The immediate future appears likely to experience further growth albeit at a forecast slightly lower growth rate until 2014.
Of late some commentators have found it fitting to brand the PNG economy a ‘tiger economy’; once a brand that the PNG nation could only wish for.
And many citizens might have smiled and, of course, bragged a bit about how we’ve grown and how good our future prospects seem.
PNG has to a certain degree, succeeded in changing perceptions and, apart from traditional partners, now appears to be romancing new, big players in the Asia-Pacific region.
How long this continues is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for certain: there’s virtually almost nothing tangible on the ground to show as evidence for a decade of economic growth.
So there’s a question begging to be answered: Is Papua New Guinea really a tiger economy?
The phrase ‘tiger economy’ is used to define any economy that has continually experienced economic growth through its trade and industry sectors and as well as improvements in living standards of its citizens.
PNG has experienced economic growth but has this been replicated in other sectors such as education, health, infrastructure and manufacturing – the very sectors that enable citizens to improve their living standards?
Isn’t the elementary reason for a country seeking economic growth the ‘improvement of living standards and prosperity’ for its citizens? How could PNG be a tiger economy when its citizens are still living on the edges?
This ‘tiger economy’ branding may invoke images of improving education and health services, a burgeoning manufacturing (downstream processing) sector, and so on.
But these aren’t happening in PNG, although we seem to have succeeded in fooling people outside and even ourselves that they are.
It is highly likely PNG citizens will have developed illusions as to true state of the economy thus allowing the government and its thinkers to take a rather more laid-back approached towards fixing our many problems.
Although it has achieved sustained economic growth for a decade, PNG hasn’t reached that stage yet when it can be called a tiger economy. Some other name, maybe to use Tony Flynn’s ‘pussycat economy’, might fit well.
Remember the Asian economic meltdown; where the Asian tiger economies were brought to their knees. However, they were able to quickly bounce back, due partly to their solid manufacturing, education and health sectors which they had developed during happier days.
If PNG is to experience a meltdown or slowing down due to a downturn in demand for our raw materials, huge debt-servicing expenses and an inequitable distribution of wealth, what sector is there to aid PNG’s speedy recovery?
PNG needs to first build, rebuild and strengthen its appalling self.