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24 August 2014


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Papua New Guinea is facing a job search crisis as most skilled jobs are not landing in the hands of Papua New Guineans.

There are several hundred companies ranging from small, medium to large sized companies but very specialized trade skills are still concentrated in the hands of foreigners.

Our graduates at grade 12 and university levels do not practically have the knowhow and competent skills. Book knowledge that include tutorials, lectures and practical only prepare them to develop their cognitive skills but the everyday job performance occurring in the workplace seem to be not matching and so that means companies have to liaise and align their workplace policies including their training to the syllabus/training modules of educational institutions.

Could this be true? Only a few reputable organizations are willing to come out openly to embrace this phenomenon but majority of the companies and entities are very reluctant because time is money and resource sharing is waste of time considering PNG’s volatile political climate, harsh business conditions with increasing law and order problems.

We then ask who is entering PNG and how do foreigners land jobs in this country given the fact that we have institutions that protect the sovereignty and safety of PNG local labour market.

Several requests and instruments have been put in place for certain key departments such as Foreign Affairs & Migration and Labour and Employment to tighten the entrance door but these efforts have not been very successful.

There are individuals aiding the entry of foreigners at the highest level. Some unconfirmed stories surface the discussion forums in which they say that some national leaders bring in outsiders to work for them.

These national leaders whether are politicians or business people organize visas and passports and over time, these foreigners network with other connections and apply for citizenships and they are granted automatically.

Some foreigners usually of the Asian and sub Indian region enter PNG through their relative or family connections. Twenty years ago, the city of Port Moresby had few of these ethnic nationalities but today it is a different story.

The problem of people entering a country illegally is a worldwide issue and we could live by it. But there is got to be a point in time relevant government agencies should take a proactive and counteractive stand in dealing with illegal entry of foreigners, with some coming with no start up capitals and making more money here under the nose of the PNG Government authorities.

On this note, land grabbing continues to be a pain killer with locals enticed with rice and tin fish and promise of cargo after land is sold to them at a very cheap prices.

In Madang for instance, market places along North Coast Road and Wali territory have blue coloured stores that have been built without proper Building Board Approvals and no proper sanitation and waste management systems.

The locals who are giving away the land do not have sufficient knowledge on laws relating to customary land registrations and various land policies that have been recently devised by National Research Institute and Lands and Physical Planning Department.

The SME sector is predominately controlled by foreign elements including trade store business, liquor sales and transportation.

With the ever increasing unemployment rate, ordinary Papua New Guineans without any skills are forced into working as store keepers, security guards, cleaners and so forth with many paid below the minimum wage set by the government and for this reason a lot of our people survive on borrowed money and stealing. Some workers work overtime under very painful conditions and there is labour abuse particularly among women but these issues go unnoticed every day.

In the capital city Port Moresby, many of our city dwellers and commuters are forced to work in shops, night clubs and engage in taxis and PMVs because they cannot own and run a supermarket, or run an insurance company or whatever job that are labour intensive involving large capital, etc…

It is now a public view that those foreigners coming into PNG should first of all speak and write English and respect our national laws. However, this view is not respected as internationalization thrust is very hard to resist and prevent it.

There have been discussions made on skills and capital transfer and this involves foreigners with those highly skilled knowledge and skill should impart to colleague Papua New Guineans and when foreigners leave PNG.

Currently it is very difficult to measure the skills transfer mechanisms and so we need government authorities to develop instruments to see the level of skills transfer rates occurring at the workplace.

Even we could do further by developing laws that require companies to submit their workplace policies to relevant government authorities and monitor their implementations.

At the political level, our Prime Minister who is enjoying his tenure in this 9th term of the parliament is right when he says it is through uninterrupted political rule that we will begin to see services reaching down to the village people.

Once we achieve a political stability our next immediate task is to provide security to all our businesses, state institutions and people. Law and order issues ought to be minimized and struck out for good.

If the NCD Governor says buai is banned in NCD then the same level of energy, strategy and the amount of money budgeted for to achieve results should be given in combating law and order.

Law and order is nothing but an outcome of unemployment and we can take stock of the increasing level of unemployed youths all over the country.

One suggestion would be to identify them, teach them basic financial literacy courses like what some institutions have started, fund them with some little cash so that they can engage in SMEs.

These small SMEs should be monitored and mentored in order to achieve results.

For 30 years nobody took an interest in PNG and this country was not the melting pot as some may suggest, otherwise it was a no go zone by overseas media.

Now 10 years past, PNG is not a failed state any more, it is not an anarchy as some suggested, this country is moving forward and we need re-born leaders graced with great genetics and prophetic leadership so that they hold the hammer of God Almighty and profess to God His Great Works and Blessings.

Christians and religious people are praying for a revival PNG. PNG has to rise to the occasion, transcend in the highest realms and our strength of time is coming and has already come when we were made proud by two of our national commonwealth gold medallists, Dika Toua and Steven Kari.

Having the right mindset and believing in national transformation like what Singapore and Malaysia experienced could teach us a lesson. These two Asian countries had set their agendas within time schedule and work towards it year by year.

We need our house in order. We cannot continue on introducing more laws and regulations if we fail to effectively implement the first one that was introduced some years ago. We have made enough laws and we need to revisit these laws and achieve results.

For instance, the laws of foreigners entering PNG allows for anyone to have knowledge of English Language, for those coming for business ought to have sufficient startup capital, and awarding citizenship rights does not occur after one or two years.

Secondly, companies engaged in labour recruitment have to go through some stringent processes in consultation with the Labour & Employment Department, Migration & Citizenship department, Police and other line state agencies.

If there are acute shortage of skilled labourers, submissions should be made to concerned state entities rather than short cutting the process and bringing in skilled workforce without any knowledge on PNG customs and lifestyles and English or Tok Pisin speaking capabilities.

Finally, the 26,000 graduates coming out from tertiary institutions per year need to be guided by directing them into SMEs, and this can be done by loan schemes through financial institutions.

Agriculture and engaging in informal sector can alleviate institutional unemployment crisis and of course some state ministers in this government have ardently and proactively stated the need for the revitalization of SMEs but when will this occur and who will captain that initiative.

That is, who is taking the lead in identifying reserved business activities, revoking business licenses of some foreign companies engaged in reserved business activities, prosecuting those who continue to do business without paying tax to the national government.

We are in very serious trouble when those foreign companies have been given tax exemptions for the last 10 – 15 years or even more. Has the state checked their account books, how much they have made in those years?

Well, that was what I meant. Thanks for the information you are providing. It is helping me a lot in my research

Obed, firstly I would like to commend you for undertaking a research on this important subject. It is a subject that in my own opinion has been grossly misunderstood and unfairly represented in PNG.

That is the reason why we have to ensure that we educate our people (both the government and the general public) about the actual pros and cons of the informal economy and SME.

I have already started this process and, unfortunately or fortunately for you, I will still be publishing most of my work in the area of informal economy.

As an encouragement I would like you to use the argument to link the informal economy and the SME Sector as a point of reference for your thesis.

Your thesis should essentially be more refined focusing on a specific area within that broader area to argue your case.

All the best.

Yes, you are correct.

The current SME Policy does not include the informal sector.

I am currently working on it as my research for my final thesis.

I hope you don't publish any of your articles regarding the informal sector

Developing SME sector in PNG without informal economy (agriculture inclusive) is anti-progressive and will only end up benefiting few elites and not the mass.

I agree with Michael that there will always be a segment of the economy that will always contain subsistence farming or informal.

Even in highly industrial countries such as US and Australia there are elements of informal economy but they are often regarded as "underground" businesses.

The argument to formalise the informal economy is flawed in the sense that it is based on the Arthur W Lewis Two Sector Model where it was argued that in time a "dynamic and progressive formal sector supported by an increase in savings and investment would generate enough employment to transfer labour from the non formal economy (non-productive) sector into the formal sector.

Thereby leading to a diminishing informal sector". This is proven to be wrong especially in most developing countries where informal economy has been found to be stubborn and very difficult to convert into the formal sector.

Informal Economy is also found to be productive contrary to Lewis's argument and as a result informal economy has outgrown the formal sector.

Subsequently, there is now a need to recognise and support the informal economy. There are many factors leading to this but chief among them is the stringent and often discriminatory laws are not friendly to the informal economy micro-entrepreneurs.

Also population growth usually tends to outpaced economic growth which has led to ever increasing number of employable citizens kept outside of the formal sector.

In PNG informal economy (agriculture inclusive) will always be here and will contribute to our nation's development for a very long time to come.

Thanks tupla for your comments. They were truly thought provoking but also soothing.

Here is a quote I stole from the Dalai Lama posted yesterday on my google circle:

"The idea of one side suffering defeat while the other side triumphs is out of date. Instead we have to develop dialogue. We have to make an effort if we want a peaceful, more compassionate world.

"It requires education, based on patience, tolerance and forgiveness. Too often violence results from greed, so we also need contentment and self-discipline".

Loved your comment Michael!

My dad was a great backyard gardener and produced a lot of good food during the war years.

There are still many backyard gardeners today in Australia. They may not produce all the food a family needs but there are some that do a great job.

I just wish PNG would start growing rice again. I saw plenty of dry rice up in the Maprik area in the 1970s. There are plenty of Asian people who could teach you how to do it.

Thanks Obed for clarifying your stand, which is perhaps overly optimistic but nonetheless a brave assertion.

While I have reservations myself about the term 'subsistence' farming, I also believe that some form of subsistence living will remain a globally important means of livelihood for the forseeable future.

To assume that everyone in the whole wide world will gain paid employment is perhaps stretching the reality of environment, economy and human society a bit too far. (We may hope for better, but what works best is usually what we have to arrive at.)

PNG may be a micricosm of the world at large, in this agricultural scene.

It is worth pointing out that even in oil rich Middle East nations herders still thrive in areas far from the shadow of modern sky scrapers. They face challenges which are not dissimilar to many small-scale farmers and herders in other nations.

The lesson here may be that we need to be wary about setting unrealistic objectives for the direction we want to take as opposed to the path that we are able to follow.

Perhaps 'sustainable' living is a better term, since it encapsulates the need to survive and thrive within economuc and environmental limitations.

On the other hand I do agree that subsistence livelihoods should be supported and the people enabled so that if they so choose, and indeed need to do so, they may take part in the cash economy.

This is apparent in local markets along the roadside in PNG. And the same type of local producer-marketeer systems are a characteristic part of many thriving economies in other develping countries.

I believe some degree of respect should be accorded to subsistence farmers, since in essence we in the modern economy don't do all that much for them and there is a cultural link within our societies based on this lifestyle.

Morover, subsistence farming is the most fundamental means of survival for households and human populations. Civilisations developed around it, not the other way around.

That is a fact that needs to be understood completely if PNG is going follow its own path of development.

Agrarian societies built or supported some of the oldest and most successful civilisations in human history.

The Mayans and Incas ate corn and used gold for all kinds of stuff before the Conquistadors arrived.

Now gold may be the basis of currency but the price of corn grain can cripple an economy.

In PNG our ancestors were the first to domesticate banana, sugarcane and aibika and dug garden trenches which are still visible today. We domesticated the pig 5000 years ago, well before Australia was colonised or indeed the British empire existed. But today we import cheap pork meat cuts from Oz.

I agree that we can do better and more to raise livibg standards. But it is by enabling people to improve their own livelihoods that this may be achieved.

Technology, even agricultural, as history has shown us, is not a silver bullet. It is merely one means of assisting people and society on the pathway to development.

This development also needs to be sustainable. And that is an objective which is not far removed from those of subsistence farmers the world over.

We all know the Millennium Development Goals are flawed also.

Why don't the developed countries practice gardening for their own SME sector and not flood our agricultural food markets with their imported stuff that puts our local producers at loss.

We the people of PNG have lived the gardening life for centuries and it is time that we broke away from this cycle. The cycle of anarchism.

Village life will not make this country into a better and unified nation if it has to practice democracy.

It is also not within all our intention that we live the subsistence way of life forever. Time's have changed and people change

Mercantile would argue that SMEs not supported with the collective effort of the human population would make labor more intensive.

If people could be innovative and more hostile to change, gardening would not be the solution to progress and development. Because gardening is not the way of living any more, technology is.

SMEs, the human sector and technology are inevitably intertwined in this millennium.

I wouldn't be surprised if PNG become a forming capitalist nation in the near future, only if it wasn't for the burgeoning conventions of the UN and the developed nations.

That is a major flaw. Thanks Barbara.

I think the flaw in this article is that you do not realize that SMEs should include agriculture.

The small market garden, producing a good regular supply of fruit and vegetables for the markets in the towns and cities, is the perfect SME.

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