Poverty: the very poor tend not to rise up

13 04 2011

By: Paul Barker | 13 April 2011 at 05:48 PM

As Fr John Glynn said recently: “I cannot understand how the PM says there’s no poverty in PNG; I can see it every day in Port Moresby”.

PNG has little excuse for poverty but – like oil, copper or gold rich countries in Africa – benefit-sharing has been poor, and seems to have become worse, denying broad-based opportunities.

One of PNG’s great attributes has been broad-based access to land resources and generally suitable climate/reliable rains which have avoided the extensive starvation seen in parts of Africa (and south and east Asia in the past).

But even that’s being jeopardised now with land scams which would deprive customary l’owners of their land with 99 year business leases (SABLs) as well as displacement around mines etc.

There is poverty and a lack of access to markets and essential services deprives[sic] people of opportunities and life; (the very high and unnecessary level of maternal and child mortality in PNG – about the highest in Asia-Pacific is just one demonstration of poverty).

Now is a testing time: PNG’s already wasting great opportunities as a result of grand misuse of public funds, but will it let LNG and other new natural resource developments contribute to its citizens opportunities (including empowerment to help themselves, rather than dependency) or be squandered through burgeoning malfeasance, and failure to safeguard the interests of the wider public (including businesses)?

The Dutch Disease (or resource curse) can severely undermine a country’s prospects if not taken seriously, particularly enriching a small elite at the expense of the majority.

PNG is preparing some of the right policies to address this, but these need to be applied properly and governance issues need to be taken much more seriously than now.

The countries which have benefited from their natural resource extraction have been those which have given transparency, accountability and good governance as their priority up front.

Those that haven’t have been basket cases or at least seen extraordinary poverty alongside gross wealth as in the case of some of the oil wealthy nations where popular uprisings are now occurring.

But note, the very poor tend not to rise up, as they have more immediate issues of survival to address!

“poverty and a lack of access to markets and essential services deprives people of opportunities and life” – photo by PWM; 2003

This post first appeared as a comment on Keith Jackson’s PNG Attitude blog in response to an ongoing debate between readers in their attempt to understand the issue of poverty and being poor in PNG in comparison to similar trends in African states. You can read up more on the main article that stirred up as much interests here.

Paul Barker is the Director of the Institute of National Affairs in PNG



2 responses

27 07 2011

I read this title and all I can think of is where there are people, there is going to be a heirarchy. Poor help the rich and keep the rich at the top. Only through determination or luck can the poor rise. God bless those people that realise they are there because of the poor.


30 08 2011

True indeed. But PNG in all its bountiful wealth and blessings has no excuse whatsoever to even entertain the notion of having poverty as an issue… yet, yet… 😦


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