“The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.” -Woodrow Wilson
The Independent State of Papua New Guinea, like many of its neighbors, has struggled with issues of governance issues since the country gained independence in 1975. The influx of foreign capital and currency that will result from the exploration of Papua New Guinea’s natural gas resources will certainly affect the country. The new financial resources provide an opportunity to improve infrastructure and create an avenue for the majority of the people of Papua New Guinea to join the formal economy. By looking at the impact of infrastructure improvements and the governance challenges associated with large stores of natural resources in otherwise poor nations and applying them to the specific case of Papua New Guinea, this paper will make proposals for policies that the U.S. government should enact to improve the chances of success in Papua New Guinea.
The country of Papua New Guinea consists of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (second largest in the world) and an archipelago of adjacent islands. From 1949 until independence in 1975, it was administered as a trusteeship by Australia, its neighbor to the south from whom it is separated only by the narrow Torres Strait. The geography of Papua New Guinea is dominated by tropical jungles and nearly impassable mountains, contributing to the isolation and diversification of the people living there.
Even within the population living on the main island, there is an incredible diversity of customs, traditions, and language. “The diversity, reflected in a folk saying, ‘For each village, a different culture,’ is perhaps best shown in the local languages. Spoken mainly on the island of New Guinea--composed of Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian province of West Papua--some 800 of these languages have been identified; of these, only 350-450 are related. The remainder seem to be totally unrelated either to each other or to the other major groupings.” Many of these people are living without access to basic services, and even those that are living in urban areas are not earning a sufficient income to provide for consumption, education, and health care. As a result, the relative successful performance of the PNG economy must be tempered by recent estimates that 40 percent of Papua New Guineans are living on less than US$1 per day.
Although it has not been the subject of repeated coups as some other poor nations have, the government has suffered from a fractured and unstable government, which has continued through the present government. “In the 2007 elections, 66 members of parliament lost their seats. The government was formed by a coalition of several parties, and Michael Somare, the leader of the National Alliance (and the nation's first Prime Minister in...