Aid from wealthier countries to poorer countries takes many forms and has many different motives, some of them philanthropic. But an area of assistance from Australia to Papua New Guinea – much overlooked and rarely complimented by officials from either country – is that provided by citizens to citizens. Many of our readers, and PNG Attitude itself, has been involved a large number of projects of this kind. Now with China engaging in what it may term ‘aid’ – but which in fact consists largely of loans repayable in some way – and Australia anxious, author and ex-kiap Chips Mackellar takes a look at the scene.
TOOWOOMBA - It is unlikely that Australia could ever match the so-called ‘aid’ which China is giving Papua New Guinea.
Massive buildings, six-lane highways and roads to nowhere are very impressive, but they are of no use to the bulk of the neglected population in regional and remote PNG.
On the other hand, we can easily compete against the Chinese with proper aid delivered to the people who need it.
Out there in remote parts of PNG there are hospitals with no medicines, schools with no books and public buildings with no maintenance.
Some of these places, for example, those along the Papuan coast, although remote from Port Moresby, are easily accessible by boat from Cairns or Townsville.
From these Australian cities could easily be supplied the vital needs of communities along the Fly River, coastal Papua and the Milne Bay islands.
In this context, a box of medicines for each hospital, a box of stationery for each school and so on would considerably improve living conditions in these remote parts of PNG that have been forgotten by their own government.
Of course to function effectively, this supply system would need to bypass the corrupt and venal officialdom of Port Moresby. Easily done, like those cruise ships which bypass Moresby and visit the remote Milne Bay islands direct.
Already there are a few former PNG expatriates and a few Australian charities which supply necessities to remote parts of PNG. All that is needed is an Australian quango which could help with funding and logistics.
From simple beginnings this system could spread across PNG, delivering proper aid where it is needed and restoring the good relations between Papua New Guineans and Australians, just like it was when we were there so long ago.
The cost would be a lot less than if we tried to compete against the Chinese.