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03 May 2009

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As a genuine development partner Australia should operate from a profound understanding of the fundamental underpinnings and aspirations of PNG. This requires the application of serious scholarship in the formation of policy and strategies.

We need to assist PNG manage its own business, through developing capability to meet security, legal, institutional and administrative needs and to train personnel systematically at every level (national and sub-national) in the requisite skill sets.

I've believed for a long time that the term “aid” is really a misnomer - even in the case of small island states Australian engagement should be about development partnerships to shore up mutual interests. Investments in these areas should be explained to the Australian people in these terms.

A huge divide exists between enabling people to run their own lives, to make their own mistakes and to determine their own futures, and the paternal controller mode that sees centralist systems managing and delivering all government functions.

This is especially so when the controller mode is grafted on and reinforced through external interventions. In PNG the poor performance of the central administration, which is a confused hybrid of centralized and decentralized systems, combined with low capacity levels of public servants, has left a populace that distrusts central government. Community disillusionment and a sense of disempowerment are growing. This feeds civil unrest and crime.

The crux of the PNG problem is weak institutions, lack of efficient resource distribution systems, poor management and training capacity and a lack of bridges to the people in their villages.

The centre can provide a coherent and efficient policy and budget management platform, but it is fruitless if good governance principles and resources are not applied locally and if local user groups cannot engage government.

A pivotal role for civil society and government interaction is to legitimize and manage central resource planning and distribution. An integrated approach is needed to strengthen systems and resources management at all levels of government. It is essential to emphasize and value local participation and ownership, to strengthen home grown training capacity and to focus a large slice of Australia’s program on the hard yards of service decentralization and local user group engagement.

Thanks Bill, tourism is only one aspect of development though. Our agriculture and other SME's need as much development as well to balance growth.

Whatever the outcome, Aid money or money earned from the LNG project, I hope Papua New Guinea will get its act together and develop more tourist projects. The country the has possibilities to be a major attraction for international tourists, if they can solve their law and order problems.

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