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11 April 2017


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I read this morning on the BBC webpages that a Brazilian company Odebrecht has agreed to pay the $2.6 billion fine for its corrupt bribing practices which has embroiled so many of the nation’s politicians.

Its CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht was jailed in 2015 in jail 20 years.

According to a Reuters report dated 15 April:

‘Odebrecht through a department specifically established to pay politicians and other recipients for public works contracts, Odebrecht paid as much as $730 million annually in both 2012 and 2013, the years when bribe payments peaked’

Yet below you can read their glorious so called window dressing Compliance Policy much in vogue with multinationals in circumlocutional PR handouts to try and get their grubby paws on the resource wealth of 3rd world nations and spouted to baffle silly elites mingling in 5-star luxury at talkfests like the recent Petro & Energy Fiesta in Moresby.

1 Commitment to acting ethically, with integrity and transparency

2 Conduct firmly grounded in ethics, integrity and transparency is critical for enabling our Businesses to generate tangible and intangible results.

Odebrecht’s affiliate Braskem is the fifth largest petrochemical company in the world, with exports to 60 countries in all continents of the world. Its webpages also gloriously proclaim for all the world to read:

‘The practice of corporate governance at Braskem is based on three principles: ethical conduct, transparency and respect for Clients, Team Members, Shareholders, Suppliers and all other stakeholders.’

For the learned there is a Latin phrase: ‘Merda taurorum animas conturbit’. My dear old dad had a more earthy version: ‘Bullshit baffles brains’.

He was right because as ‘Madbot’ has explained it:

‘If your words are made up of some big meaningless words which take your audience time to understand, then you’ve achieved your goal. Most people, who do not want to appear foolish, will happily nod and agree with you just to be seen that they’ve understood to avoid embarrassment.’

In the euphoria of The Chief’s emotional departure from Parliament I recalled two snippets I had been involved in.

Firstly young Michael Somare coming to Pasuwe Ltd at Korobosea for his daily newspaper – the Post Courier; don’t think The National had yet been launched by his soon to be mates Rimbunan Hijau. Does Peter O’Neill walk the streets unattended by his security.

The other was his founding brother Julius Chan. I think it was a free oyster buffet at the Boroko RSL. My boss took me along; he loved the slimy food which I have never eaten.

We were some ten or more minutes early so arrived to an empty dining room apart from the lone figure of the PM sitting all alone looking at his notes.

What a change has occurred as the nation developed where bigmen want to drive around in a dark tinted limo followed by a bevy of security.

Fast forward 30 years and my daughter returns from Balob College having self-sponsored to complete the third year after she had initially withdrawn on ending Year 2 some years before. I had tried to help her a little financially during her final successful course.

We were having a meal in Taskul and I had opened a tin of baked beans for her young sons to add to their kaukau. In all seriousness she remarked, “We don’t normally have expensive food here dad.”

I had thought she was being sarcastic but no it was a sincere opinion and reflection of basic living in PNG 32 years after the raising of the PNG flag.

She then went on to tell me how being desperately hungry when in college she and her mates would not buy ‘expensive’ lamb flaps but chicken feet that some clever Asian had introduced for subsistence citizens of PNG. Till that day I had never heard of anyone eating them nor seen anyone do so.

I was also surprised to see how the multinationals retailing in PNG had coped with the near poverty levels of many families. The suave marketing executives had come up with the idea of making half-sized tins or packets of products so that the minimum wage earners had just enough money to buy them.

What wonders independence could have wrought for the ordinary citizens of PNG. It makes me wonder where the billions of Oz aid disappeared.

The National newspaper is regularly printing a story of real situations in the country. It has shown potholes in the middle of our cities; early provincial roads now mere quagmires; and sadly the recent photo showing the nation’s only public cancer centre which looked like a tool shed on a rundown plantation.

Yet amidst the squalor huge multi storey buildings loom on the landscape catering for the elites and the FIFO of the world’s quangos or resource exploiters as they eagerly rush to feed on the carcass of this resource rich nation which could easily provide every one of its citizens with the best standard of living in the South Pacific.

Don’t you remember how we heard from lips dripping honey how this or that mine or other huge project would mean a wonderful change for the better of all in PNG but especially the projects neighbouring impacted communities?

Even now the remnants of the ill-famed oily ‘7 Sisters’ with governmental connivance have become a state sponsored monopoly or cartel with each company hoping to reap billions from the low cost of production second LNG project that clever PR men have got the government to rename from Gulf LNG to Papua LNG so as to detract from the overwhelming wish of the Gulf people to have the refinery for the gas under their land refined in their impoverished Gulf Province.

Lately Total has said a very loud ‘No!’ ignoring the landowners’ demands aided and abetted by the parliamentary elites who are anxiously pushing the project as fast as possible. They have cited lots of technical jargoneze why Port Moresby is the preferred site for the plant.

One was waffling on about problems with the waters of the Gulf. They fail to tell us how worldwide there are many examples of infrastructures in some very dangerous seas like the hurricane prone Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf of Benin; Gazprom’s oil projects in the Arctic’s Pechora Sea; even Exxon’s own Sakhalin both set up amongst terrible freezing conditions, ferocious ocean storms and with earthquakes likely in the Exxon field.

For me what is worse is the government and Exxon Mobil and their partners are fully aware from the experiences in the SHP/Hela project of the many unsettled problems of clan vetting still incomplete years after that project was first talked about and when possibly over 200 shipments of the LNG has left for Asia.

Have any of those billions of purchases ever reached the nation’s shores? Has a Sovereign Wealth Fund even been started? Has the clan vetting begun for the second project?

The Oily-men will almost certainly get their way and in twenty years we people will still be moaning at how little resource exploitation has benefited the nation so that rural citizens will still have lives little unchanged but with the continued diminishing of the assets nature had provide the nation in 1975.

Might even see demands by the miner on Lihir that all of the islands’ citizens should be relocated to allow the company to mine the whole of the island, which is apparently rich in gold bearing ore.

In the hard post mining years perhaps communities will grovel for grams of gold in the waste heaps just as impoverished UK coal mine villagers under cover of darkness slithered steep sloped spoil heaps for nuggets of coal or bowed the knee for free nutty slack in the harsh depression days of the 1930s and post war Britain.

It's multi-factorial and complex really.

You correctly outlined some of the factors:

- acceptance of the prevailing circumstances or services and the lack of accessible or affordable other choice

- the majority of Papua New Guineans are very respectful and out of respect will not overtly complain about a prevailing situation

- the majority of PNGeans grew up in the village and do not know any different (not aware of what else to expect)
Labelling it as a second rate culture is subjective and not applicable or an acceptable "label".

Papua New Guineans did not chose the "second rate culture" that you are alluding to, it is the prevalent situation on the ground.

Furthermore, I do not think politicians are out there perpetuating the "second rate" situation as the norm, rather they are failing miserably to improve things because of the gross mismanagement of development funds and the lack of commitment by the government for various reasons (another dissertation required for that).

I grew up during the colonial days on a little remote island and the norm was a subsistence lifestyle devoid of white goods, electricity, shoes etc,, that was my normal.

Your 'second rate' culture is highly subjective! Not what the ordinary villager or Divine Word student thinks or is experiencing - different values, different norms.

"Where There is No Dentist"

How to fill your own teeth.

Free download at:

"Where There in No Doctor"

Free download at:

They also have a companion book, "Where There is No Dentist".

Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past - George Orwell

People in PNG use a similar book Paul. It's called 'When There is No Doctor' or something similar. It is actually a book produced in Australia for remote communities. It's basically about how to do medical procedures, like amputations etc. with a knife and fork. There's lots of other good stuff in it about non-medical matters too.

Quite a few of the medical staff working without pay in the villages asked if I could get copies for them and I've sent several out to them.

I agree with you Phil that there was certainly a recognised culture of make do since we had to virtually govern a nation with almost no resources yet I suspect the reasons for the 'make do' expectations of today's PNG, is both multi faceted and deeper in local culture.

One of my prize possessions is a huge book that was published well over 100 years ago. It is a text book for rural people who had to cope basically without any outside assistance. The book is split into three sections. The first is about basic medical knowledge at the time and what to do and what not to do when someone in the bush got sick or suffered from ill health. The second section is about animal health and the third about cooking.

Many of the directions are now dated and may not be effective yet at the time, many helpful hints were clearly all that was needed to make life easier when no communications with the outside world were closer than a considerable journey by horse and cart.

PNG people were traditionally used to being able to make do with what they had available in the village. or the surrounding bush.

During my time in PNG, local people employed in rural outstations were just as keen to perform their duties as were we. Teachers opened their schools and medical staff ran their hospitals and Aid Posts with only the basics. Police and clerical staff opened the office when I was on patrol and kept the station going.

The essence of any people management system is for the leaders to set an example. I'd imagine that if I had turned up for morning parade in a 'T' shirt and thongs the police and Corrective Services would have emulated this example.

If the wages of teaching staff and other admin employees were not paid on time, the postal service was not operating properly and the baking system had been allowed to fail, the people who relied on these services would have started to say to themselves, 'Why should we worry?'

Yet when I attended a lecture for a visiting VIP in Lae at the then Uni Tech, the meeting didn't start on time and eventually got underway nearly an hour late. I suggested to the VIP that the excuse that would be offered by the expat staff was 'PNG time'. Sure enough, when the rather flustered expat staff arrived they simply shrugged their shoulders and said by way of explanation: "It's PNG time."

Maybe the culture in PNG towns was different and ran parallel to that of the bush where then 97% of people lived.

Husat i savi?

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