PORT MORESBY - Two stories on Facebook got my attention first thing Monday morning, the day after the 42nd Papua New Guinea independence celebrations.
The first was about women entrepreneurs who manufacture PNG colours feeling the pinch of competition as very cheap overseas colours flood the street markets.
The second was about the infiltration of Bangladeshi entrepreneurs who are taking over small businesses reserved for Papua New Guineans.
Both stories provided an insight into our PNG ways: the way we think about business and the way we operate in the business world.
The first thing we want is cheap.
For many of us it doesn’t matter how low the quality as long as the colour appeals to the eye and the price appeals to the pocket. We ask why spend K50 for one when we can get three for K45.
The thing about this consumer behaviour is that we are not thinking about the producer or the value of the colours we wear on Independence Day.
We buy on impulse because everyone is wearing red, black and yellow. The one who really benefits is the Asian trader, and probably not the Asian tailor.
When we wear our red, black and yellow colours it is not just dressing up to say I am a Papua New Guinean.
If we think we are just dressing up because everyone else is doing it then we are like the Asian trader – those colours are for the market and for profit making.
When we wear red, black and yellow colours we proclaim the richness of our land and the heritage that has given us an identity.
As Christians we wear those colours to say thank you to our God for this rich and beautiful country and we say thank you that we did not have to lose blood and life to have a nation.
We have allowed profit makers to lock us into a buying mode so that, every Independence Day, Papua New Guineans rush out to buy their colours without a second thought.
The second story on Facebook was about trust and how we fail to support local initiatives.
As consumers we kill small canteens and trade stores through ‘dinau’ – take now and never pay. That’s why it’s better for the trade store owner to employ a foreigner to run the business because we won’t be able to dinau from a foreigner.
The owner collects rent for his property and it is a win-win situation for him and the Bangladeshi store manager.
It is easy to point a finger at the Bangladeshi and say he is taking over a business reserved for Papua New Guineans, but we have not changed our way of purchasing and consumption. We are still in ‘buy now, eat all’ mode as if we forgot to grow the seeds of business 40 years ago.
As we celebrated our 42nd Independence Day last weekend, we needed to ask ourselves hard questions about what we have done to ourselves in terms of business.
PNG should be boasting of its own supermarket chains and tailoring firms but we are locked into ‘buy cheap and buy from others’.
We need to start looking at our consumption habits. Are they supporting local business? Are they demanding quality at affordable prices or we just buy cheapists?
For those of us already in business, what is our aim? To make a lot of money for one item or to create mass production and sell at reasonable prices. Yes, we produce some of the best but look at our buying power.
For those trading PNG colours if people are willing to spend K15 for a tee-shirt, what should our affordable price be?
On Independence Day it is sad that our PNG colours are sold for profit and not for the beauty of our country or our identity.
We need to rethink our consumption practices. We need to move away from ‘dinau’. We need appreciate ourselves and honour our country.