, teachers, finance and agriculture officers and the list goes on.
How can we talk about bringing services right to the rural population when the welfare of those tasked to deliver those services is not looked into.
This also contributes to the rural-to-urban drift. The local population takes the option of shifting to urban areas in search of employment and quality services like health and education.
This then leads to the increasing demand for housing and land in urban PNG.
The current trend of rural-to-urban drift is increasing at a very fast rate.
As we can see from the numerous settlements in the cities, our views on the rural urban drift is that it’s bringing more problems for people living in the urban areas; like law and order problems and overcrowding.
PNG’s urbanisation process, which is accelerating, consists mainly of a massive rural labour exodus.
Some 80 per cent of PNG’s population live in rural areas, where access to basic services such as healthcare and education remains limited. Health centres and schools are often cut off from supply chains for months.
Physical isolation is a major challenge for the government in expanding access to and maintaining basic social services.
If the Government wants to have officers on the ground providing service to the rural population then it must improve the planning and funding for maintenance of the national highway network and develop a national infrastructure strategy to strengthen PNG’s freight and logistics systems.
Only then, will officers be comfortable living and working in rurfal areas with their families.

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