J P RICHARD
An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
I PENNED THE ACRONYM “i-5” to stand for: Industrialization, Innovation, Infrastructure, Increase and Investment. My “i-5” intends to share my ideas and show how these five “I’s” could help give Lae a fresh perspective to grow into a lively and successful city.
These five “I’s” are what I believe could be significant to Lae’s growth and development and should be captured in a newly proposed Lae City Economic Strategic Plan and, yes, Lae needs a new plan urgently.
The strategic plan then can be translated into a number of action strategies which aim to support the core drivers of industry and new enterprise in Lae’s economy. Focus should encompass significant areas like development precinct, economic Infrastructure development, human resource empowerment and marketing & investment appeal.
Lae city is the second largest city in the country and the national hub for industries. Lae metropolitan area covers a beautiful sea frontier with a natural harbor, enclosed by the mountains of Nawaeb and stretches back into the valleys of Huon and Markham and the city is one of the wettest places on earth with lush tropical environment.
As the industrial capital of Papua New Guinea, Lae has more industries than any provinces currently operating in and around the city contributing at least 12 % to the GDP of the country.
For over 75 years, Lae had gone from a tiny gold rush station to a city of over 100,000 people from all over the country and I believe the pressure of this population growth is enormous.
I’m not surprised to find that Lae does not have a strategic plan for the city and a vision to grow and that’s the problem with our folks in Tutumang, they’re slack, incompetent and lack inspiration.
I’ve heard that the Morobe Provincial Administration had engaged a so-called Provincial Management Team that had formed two separate five year plans that went in-line with the country’s Medium Term Development Strategies.
The two plans are a corporate plan and a development plan for 2008-2012 but they took off on shaky ground, barely holding together due to mismanagement, lack of coordination and direction in budgeting and implementation, incompetency in human resource and eventually unsuccessful.
Now that’s five precious years and a huge waste of finance and resources with little to show. I’m sure the Administration under the new leadership of Kemusung Tomala would by now have an economic strategic plan commencing 2013 but I’m yet to see that happening.
Recent reports in the media from a reliable inside source announced that the Administration is in disarray, slack and is on the verge of collapsing. Anyway, below is the outline of my ideas.
Industrialization is the production of an economic good or service within an economy. Industrialization through manufacturing had proven to amplify the wealth of a society hence boosting the economy and improving the lives of people by spinning off much needed developments and providing essential goods and services.
The manufacturing industry became a key sector of production and labor in European and North American countries during the Industrial Revolution, and I believe Lae can go through that phase with the improvement of factories for large-scale production which eventually would result in consequent changes in society with its share of problems expected.
This principle could best be seen on a larger scale through the BRIC nations and the N-11 emerging markets. Lae city had already established itself as an industrial state but it is yet to realize its economical potentials through manufacturing, capturing some of the important opportunities and reaching its goals and visions.
Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society.
Innovation is the development of new value through solutions that meet new needs, or adding value to old customers by providing new ways of maximizing their current level of productivity. In business and economics, innovation is the catalyst to growth.
A new economic strategy for Lae city could focus on strengthening new businesses and building a local labour market with the broadest possible supply of professional, trade and specialist skills. Specifically it could aim to: support and help identify expansion opportunities for existing businesses, support the development and start-up of new enterprises, exploit Lae’s existing skills base, research and education strengths, and attract and retain workers to develop new labour skills and greater capacities.
Infrastructure is the basic services and facilities necessary for an economy to function. Things, such as roads, bridges, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications, and so forth, provides commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions.
Viewed functionally, infrastructure facilitates the production of goods and services, and also the distribution of finished products to markets, as well as basic social services such as schools and hospitals.
The focus should be on strategic investments and improvements in major transportation systems, energy systems, water systems, and communications infrastructure. The major objectives are to ensure that infrastructure in Lae continues to act as catalyst for new activity and industry expansion, and to ensure that infrastructure capacity is expanded to support large scale population growth. Critical Infrastructure in Lae city that contributes to growth in the New Guinea region-Momase, Highlands and NGI should take a priority budget directly from the national government budget.
A city that is growing exponentially in population would no doubt put pressure on civilization. Inevitably, population will grow and as city planners, you have to have an ever expanding plan. It is important to have fore-sight goals and plans with a vision of a sustainable big city.
The problem with the Morobe Provincial Administration is that 20 years ago, nobody saw it coming and had any vision to expand the city; nobody set goals and strived to achieve them. Today, the effects of this problem can be seen in regular civil unrests, increasing squatter settlements, traffic congestion, crammed up industrial areas, housing shortage even over-crowded sporting events and public transportation.
Lae city today still maintains its colonial designs and city plans despite the growing pressure in population and industrial economy and that is one of the areas that is restraining the city from growing.
The strategic focus should ensure appropriate land allocation and conditions for growth, as well as expanding public transport corridors and housing areas. Road links inside Lae metropolitan area must be expanded to multiple lanes, sporting and entertainment avenues have to inflate, Lae port and Nadzab airport have to be upgraded and expanded, Lae housing areas and public transport system and appropriate transit stations have to expand. Thinking big is one thing that Tutumang does not have.
Investment is important in reaping rewards. Lae must be supported by the government because Lae is the key to the development in the New Guinea regions. Twenty years ago when mineral boom in the highlands started, Lae was established as an economical hub but never lived up to that reputation, had Lae realized how important that potential was, today it would thrive like most modern cities in the world, twenty years was a long time.
The strategic plan should focuses on increasing Lae’s regional, national and international profile, and on opening new markets for trade and investment in Lae’s key industry sectors hence economic freedom is what Lae need to improve on. It must guarantee security and profit for both domestic and international businesses making the province a business friendly society.
Freedom of economy is a significant part of a growing economy and to achieve that Lae city has to improve law and order, regulate company taxes and provide proper housing opportunities. Gradually that concept would pay off by stretching the market thus providing more jobs and increasing revenues.
Developing a range of industry-specific marketing activities with targeted incentives will help link Lae to key markets and stimulate catalytic investments by governments and the private sector. MPA needs to establish a new program to co-ordinate promotion and direct investment attraction activities to the city and its productive precincts.
These are just some of my ideas that I hope would be reflected in Lae city’s new Economical Strategic Plan. The Morobe Provincial Administration has to get its house together right now, put a trusted competent team of vibrant minds together with credible professionals in relevant fields and roll out a plan if Vision 2050 is to be achieved.
Forget about what the world may say about Morobe, forget about the unsuccessful actions of the previous administration, don’t linger too much on the issues and challenges in our faces but rather take it head on with effective solutions and with passion, love and ambition for our city.
We have to sacrifice some of our needs by cutting off the budget from unnecessary projects and start prioritizing, from the most important to the least, keeping in mind that the most important are also the most potential key economic contributors.