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The Truth about Corruption In Papua New Guinea

By Lucas Kiap
PNG is rich in natural resources and has enjoyed continued economic growth for well over a decade at the back of high commodity prices for its mineral resources and other natural resources such as timber and fishery. Yet the country still remains a poor third world country but why? 

Read the full article and soon you will know why and the truth about corruption in Papua New Guinea.

Soon after Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia in 16th September, 1975, the leadership which, the new country was handed over to have never developed a nationalized long-term development plan, where the country’s wealth would be fairly and equally distribute to develop all people and all parts of the country. 

For instance, they never had a long-term development plan supported with strategies to build satellite townships in all districts in every province including plans to have three quarters of the population as working-class population or plans to establish rural housing schemes to replace bush buses with permanent houses and so on. 

In the absence of such long-term development plans, all subsequent governments has resorted to temporarily or short-term measures, usually on an ad hock or reactive basis. Development funds were then just thrown away for leaders to use and spend on anything as they wish. 

Politicians realized then that they can have easy access to huge public funds at their disposal, something neither they nor their ancestors used to before. They also realized that they can buy anything in the world with money; a life they never thought would possible, let alone their parents. 

In a country where everyone else were illiterate and poor around that time, the leaders soon become the gods and celebrity figures in their families, clans and tribes. Everyone started looking upon them and worship them. It was the start of the emergence of PNG’s “money big man culture” - big man with money takes everything and is above the laws of this land. The leaders slowly transit into the world of the Colonial Masters – Western Civilization, ahead of their fellow Papua New Guineans. 

They started developing an appetite for misusing, abusing, and stealing public funds to buy the kind of life that commands great respect from the poor ordinary Papua New Guineans. The appetite they developed is now responsible for swallowing billions of development funds every year. 

Since then the misconception of politics as a means of wealth creation emerged and it has now grown into a cultural norm. 

Politicians or PNG’s big men begin their political careers as ordinary persons, or civil servants, and graduate as business entrepreneurs after their discontinuation from office. The emergence of politicians-turned-businessmen or vice versa after 1975, and the difficulties in separating business from politics, had sent out false signals to aspirants to political office. Contesting elections today has become a god sent opportunity to wealth accumulation.

This quite clearly explains why ordinary persons, civil servants, priests and pastors when voted into parliament disappear and reappear as business entrepreneurs. This also explains why elections in PNG these days are increasingly becoming marred with violence, bribery and cheating. Leaders are not contesting the elections to serve the people and the country but to serve their greed for money and personal wealth creation. 

As a result, a culture of greed and corruption developed, where anyone as long as they have connections to the political masters could easily establish schemes, which could then be used to divert and siphon public funds away from the people and development. Slowly, a network of cronies and their masters developed. Cronies mostly come from the bureaucratic mechanism and some relatives and business associates of leaders. Bribery, wantok system and nepotism then become the norm. Currently, the network is multiplying every year and with every new government. 

To contain and feed their greed, political leaders have been always looking for easy ways to bring in big money into the national coffers so that more money can be floating around in the system for them to steal and feed their huge appetite and greed for money. 

Sadly, our natural resources have been the constant subject of their quest for easy money, in the disguise of growing and sustaining the economy. They have been giving tax breaks to multi corporations in the disguise of attracting foreign investment while neglecting other sectors of the economy such as Agriculture. Perhaps this explains why we are still poor despite our riches in natural resources, foreign aids and loans. 

Over the years we have been asking why our politicians are not serious about stopping corruption in the country. Well, the answer is obvious now. Neither they can punish themselves for stealing nor can they stop themselves from stealing public funds. They love money and all that money can buy and earn for them. They have been addicted to greed and money from the start. There is no quick and easy way out for the country as long as they maintain control over the national coffers. 

Sadly, while they have been enjoying a life their ancestors never had enjoyed before with money, they have been leaving behind the rest of the people of Papua New Guinea poor and beggars in their own rich country. 

As a result, every place that has been once a village still remains village. Even villages that host multibillion dollar projects still remain a village. A typical example is the people of Kutubu in the newly created Hela province. They still live in shacks built from sago leaves without electricity and water supply despite oil has been taken out of their land for more than twenty years - generating billions of Kina in revenue for the State. 

Despite the grim scenario, every subsequent government has over the years spent billions and billions of kina for development. These monies never get to the people as they still remain as villagers in villages. Before there were few bush houses in villages. Now that number has tripled twice with increasing population growth. Obviously a backward development trend as our leaders has lost the plot from the beginning to fairly and equally distribute the country’s enormous wealth. 

If we continue down this path, this country would probably remain the same or worse as we are witnessing violent crimes which, we have never witnessed before. 

Our forefathers were not beggars but we are beggars now. We would have survived better on our land of untold wealth and beauty without Western Civilization like our forefathers. Civilization has brought us nothing good but greed for only a few to exploit our natural resources and wealth for their own selfish gain. 

The dilemma facing this generation is, whether to join the past generation of leaders to continue follow the footsteps of our so called founding fathers of this nation and remain beggars in our own natural resource rich country. Or challenge the leadership that has run the country down and liberate the country so that the country’s wealth can be equally and fairly distribute to all people. The people of this nation deserve to have equal opportunity to a better life if they choose to work hard.
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