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26 March 2019

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Excellent piece Phil. This is going to get worse unless the housing needs for the urban workforce is addressed. The majority of the workers live in settlements.

The PNG government should look into something like the Singapore government type housing or other models and engage in a large-scale national housing project.

Perhaps partnership with financial institutions like NASFUND PNG, employers, and banks to establish subsidised home loans so the workers can have easy access to purchase their own homes.

Phil notes correctly the problem of squatter settlements and I would guess that most of the real poverty in PNG is in these settlements. In rural areas people usually at least have access to locally produced food.

Papua New Guinea is in fact one of the least urbanised countries in the world, with only about 13% of its population living in big towns or cities. Why then the increase in squatter settlements?

One reason for an increase in squatter population is that rural born people who get work in the cities often lose contact with their rural roots.

Sometimes they are expected to send money back to assist with funerals, weddings, etc...

Sometimes when they do return to the home place they find the available land has all been divided up among the siblings who remained at home and they will struggle to survive if they retire back home.

Sometimes a retiring public servant may have to leave a government supplied residence in the city and the only option is the squatter settlement.

Sometimes it is the children and grandchildren of the public servants who have to live in these settlements.

If the rural areas are better provided with services such as banking etc., then there may be more incentive to resettle back in the rural areas.

I saw my first ever dead body at a Moresby squatter settlement, Phil.

It would have been on the outskirts of Kaugere/Kila Kila and it was late 1963-early 1964.

A small boy, about 9 or 10, had been placed lying down on a table. It was the only piece of furniture in the hut.

I think I was there to verify that the lad had, indeed, passed away so that the proper authorities could be contacted.

It was extremely traumatic for me and clearly even more so for the boy's relatives. I can still recall the scene in my mind quite clearly more than half a century on.

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