FR GIORGIO LICINI | Catholic Reporter
WASN’T THE YEAR 2013 A TURNING POINT for Papua New Guinea? Not only a new generation of political leaders in their forties consolidated power, but the country has found itself embroiled in some of the most contentious contemporary issues.
Take, for example, the debate on crime and the death penalty, the controversial agreement with Australia on the asylum seekers, and more recently the religious revival which led the Speaker of Parliament to remove traditional carvings from the national haus tambaran in Waigani.
All these issues have been widely debated in the modern global social networks. In all cases, concerned authorities have gone ahead with their plans, but educated citizens have acquired a higher degree of participation and PNG has become better known on the world stage.
There was more, however, to highlight the growing role of the country. The Minister for Treasuries, Don Polye, has been selected as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for 2014.
The Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in Ela province and nearby areas is reported to go on full swing next year and change the fiscal and financial landscape of the country. At the same time our cities are sprawling with new buildings and begging children exactly as in all fast “developing” economies.
There is therefore a lot of hope and a lot to be concerned about. It would be a pity to see individuals or groups opposing each other on principles. Nobody has an easy solution for complex issues and nobody can expect or have all the tools to fix any of the problems. Unilateral behavior and decision making is the enemy of democracy and development.
Politics and economics have their own laws and criteria. The most fundamental is honesty and the concern for the common good. Churches and other people of good will can only remind leaders about it and bring issues to light.
They can’t impose anything. And they don’t want to do it. All must be subject to criticisms and correction when they err or just talk and do not act. It is, however, with individuals and institutions in control of public funds that vigilance has to be strengthened.
Schools need to be built and the number of teachers increased. No amount of money on the national treasury will take an uneducated fifty or sixty per cent of the population out of poverty and marginalization.
PNG will only defeat poverty by the middle of the century if the country is able and willing to defeat analphabetism and instil discipline. A subsistence farmer who knows how to read and write is better off than one who doesn’t.
Education is the solution. All other means are short cuts leading nowhere or not too far. They include dole outs, vote buying, forced contraception, abortion, land grabbing, death penalty, increased mining, irrational logging, asylum seekers for roads, displacement of rural communities, and so on; all things that highly infringe on human rights, human life and common sense.
Papua New Guinea is no more simply the paradise of the ethnologists or the land of the unexpected, an object of study, discovery and adventure. It is rather a country of its own, which needs everybody’s contribution to still get the majority of its citizens enjoy what they deserve: a dignified, productive and meaningful life with proper balance of the cultural, spiritual and material welfare.
The country can still be a “paradise” in modern times, but urgent work waits to be done.