By Catherine Wilson
Painting by PNG artist Jeffrey Feeger (photo by Claire Kouro)
In 2011 the National Informal Economy Policy was launched to promote “the informal economy as the ‘grassroots expression’ of the private sector and a partner in the formal economic system of Papua New Guinea.”
The policy advocates growth of, and greater civil participation in, the informal economy, regardless of gender, urban or rural location, and ultimately socio-economic inclusion for all involved.
Strategies to empower workers include an enabling regulatory environment, financial inclusion through microfinance and provision of improved infrastructure, facilities, education and training, social protection and political representation. Thus, it is hoped to link “the economies of rural and urban areas and to reduce inter-regional, as well as inter-personal, income inequalities.”
At Gordons Market, where there is currently no power, public water supply, inadequate sanitation and refuse management, vendors would like to see changes.
“I would like to see improvements, especially more benches for vendors and power supply,” said Miriam, from Babiko village, who works at the market with her mother and two sisters.
“We would also like to see good services for road transport, as sometimes when public transport is not available, we are not able to get to market in time to sell enough.”
The size and resilience of the our agricultural economy is testament to the initiative and creativity of people and communities at the grassroots, but putting in place promised state reforms is vital to its development and long term future.
“The informal economy in the agricultural sector is a booming industry,” Maria Linibi, president of PNG Women in Agriculture Development Foundation, claims.
“Women in PNG are entrepreneurs and make do with what resources they have, such as markets, transport, even if it means walking long distances with heavy loads on their backs to the nearest available means to earn some cash,” Linibi said.
“But there is,” she added, “no proper marketing infrastructure and other facilities in place to facilitate and support the informal sector to boost and sustain its effectiveness.”
Market vendor, Nikil, took pride in saying: “We do everything ourselves.”
NRI’s Nalau Bingeding said that substantial PNG-based agricultural research and its effective application, addressing restricted and expensive transport options and developing appropriate technology to prolong the life of perishables, would bring prosperity to smallholders and food gardeners.