Archive for June, 2012

By Catherine Wilson

Part One

Although Papua New Guinea is known as a resource-rich country, 85 per cent of the population depends on the informal economy for a living.

Photo: Women at Gordons market (Catherine Wilson/IPS)

The need for a grassroots-led economic enterprise to create equitable and sustainable development is nationally recognised, but awaits better governance, infrastructure and facilities.

Meanwhile, the majority of PNG’s population of 7 million people practice subsistence agriculture in rural communities, many in locations remote from road and transport networks and public service delivery.

More than half of all income sources, including fresh food production, are part of the ‘informal’ economy. It is therefore the People’s Economy – OUR economy.

Agriculture-based entrepreneurship is not confined to the rural provinces. In the capital, Port Moresby, fresh produce markets are growing, supplied by an expanding network of small farms and food gardens in the city’s outer suburbs and villages within commuting distance.

Bire Nikil moved to Port Moresby from Chimbu Province in the highlands to start a food garden several years ago. At Gordons Market, he is surrounded by five of his relatives who assist him with growing and selling kaukau (sweet potato), bananas, aibika (Pacific cabbage), pineapples, peanuts, watermelon, mangoes and coconuts, all transported in by public minibus.

Nikil’s weekly income of K300 supports 20-25 people, including relatives in Chimbu province.

For many market vendors, who are also growers, this is their only source of income and open markets their main outlets.

Ruth Williepore supports herself and her four-month-old daughter by selling freshly grown food at the market every day. She lives on the city’s northern outskirts, where cultivation of fresh produce is collectively organised with families given specific crops to grow and produce taken to market by public transport.

“If we sell 100 bags (of food) per day,” Williepore said, “we earn K2000-3000 which pays for food, water, household items, school fees, clothes and power bills.”

“More people are buying and more people are selling,” Williepore added, surrounded by several hundred fellow traders and an abundance of fruit and vegetables piled on wooden benches, in plastic tubs and on every spare bit of ground.

The ‘2008 Feeding Port Moresby’ study, by PNG’s Fresh Produce Development Agency, revealed that the total supply of fresh food to the city each year is around 57,780 tonnes, with an overwhelming 50,350 tonnes sourced from local urban production and 7,430 tonnes from other provinces and international imports.

Agriculture accounts for 32.2% of PNG’s gross domestic product (GDP), while industry contributes 35.7%. But revenue from the minerals and resources industry, which has contributed to rising national growth over the last half decade, has failed to generate economic benefits or public services for most people.

Nalau Bingeding, Research Fellow at the National Research Institute, claims that the biggest obstacles to the resource boom transforming the pace of development are “corruption in politics and the public service, and a weak public service mechanism”. While their economy is crippled by corruption, our economy has expanded.

Globally, the ‘people’s economy’ accounts for 60% of employment in so-called developing countries. These self-employed traders possess business acumen, creativity and innovation that can be further tapped for further economic growth if conditions of vulnerability and marginalisation are removed.

*Part Two to follow on Monday, July 2.

Via Klairehsays

It starts its journey at a place thousands of walks, sleeps and an ocean away called Melbourne. Carefully it gets printed and cut. A rectangular piece of plastic, coloured depictions of different digitalized, nationalized objects on one side, on the flip side you see either the Waigani *haus tambaran or the majestic bird of paradise. You can’t eat it, drink it, nurture it, decorate yourself with it or use it as an ornament on yourself nor your home.

It only has value when you give it in exchange for something, otherwise it’s a worthless piece of plastic. The value is decided by hundreds of different factors and by people that have no relationship to you and most likely you will never meet in your lifetime. In fact it has no history or kinship to you. You don’t share any stories or any affinity with it.
Funny thing is that these days we all would like to possess as much of these pieces of plastic that we could possibly gather.
Now reminisce. Each of them start their journey where your heart is, right here – at home. Remember the remarkable patterns made by shells, stones and seeds. Remember pigs, cassowaries, the plumes of magnificent feathers and the regal cuscus fur. The intricate patterns created by weaving, by painting, by carving, by moulding.

You can eat from them, you can drink from them, you can nurture them like you would a family member, you can sit on some, you can wear some, you can carry others, you can give some a place of significance so people have opportunity to admire them.
No one else needs to value any of them, in fact their value is determined by giver and the receiver. Each of them have value. Full stop.

Yet in this day and age these priceless artefacts, seem to have less value than those useless pieces of plastic.

The plastic and coin money have brainwashed us into thinking that we will achieve happiness and good health. The plastic money has been sold to us as the only means to validation in this world, meanwhile enslaving us to toil for hours on end, in conditions that are alien to us, in doing things that in the long run will have no positive impact on our future generations.
We are no longer proud of our own knowledge, skills and resources, we think we are somehow inferior to what the plastic money represents, because we have bought into the value of this useless piece of plastic that owns no value of its own.
Retarded isn’t it?
*haus tambaran = house of spirits/sacred house/men’s house

BOUGAINVILLE Copper Ltd (BCL) said in early May the people of Bougainville’s future depended on the reopening of the Panguna mine. At BCL’s annual general meeting in Port Moresby last month, chairman Peter Taylor said:

“There is widespread agreement today that Bougainville’s economic future needs mining if it is to be able to fund services for the people from its own resources, as well as address future opportunities for economic and social development.”

But Bougainvilleans do have a choice for their economic future not solely based on mining. We know this because, during the war, Bougainvilleans found they were very capable of supporting themselves outside of mining: outside the cash economy altogether.

The wonderful book, As Mothers of the Land[1] – detailing the incredible and decisive role played by women throughout the war and subsequent peace process – provides an overview of this successful adaptation to self-sufficiency during the blockade.

Josephine Tankunani Sirivi, for example, describes how people returned to traditional gardening knowledge and the barter system. “Now we no longer had cash, paid work or any access to processed food, yet we were able to produce enough to feed our people and to share with others,” she says.

Rather than society succumbing to anarchy and starvation, “it was a time of sharing and caring wholeheartedly for one another.”

It was also a time of innovation: learning how to use coconut oil for cars and power; designing hydro-electric power from mountain streams; setting up a short-wave radio station (Radio Free Bougainville); producing rice, oil and soap; using cocoa to produce bleach; and re-learning the use of various herbs and vines, tree bark, roots and leaves for medicine.

Perhaps most impressively, these (primarily women-led) initiatives created an outstanding health and education infrastructure entirely through community organisation and without wages, let alone millions of dollars of foreign aid. Marilyn Taleo Havini describes this revolution:

“Women’s groups began by forming family, church and non-denominational fellowships to feed orphans and widows, to teach, nurse, pass on recipes, seeds and agrarian skills such as permaculture, and to conduct technical and secretarial training.

“By 1996, several of these community initiatives had come together under (the) name Bougainville Community Based Integrated Humanitarian Program (BOCBIHP). Behind the blockade, by the time the peace process began in 1997, they had established 12 health centre bases that supplied 23 aid posts and 47 village health clinics. The nursing school in the jungle graduated trainees and health workers including 36 village midwives, 36 village aides and 23 aid post orderlies.

“BOCBIHP fielded 80 qualified schoolteachers and 113 volunteer grade-10 graduates as their assistants. They opened 71 community schools with an overall enrollment of 4,726 pupils. They also opened a secretarial school and a bible college.”

Sirivi sees the self-sufficiency movement as having enabled many people to survive the war. In addition, “new communal respect for traditional knowledge and jungle skills added to the pride of being Bougainvillean.”

If these outcomes were possible under the extreme conditions of the war, what amazing efforts could be achieved today, in a time of peace?

Mining has left a deep stain on Bougainville, and mining alone won’t remove it. Regardless of whether Panguna is reopened or not, Bougainvilleans can benefit – like all Papua New Guineans, and all Pacific Islanders – by organising themselves to control their own communities, as described above.

Not being reliant on mining, these communities can survive and thrive when they control their own development.


Watch a movie about the Bougainville ‘eco-revolution’ during the crisis, ‘The Coconut Revolution’, here.

[1] Tankunani Sirivi, J. and Taleo Havini, M. (eds.)2004, …As Mothers of the Land: The Birth of the Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom. Canberra: Pandanus Books

Wanem skelim blong yu long ol Bikpela Stia Tingting i stap insait long Mama Lo blong PNG?

What do Papua New Guinea’s National Goals and Directive Principles mean to you?

Faivpela Bikpela Stia Tingting i stap long Mama Lo blong PNG. Long  1974, wanpela Komiti ol kolim Komstitusenol Plening Komiti i raun insait long olgeta hap kona blong PNG long kisim tingting blong ol manmeri long wanem samting ol laikim long nupela kantri PNG.

The five goals and directive principles are inscribed in the preamble of PNG’s Constitution. In 1974, a Constitutional Planning Committee travelled right throughout PNG in an unprecedented attempt to articulate the people’s hopes and needs for the new country.

Ol i bin askim, ‘wanem kain kantri yumi laik lukim?”

They asked, ‘what kind of society do we want?’

Ol skelim ol tingting  blong ol manmeri na kirapim dispel ol Stia Tingting

These goals and directive principles are the result.

1. Integral human development.
We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others.
2. Equality and participation
We declare our second goal to be for all citizens to have an equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the development of our country.
3. National sovereignty and self-reliance
We declare our third goal to be for Papua New Guinea to be politically and economically independent, and our economy basically self-reliant.
4. Natural resources and environment
We declare our fourth goal to be for Papua New Guinea’s natural resources and environment to be conserved and used for the collective benefit of us all, and be replenished for the benefit of future generations.
5. Papua New Guinean ways
We declare our fifth goal to be to achieve development primarily through the use of Papua New Guinean forms of social, political and economic organization.
Tasol, Tripela Ten–Seven krismas bihain long indipendens, dispel ol Bikpela Stia Tingting i no karim kaikai long laip blong ol man-meri-pinkini  insait long PNG.

However,  37 years since Independence, the universal rights belonging to every Papua New Guinean man, woman and child expressed in the goals are yet to be realised.

Man i bin go pas long raitim Mama Lo, John Momis i tok PNG i stap nau long bikpela hevi. Maski i gat bikpela divelopmen i kamap insait long kantri planti lain i wok long bungim hevi yet – graun i lus taim ol bikpela wok bisnis i kamap na dispel wok long daunim sindaun blong yumi aninit long ol Bikpela Stia Tingting long Mama Lo.

As former Constitutional Planning Committee member John Momis said recently, PNG is at an important crossroads in its history. While it has great opportunities, it also faces extremely grave challenges – customary land is being lost as commercial development increases in PNG, and this threatens our potential to secure the rights expressed in these goals.

Long dispela as nau, mipela askim yu long wanem ting blong yu long ol Faivpela Stia Tinting.

So we are asking you to describe what these goals mean to you.

Yumi stil nidim ol Faivpela Stia Tingting o nogat? Na sapos yumi nidim, yumi inap kirapim ol long stretim future bilong yumi o nogat?

Are the five goals still relevant in PNG today? And if they are, can they be resurrected and used as the basis for a new discussion about ‘which way for PNG’?

To read the Constitution, click here. To read the CPC’s 1974 report, click here.

To listen to Our Pacific Ways being interviewed on Radio Australia about the essay competition, click here.

To watch short films featuring John Momis  discussing writing the Constitution, click here and here.

To watch a video about the National Goals and Directive Principles, click here.


IN the clamour of nations frantically vying to make their voice heard at the gargantuan Rio+20 Earth Summit, it’s almost certain the Pacific will remain a drop in the ocean.

Yet a small group of Pacific women consider the environmental issues in the region so critical that they have made the long trip to Brazil to represent the Liquid Continent regardless.

The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, held 20 years after the seminal original Rio Earth Summit in 1992, opened today and is billed as “an unprecedented opportunity to build the future we want”.

‘The future’, as we know from Copenhagen, is hammered out in summit deals palatable to the power-broker nations, while the voices of small island nations on the frontline of multiple environmental crises get swallowed in the feeding frenzy.

But that hasn’t stopped Maureen Penjeuli, Noelene Nabulivou and Rosa Koian from trying.

Representing civil society organisations (CSOs) from Fiji and Papua New Guinea, these women have been campaigning hard inside and outside summit conference rooms to make the Pacific an issue.

“We wanted to put the Pacific at the centre of the debate,” Koian, a coordinator at PNG CSO Bismarck Ramu Group, said. “The Pacific sometimes gets forgotten, but the reality is our region is at the forefront of some of the most pressing environmental issues in the world right now.”

Indeed, while the myriad Rio speeches and press conferences take place, the Pacific’s unique ecologies are fighting urgent challenges.

The region is home to some of the most pristine and biodiverse flora and fauna in the world, but an influx of foreign extractive industry activity threatens these. In PNG, 10% of customary land has been stolen or leased for commercial purposes – often without landowner consent – almost overnight.

This landgrab is also robbing livelihoods in other Pacific nations at a pace that could destroy not only the environment, but thousands of years of diverse traditional cultures and lifestyles, within a generation.

“We have to go back to the roots of poverty – where did that come from?” Koian said. “If we look at how masses are now left in such a poor state, it’s because they’re landless. If we compare these landless people to Papua New Guineans, most of whom still own their customary land, we can safely say those people who have land are more free than those who do not.

“So if we want to achieve a level of poverty reduction, we have to return a lot of the stolen land to indigenous people.”

The Pacific’s environmental battleground is not just being fought on land. Even the seas are being targeted for exploitation, as predatory mining companies seek to make the region a guinea pig for Experimental Seabed Mining (ESM). The Pacific delegation has been hitting the streets to bring the ESM protest to global attention, spearheaded by Penjueli from Fiji’s Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) and Noelene Nabulivou, a Pacific representative in the Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) global network.

“Our message to our governments remains strong – we the people reject experimental seabed mining in the Pacific,” Penjueli said. “What is needed in Rio is a strategic refusal by small island states and allies to participate in this false development course”.

The Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Fiji and Kiribati are all targeted for ESM. Canada’s Nautilus Minerals wants to start shipping copper from the seafloor off the coast of PNG by 2013.

“In allowing essential ecosystems to be mined, we are part of a global industrialization process that views the environment as a means to profit, with environmental degradation, social exploitation, biodiversity loss, and violence as its consequence,” Penjueli said.

Koian admits she feels like a small fish in a big ocean. But that’s just the point, she said.

“As the Pacific, we have our problems, we have our strengths, we have our weaknesses, we have our ways,” she said.

“Together we’re going to ask world governments, if they are really serious about sustainable development, they have to re-think a development model that best fits all the different groups that exist in this planet. Because we cannot talk about a one-size fits all model.”


By Victoria Stead

What does it mean to talk of a ‘prosperous future’ for Pacific? By what criteria do we measure ‘prosperity’?

At what level do we measure it: at the level of the state, the village, or the household?

Do we approach prosperity in economic terms, and if so in what relation do we position the ‘formal’ economy and its indicators—Gross Domestic Product, cash income, levels of waged employment—in relation to the self-employed economy: subsistence livelihoods, markets and customary practices of exchange?

What space is there in our imaginings of prosperity for considerations of culture, kastam, ecology, and the social structures of clan and community?

A vision of prosperity for PNG must recognise the continuing vitality and centrality of the ‘informal’ sector – the People’s Economy – in the livelihoods of Pacific peoples.

Notions of prosperity are too often uncritically economistic in their framing, valorising economic criteria of value above others, prioritising the formal sector above the informal, and taking no account of the tensions between customary and modern ways of being and belonging.

In too many large-scale development projects in the Pacific, there is a chronic failure to take the informal economy into account. Places and communities are read through a language of deficit, inscribed as places and people without jobs, without cash, without industry and investment, without ‘development’, rather than as place and people with different livelihoods and forms of work, different systems of exchange, cultures, ways of being.

In PNG’s Medium Term Development Plan 2011-2015, MP Paul Tiensten writes that “since independence we have dreamt of prosperity”.

However, in PNG policy and development discourses, “prosperity” has been overwhelmingly tied to material wealth, measured through criteria that privilege the formal sector, cash economy, and the nation-state as its central units of analysis. ‘Prosperity’ is linked to GDP and government revenue, as well as to the prosperity (and profits) of investors and corporations.

This does not take account of the fact that PNG’s massive informal sector sustains the livelihoods of most of the population.

In Madang, the cash income available from waged employment at the RD Tuna cannery is often far lower than that which can be made from marketing of garden produce, fish, or betelnut. The fortnightly pay of cannery workers is roughly equivalent to what women can earn in 3-5 days of roadside marketing (Havice and Reed, 2012: 426).

A 2008 survey of women roadside traders in Madang similarly found that the People’s Economy was generally much more lucrative than ‘formal’ sector employment, with 82 % of the sellers surveyed earning more than 50 kina a week, higher than the then-minimum weekly wage of K37.20 (Anderson 2008). Fifty percent were earning over K100 a week. Even taking into account the 2011 increase in the minimum wage, which brought it to just over K100 a week, informal marketing remains a more profitable option for many, especially given that the hours required are generally shorter and more flexible.

Within PNG tinned fish is—along with rice, tea, sugar and corned beef—a staple store-bought food item, particularly within urban areas, and within rural communities where local trade-stores supplement gardens as sources of food. Store-bought foodstuffs have become, in many ways, markers of status and “development”, and are considered more “prestigious” than locally-produced food.

Sitting on the veranda of a house in Rempi, in May of 2010, an old man who is the leader of the Bomase clan talked about the new staples of tinned fish, rice, and flour. He said: “our fathers only depended on the garden, not this food which comes from other countries and other places”.

He was not speaking here of the “backwardness” of his ancestors, who ate garden food instead of store-bought goods … but rather lamenting a loss of self-sufficiency and cultural autonomy.

By Dirk Jena


Women showcase their handicraft. Dirk Jena suggests an economic system which places people at the centre and thereby protects their natural talents and resources. Picture: SUPPLIED/UNFPA

IN November last year, the Pacific Institute of Public Policy chairperson Nik Soni wrote, “We need economic policies that are tailored to our individual needs” in a paper where he argued that blanket application of modern economics cannot work for our ocean of islands.

This view is increasingly popular after four decades of attempting to move our island nations beyond the “developing” stages. Most of our islands are now punctuated with some of the main causes of chronic breakdowns of our global megalopolis: reckless urbanisation, mass production, heavy capital investments (destroying irreplaceable natural resources), centralised planning (usually devoid of resource owners’ concerns), increasing household debts etc.

Centralised decision-making and development planning contribute to the fragmentation of traditional structures and social capital which, without an alternative economic system to support its organic operations, collapses and forces villagers, hopelessly dependent on the market economy, to abandon their homes to seek new beginnings and livelihoods.

The renowned economist Ernst Schumacher predicted these impacts by modern economics. He supported smaller enterprises which utilised people’s talents while they provided for their families, on a scale that allowed for the recovery of natural resources being used.

Humanity has always worked better in groupings, which is why such age-old ways as practised in iTaukei villages for example, could realistically be used for development planning and implementation. Such understandings complement very well concepts like the Integrated Household Resource Management (IRHM) which already espouses shared responsibility for the benefit of all.

If this approach was then to be supported by an appropriate economics, the reporting slate of development effectiveness in our region could be very different.

For example, if we were to treat handicrafts as capital as opposed to merely an income then weavers would be more protective of the natural material they use, more efforts would presumably be made to protect indigenous knowledge of these practices and the mother-tongue would be appropriately (re)valued as vessels of such knowledge.

However, the dependency caused by the wisdom of contemporary economics is threatening such indigenous knowledge and skills which could be easily dismissed without an honest attempt at trying it as an alternative development approach: all for the ‘privilege’ of being part of the global economy.

Schumacher’s economics of ‘small is beautiful’ places people at the centre of economics and thus development, as opposed to treating them as statistics.

He was not alone: Gandhi preached the empowerment of village-based artisans which would ensure a solid foundation that would then support national development. He believed the poor could not be helped by mass production but by the production of the masses.

“Why care for people?” Schumacher asked. “Because people are the primary and ultimate source of any wealth whatsoever. If they are left out, if they are pushed around by self-styled experts and high-handed planners, then nothing can ever yield real fruit.”

* Dirk Jena is the director and representative of the United Nations Population Fund Pacific sub-regional office.

By Timothy Gaio Jnr

Black Man Town must say no to the World Trade Organization (WTO). There are so many examples of self-reliance here. Blackman Town is a role model our nation needs to learn from in order to build up the national economy.

The question is: how we can as a nation build our economy so that even the grassroots also can benefit from it?

Speaking from a Man Tanna point of view, Tanna as an island and a society is now experiencing economic growth. I am not a statistician or an economist to weigh and measure the island’s economic growth rate. However speaking from my personal observation and experience, I can say that money making is quick down there. There is a massive inflow of millions of dollars into the money making machine in Tanna and Tafea.

Let us look at a simple equation of economy. A farmer plants his island cabbage and when he harvests it, he wishes to earn some money from it. He therefore sells some along the main high way. He in turn makes some money. He goes home and wants to eat rice. Brother Tom operates a small store where he goes and buys 1 kilo of rice for 200vt. This is the beginning of economic growth, owned by the people and benefitting the people.

Our President Iolu Abbil is a former manager and former inspector of cooperatives in the islands which were set up prior to independence to form the foundation of our national economy. An article in Daily post February 1, 2012 reads, “Wai cooperative in Lolowai Ambae shoots up to Vt59 Million, a profit of 8 Million and shares of Vt2 Million.” Does that not reflect an economic boom for the island and country? The article says Wai Cooperative comes second to Lakatoro Consumers. However, how much more could this figure compare to Black Man Town local economic producers?

The problem is not about money, but how we can make it. We have the product, which we call our natural resources, plus our quality human resources. Long term plans to earn money out of our own resources should be the focus of the planners of our economic development.

The problem is that we want fast food, short cuts and money under the table to implement fast decisions which may lead our country to poverty. Our leaders must think constructively and not only to reflect other people’s thoughts and motives.

Compare Bon Marche to the reality now that we have passed the bill ratifying the WTO Accession. Today I walk to Bon Marche and buy a bundle of Island cabbage for 150vt while sometimes in the Market a bundle is sold for 200vt. World Trade Organization is an economic system that allows big companies to reduce the prices of their products. But selling at very low prices automatically kills our little businesses that we have operated for years to put food on the table every day. 200vt cash may sound a lot, but this is the standard of our economy.

Economic outcome is an end product, which begins with the producer and ends with the consumer. We build our infrastructure and keep the bulk of our money. World Trade Organization and its system builds its infrastructure and takes our money away. It leaves us with nothing: therefore we borrow and borrow again.

To conclude, Black Man Town – you have already set the platform for economic growth. Let us be challenged to protect our economic development – firstly to achieve our individual Provincial Goals, then our National Government Goals.