AUCKLAND - In the roadside markets of Port Moresby, vendors struggle to earn a living in a city with few job opportunities.
Tau Ligo, a young father selling foodstuffs, said he worries about his kids' future.
"Just because of the APEC, they're doing up the roads,” he said. “We need doctors at the hospitals, schools are not being upgraded. Classes are over-populated, there's not enough teachers. We should be having more teachers in government schools."
Lucy, who is frying lamb flaps on a grill, talked about the improved roads and big new buildings.
"It's good for the city but I'm not sure for the people living in the city. A lot of people are having an economic crisis. Companies are breaking down. There's been redundancies, I've noticed," she said.
2018 has been a year of crises for PNG that have included deadly tribal violence, political unrest, a polio outbreak and natural disasters.
However, the government has poured its focus into preparing for APEC, arguing it will open up trade and investment opportunities and put PNG on the map.
But there's been a public outcry over the government's recent purchase of 40 new Maseratis and hundreds of other other luxury vehicles for use in transporting leaders at the summit.
Speaking to RNZ Pacific last month, before the Maserati deal became known, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the government had to help PNG take its chance to unlock its enormous economic and social potential
"To enable PNG to pull this APEC hosting role off, yes we are giving them $15 million,” Mr Peters said, “but it's a serious investment in helping them to better advertise who they are and what they are and how they can be of functional assistance to all of APEC and that's what is so important."
The former governor of New Zealand's Reserve Bank, Allan Bollard, is the chairman of the APEC secretariat.
He said hosting APEC is thrusting PNG into the limelight.
"I think it's offering them leadership on the very big world stage and a way to influence how APEC goes during potentially quite a difficult year with evolving trade frictions between US and China, and some other issues around ASEAN as well,” Mr Bollard said.
But discussions at this international event won't touch the lives of most of those in PNG.
An opposition MP Bryan Kramer warned that the government is borrowing beyond its means and spending in the wrong area.
"It seems we're not focussing on our priorities and that is the welfare of the people. If we continue to focus on infrastructure at the expense of the people, eventually society is going to break down."
Meanwhile, Australia is deploying about 1,500 military personnel to Moresby for the summit as PNG's security forces are considered too under-resourced to control crime in the city, let alone ensure security at a major event.