Posts Tagged ‘People’s Economy’

By John Simoi


I think the most important thing is for people to come together and see the real needs in their community, and ask what they can do to change the way they’re living. If there are problems or hardships in their community, to ask what are the best ways that they can address those kinds of problems.

In Papua New Guinea, our land is our life. In everything, we must do it in an environmentally friendly way. We have to think about our future generations – how can we conserve our resources, not exploit everything and leave our future generations to suffer. So that kind of mentality you must have when you’re looking at ways to improve yourself.

A person himself can’t do something: but if several people can mobilise, together they can bring the changes. If they want changes to come into their community, they have to work together.

Some people may be afraid to speak out because their English is no good, or because they think someone will laugh at their idea. Don’t ever stop yourself from saying something – your thinking might be the thought that changes your community.

And other people are just sitting down and waiting for others to come and show them. But when you sit down and wait for others to show you, you will never get anywhere. You have to get on your two feet, you have to go find your friend and discuss the idea with him. Then if you see that he has already thought like you, then you go to another person. And then you go to another person and another and eventually, the group will form. And that’s how you will move. And if you don’t move, then nothing will happen.

People should have this thought in mind, like what Abraham Lincoln said: “It is not what the country can do for you, but what you can for your country.’ And in a smaller way, whether it is in a village or in a very remote area, it’s what you do in your particular area that you can make an impact. And you don’t worry about the government, you don’t worry about anybody – you just go ahead and do it.

So you start with one or two people sitting down talking, then three or four people sitting down talking, and then your group will start mobilising. And as you are moving, you are learning. If you can rise up and do something, definitely you will learn something. You will become wiser, and learn how to protect your environment, your resources, your future generations.

Some Papua New Guineans say, “it’s the money we don’t have that prevents us from doing it”. It’s not the money! We Papua New Guineans are so fortunate that we own the land and we own the resources. And all these things, they are money. We already have money here. The betel nut is money, the coconut is money, the fish is money. You see? The banana is money. The pawpaw is money. Even a single tree is money.

It’s just a matter of us rising up, putting the betel nut together, selling it, getting the money and using it. This is the way to start. It is not the money that will come and make us start, no. It is us.  First believe in yourself, then utiliise your resources to begin changing your community. There’s no other way forward. We have everything here, we can do it. Nobody’s stopping us. We have to think positive, we have to believe in ourselves and we have to believe in our future, and protect our future.

You have to stand up and speak for your rights. And you know, when you speak for your rights, you are not talking for yourself only; it is the rights of your children and the right of your children’s children.




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.

Yat Paol is a farmer on Madang’s North Coast. He runs a grassroots NGO aimed at linking up rural PNG communities who are using their land to build small businesses. We interviewed Mr Paol about what basic government services would enable smallholders to transform PNG’s fortunes.


What do you think Government’s role in supporting the so-called ‘informal’ economy should be?

There are two levels that come to mind. Number one, extension services. Meaning that after PNG’s colonial era, Independence and immediately after that, for some 10 years or so we used to have extension offices. Technical offices like agriculture, other technical assistance that people would need back home, like for small business, marketing and all that. That is non-existent today, particularly in the countryside, in the rural areas where for technical support like that people are cut off from road links and access to even to the districts and provincial centres. They’re left out. So that’s one area if government really does what government is for, they should be looking into. That’s number one.

And the second area is facilitating trade for produce that people are already doing: the business part of it. Like infrastructure, the road, bridges and ports that will enable farmers, producers to have access to markets. And if government does what governments are for, again, making that happen so market access can be there for the people out in the areas, the producers.

And maybe a third one that comes to mind is policies. They should be people-friendly, producer-friendly. Making it possible for people to get through with this kind of business, because there’s a lot of bureaucracy and procedures to be followed for businesses. And if something is done along that line for people who are, particularly people out in the rural areas, isolated areas, that will help them also.

With regards to extension services, you said they stopped around 20 years ago, roughly in the 1990s. What’s your opinion about why that was stopped?

Maybe the government took it for granted structures like with the provincial and local level government, the law on local and provincial government being passed in parliament and being implemented, the government may have taken for granted that with that structure in place such services will be catered for. Which is not the case. The structure is in place but it’s not working. Not serving. In policy, more power’s given to the district and local level governments; but for implementation, for the working of it, the machinery’s not working out there. Like, say for example Josephstaal. There’s no government presence there. The only outside presence there is the Catholic priest there. And that’s the only leadership from the outside and there is no government presence whatsoever there.

Josephstaal is just one case and you can multiply that. And even in Madang, you have just maybe one or two, maybe three out of all the LLGs that is working above average. It creates dsillusionment, and frustration. That also builds up that law and order problem. People out of frustration just … they just get out of control, because of frustration.

To me, it seems like these days the government’s focus is all about mining, commercial fishing, commercial logging – big industry. Is that part of the reason why they’ve turned their attention away from local-level, small rural extension services like that?

 I think that’s a big part of it because of the government’s national focus on big business, export focussed business, extractive industry – big industry, big business. I think that’s very much part of the reason. They see that as they way to go, that model of development. As opposed to, what the people can do and in fact what they’re already doing. It’s happening there. But just a little bit of facilitation there is needed : infrastructure, extension services, that’s it.  But with that system not working in many, maybe most LLGs, that’s frustrating. It’s not helping people.

Is there also a lack of training and skills development available to people?

In the local areas, there is no such availability of technical assistance or skills transfer. There are some NGOs, certain agencies, certain groups that are doing that, but it’s not from the government, and it’s not organised. Like in the past when there were extension services, it was structured, it was organised. Now it’s ad hoc: whoever succeeds in linking up with some agency, some NGO or outside group that can be able to provide some training, they’re lucky.

Those services are very important. One thing is, cash is something new. It’s not part of our culture. We were trading before, our ancestors used to trade. Cash as such is something new, and management, the handling of money, this is something new. There’s a lot of that training needs to be, for management of that cash, for business in this cash economy. In certain areas, some of our areas, cash-flow is good, but the management of the cash is a big, big problem, still. Small cash is alright, it’s manageable, as it grows we need management skills on how to manage the cash.  So one area where the government can support is technical, it’s more capacity building.

What about basic things like road access?

That’s a big one, infrastructure to facilitate business. There’s a lot of produce, marketing opportunities out there but there is no market access because of infrastructure situation, that’s not helping.

I thought that is the government’s job. I find it hard to imagine why people stand up, run for political office – I thought they are the policy makers, the decision makers to make sure the common fund there, the country’s budget , caters for its people, six plus million people in the country. And that is not happening. So that is also my question, why is not happening? So now, my tendency now, with VICo, is people do what they can do. Rather than working with outside agencies which gets into bureaucracy and all that. When you initiate it yourself you know how it works – you make it work, actually. So, to make do with what’s at their disposal, because government is not working. Not doing what government is for.


Recent initiatives in the Pacific prove we can find a street trading relationship that is a win-win for everyone.

The ‘informal’ economy continues to expand here in the Pacific. For example, recent research has found that as more people shake the delusion that being a buai trader is socially unacceptable, urban Papua New Guineans are quitting their 9-5 jobs to get in on the ‘green gold’ business. They soon realise the buai trade offers more lucrative prospects and better social security than the so-called ‘formal’ economy.

The expansion of self-employed trade can be seen as a positive, given the unparalleled economic advantages of this economy: it keeps prices down, and the income generated (based on using home-grown resources and capital) stays in our country and communities.

But, as this economy expands, the market infrastructure struggles to accommodate its growth, resulting in more litter and overcrowded markets (as we examined in this post last week).

However, recognising the vital role of these entrepreneurs in our communities can go a long way to solving those issues, as recent initiatives in the Pacific have shown.

In the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, new ideas are helping to make markets safer and cleaner, for the traders and customers.

A new program by the Rakiraki Town Council aims to improve the financial skills of women vendors – how to budget, keep accounts, customer service, and so on.

Meanwhile the municipality of Ba, Fiji is showing that supporting and respecting our traders is in the best interest of consumers as well. Ba provides kitchens, toilets, showers, and safe low-cost places for women vendors and their children to sleep. In addition, “a learning and handicraft centre is helping to train and diversify traders’ skills and increase their incomes”, resulting in more diversity and choice for consumers and tourists.

These initiatives could turn out to be an economic and cultural boon for these progressive island nations. In what’s being touted as ‘the future of the economy’, government support for Durban, South Africa’s self-employed traders has resulted in one of the most successful duel economic and tourism ventures in the country.

It seems likely the People’s Economy will continue to grow and thrive throughout the Pacific. Oppressing and removing markets is therefore unlikely to solve the perceived ‘problem’ of markets: and will also result in the Pacific missing out on capitalising on arguably its most prospective economy.

With adequate government and community support for the Pacific’s most vital trade, we can clean-up our cities and promote and improve the sustainable, diverse, and lucrative People’s Economy that has sustained our peoples and our ways for 50,000 years.

* Watch: Making marketplaces safer in Fiji