OVERCOMING CONSTRAINTS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA facing PNG. To avoid this, the Lowy Institute Conference

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Transcript of OVERCOMING CONSTRAINTS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA facing PNG. To avoid this, the Lowy Institute Conference

  • OVERCOMING CONSTRAINTS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY There is renewed concern among Australian policy makers about Papua New

    Guinea, but discussion often stalls in the face of the enormity of the challenges

    facing PNG. To avoid this, the Lowy Institute Conference “Overcoming

    Constraints in PNG” took a new approach. We looked at how individuals, groups,

    corporations and governments are succeeding in PNG - despite the obstacles.

    We hoped to draw out some of PNG’s success stories to see what might be

    learned.

    The conference heard stories of success, in varying degrees, and report cards on

    some promising reforms and initiatives. Presentations were made by successful

    agricultural entrepreneurs, church representatives, the mining industry and PNG

    Ombudsman Commission. The conference also heard presentations on electoral

    reform in PNG, and on Australia’s aid program, including the recently inaugurated

    Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP).

    Drawing on these stories, the conference identified some of the ingredients of

    success. Good leadership is especially important, whether in the public or the

    private sector. More training and a firmer approach to corruption would improve

    leadership. Successful individuals and organisations show a great capacity for

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  • self reliance, individually and on a collective basis. They dig deep into their own

    resources. Maintaining community involvement, a sense of ownership and unity is

    also important to success in PNG, one of the most culturally diverse countries in

    the world.

    The conference discussed how PNG could best build on these positive

    developments and whether these successes could be replicated elsewhere in the

    country. Showing that it is possible to succeed within existing structures in PNG is

    seen as important in itself. A greater emphasis on ensuring the flow of quality

    information in PNG could spread knowledge of little-known success stories and

    better combat the constant flow of misinformation. Increasing knowledge of

    PNG’s Constitution in particular would be a step towards improving national unity.

    And an increased profile for the Constitution would ideally also see an increased

    role for PNG’s Ombudsman Commission which plays an important role in

    monitoring government. As the state has withdrawn, organisations in PNG,

    ranging from local self-help groups to large mining companies, have stepped in to

    fill the gap. Given this, it was suggested that AusAID could benefit from forging

    more partnerships outside the state. And re-energising Australia’s relationship

    with PNG, particularly through people-to-people links, would also be an important

    positive step.

    As the renewed debate about Papua New Guinea continues it will be important for

    policy makers to remain mindful of positive developments in PNG, many of which

    are reactions to previous failure. Success in PNG, as elsewhere, is more

    commonly the result of trial and error than chancing upon a magic formula. State-

    building is a long and complex process requiring patience and endurance. These

    qualities and a readiness to draw the appropriate lessons from previous

    experience will be essential for PNG to better realise its great potential.

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  • (left to right) Dr Ila Temu and Stephen Pupune

    INTRODUCTION

    There is renewed concern among Australian policy makers about Papua New

    Guinea. 30 years after gaining independence, PNG has achieved only slow and

    inconsistent economic growth. It faces growing governance problems, including

    problems with law and order, corruption, and declining delivery of basic services.

    PNG has by far the worst social indicators in the Pacific.

    Discussion about what should be done often stalls, however, in face of the

    enormity of the challenges facing PNG. Well-known constraints such as

    geographic and ethnic fragmentation, the weakness of national identity, the strong

    pull of local loyalties, and customary land ownership are too frequently cited

    fatalistically as broad-brush explanations for developmental failure. Conversely,

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  • many proposed solutions for PNG call for radical and often impractical measures

    to overcome these constraints quickly.

    The Lowy Institute Conference “Overcoming Constraints in PNG” (held in Sydney

    18 February 2005) took a different approach. The Conference aimed to look at

    how individuals, groups, corporations and governments were working successfully

    within these constraints. In the process it was hoped that the Conference would

    draw out PNG’s success stories: both as a corrective to the overly negative

    reporting on PNG and in order to see what might be learned from these

    successes.

    The Conference heard stories of success - in varying degrees - and report cards

    on some promising reforms and initiatives. Presentations were made by

    successful agricultural entrepreneurs, church representatives, the mining industry

    and PNG Ombudsman Commission. The Conference also heard presentations

    on electoral reform in PNG and Australia’s aid program, including the recently

    inaugurated Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP). Finally, it looked at what

    might be learned from these successes for public policy development in Canberra

    and Port Moresby.

    The Conference was organised into three thematic sessions:

    1. Dealing without the state addressed the limited scope of state penetration. This

    session covered the development of new export industries with little state support,

    the role of the churches in health and education, and the changes in Australian aid

    policy feeding from this constraint.

    2. Clans and commerce addressed the commercial constraint posed by PNG’s

    clan system and the complexities of customary land ownership. It covered issues

    such as agreements between major corporations and clan groups, commercial

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  • mobilisation by clans and the tension between individual success and communal

    obligations.

    3. Making Westminster work addressed the political constraint of an inherited

    political system which is frequently claimed to be “culturally inappropriate” and

    which has had mixed success in delivering stable, effective and accountable

    political representation.

    The Conference was conducted under the Chatham House rule. Reflecting that,

    this report is a synthesis of discussion. Part 1 describes the ingredients of

    success identified during the conference. Part 2 is a discussion of the implications

    for public policy.

    Participants at Lowy Institute Conference “Overcoming Constraints in Papua New

    Guinea”

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  • PART 1: INGREDIENTS OF SUCCESS

    Good Leadership

    Good leadership was identified as central to success in PNG in both the private

    and public sector. Although PNG has produced good leaders there are problems

    in replicating and “modeling” good leadership. Some Papua New Guinean

    participants thought there were few external solutions to this problem and

    emphasised the need for individuals to take up the personal challenge to be

    strong, accountable and transparent.

    The Ombudsman Commission plays an important role in policing PNG’s

    Leadership Code (part of PNG’s Constitution) and itself offers an example of

    strong leadership. It has recently taken a more prominent and pro-active role in

    attacking corruption. It also plays a role in assisting leaders to understand their

    duties and responsibilities and, more broadly, in addressing the lack of confidence

    in the political system caused by corruption. The Commission has run into

    problems, however, as a result of the lack of political support for reform and the

    prosecution of corruption. Many politicians benefit from corruption and are

    reluctant to support change. Very few parliamentarians attended a meeting the

    Chief Ombudsman recently called to discuss their constitutional obligations.

    Recent political reforms aim to improve the quality of parliamentary leadership.

    The reintroduction of Limited Preferential Voting (LPV) 1 aims to produce a more

    representative and accountable parliament. The first-past-the-post (FPTP) method

    has led to a decline in the percentage of the vote obtained by winning candidates:

    in 2002 there were an average of 26 candidates per seat and consequently half of

    the winners scored less than 16% of the vote. As a result Members of Parliament

    tend to work only for their base voters. LPV aims to broaden MPs constituencies

    1 LPV means that voters may choose 3 candidates in order of preference, with second and third votes being distributed if a candidate is eliminated for having the lowest tally of primary votes.

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  • but it is too early to say whether it will do so. LPV has been used in 6 by-

    elections since 2003 with mixed and inconclusive results.