Special Agriculture and Business Leases

Last updated: August 2017

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a nation of landowners. Under its Constitution, people are guaranteed legal ownership over the land they have traditionally lived on and used, and the forests that grow on it. But by 2011, more than
12% of this land had been handed out by the government as large agricultural concessions known as Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs). Under these leases, Malaysian-controlled companies began logging and clearing vast areas of rainforest and exporting the valuable timber.

A government inquiry concluded in 2013 found that most of the SABLs reviewed had violated laws meant to protect people’s land rights, but the government failed to act on its recommendations. The leases have been associated with a range of human rights and environmental abuses. Police on the payroll of logging companies have harassed, arrested and beaten landowners who try to speak out.

In August 2016, the Supreme Court struck down an SABL that had accounted for roughly 10% of all logs exported under the leases. The Court found the SABL had been issued without the consent of indigenous landowners, in violation of PNG law, and declared all operations under it illegal. Yet in the months following the decision, at least six more ships carrying millions of dollars of illegal timber cut under the lease set sail for China.

The PNG government has since made a series of public statements, reported by major national and international media outlets, declaring SABLs illegal and announcing their cancellation. While this raises serious questions about the legal status of the leases, at the time of writing the government did not appear to have taken any subsequent actions to cancel leases or halt operations. Logs continue to be cut and exported under SABLs.

Below is a timeline of some key events. While the Prime Minister and Land Minister have recently stated that SABLs are illegal and have been cancelled, at the time of writing the government had not issued any subsequent directives to cancel leases or halt operations under them. Logs continue to be cut and exported under SABLs. When we asked companies operating under SABLs to comment, Rimbunan Hijau, Bewani Oil Palm Plantations Ltd. and KK Connections Ltd. challenged the validity and applicability of the PNG government’s statements reported by the media and maintained that all their operations are legal.

1996: Land Act amendments introduce SABL mechanism. It goes largely ignored for years.

2003 – 2011: The Government quietly hands out SABLs covering 55,000 km2 of land to mostly foreign-controlled companies.

March 2011: Following a complaint by civil society groups, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination sends a public letter to PNG’s Ambassador to the UN, stating its concern that SABLs had been granted “without…the consent of indigenous landowners.”

March 2011: A group of academics and civil society groups sign the Cairns Declaration calling for a moratorium on SABLs and an independent review of their legality and constitutionality.

July 2011: The Government declares a moratorium on new SABLs and launches an official Commission of Inquiry (COI) into 77 of the leases.

August 2012: Greenpeace publishes major exposé of SABLs.

June 2013: The COI publishes report assessing 42 SABLs, documenting numerous legal violations and recommending that nearly all leases be revoked or suspended, but fails to publish findings for the remaining SABLs.

June 2014: The National Executive Council (NEC) and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announce decision to revoke SABLs where recommended by the COI, repeal the SABL mechanism, and review the legality of SABLs the COI failed to publish recommendations for.

July 2014: An SABL in the Turubu area of East Sepik Province is ruled to be illegal by the National Court. The decision is appealed to the Supreme Court a week later and a stay on the lower court decision allows logging to continue.

July 2014: Department of Lands and Physical Planning publishes a list of 29 SABLs to be revoked based on the COI’s recommendations. The list omits all but one of the SABLs where logging was occurring, even where the COI recommended they be revoked.

August 2015: Leaseholders of the Turubu SABL win Judicial Review case challenging the COI report and resulting NEC cancellations. The Court does not question the COI’s findings but quashes the report on procedural grounds.

August 2016: Supreme Court upholds 2014 National Court ruling that the Turubu SABL is illegal.

November 2016: PM O’Neill tells Parliament and the news media that the SABLs are being cancelled.

March 2017: PM O’Neill states in a press conference that “…we have cancelled all the licenses. All the SABL licenses are illegal in this country.”

April 2017: Lands Minister Benny Allan states that SABLs are illegal and calls on leaseholders to surrender land titles.

Public Service in Papua New Guinea

last updated: January 2020

Like some other countries in the Pacific Island region, the public service is the largest employer in PNG, with 105,000 people employed as public officials (Pryke and Barker 2017). The public service includes administrative and “frontline” staff (such as teachers, who make up 52% of the workforce). Ten percent work for provincial administrations, while 12.9% work in national departments. In mid-2014, when the public sector employed just over 98,000 people, administrative positions (which are the focus of this chapter) included those working in executive (0.1%), senior (1.3%), middle (5%), and junior (26%) levels (Haley 2016).

Public servants are operating in a rapidly changing economic, political, and administrative environment. PNG’s fiscal crisis is arguably the biggest challenge facing the public service. Academics have painted a dire picture of PNG’s economic situation noting, “falling government revenue, large expenditure cuts to basic services, evidence of negative economic growth, and a fixed, overvalued exchange rate, supported by foreign exchange rationing” (Fox et al. 2017, p. 1). The public service has felt the effects of this fiscal tightening. Cash flow crises have meant public servants’ pay is often late, and some departments have not received promised funds (Garrett 2016).

Decentralization is the next greatest challenge facing the public service. PNG has three tiers of government (national, provincial, and local) with four levels of administration (national-, provincial-, district-, and local-level government). The country’s 1995 Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local Level Governments provided a framework for decentralizing service delivery to locallevel and provincial governments. Many have questioned the effectiveness of this reform: a review found inadequate funding, poor capacity and oversight, and political manipulation has undermined decentralization efforts in the county
(Kalinoe 2009).

Nonetheless, recent reforms have reinvigorated the country’s decentralization agenda. The District Development Authority Act (2014) devolves administrative and financial powers to the country’s 89 districts. Provincial-, district-, and locallevel constituency development grants (known as Service Improvement Programs [SIP]) have also increased over the past 5 years. SIP funding arrangements have increased political interference – particularly at the district level through newly instituted District Development Authorities – with members of parliament (MPs) often personally involved in deciding how this money is allocated and implemented; this has exacerbated concerns about corruption and poor administration (Kama 2017). Decentralization has also led to greater opportunities for public-private partnerships, which are set to increase in number due to the increased powers granted to District Development Authorities to engage with the private sector. While the PNG government has lauded this development, many are concerned it has the potential to increase corruption (Davda and Walton 2017; Walton and Jones 2017).

In 2019, citizens in Bougainville province will likely go to the polls to vote on whether it will become independent from PNG or have greater autonomy. The Prime Minister (PM) at the time of writing, Peter O’Neill, has agreed that three additional provinces – East New Britain, Enga, and New Ireland (which is included in this study) – have greater control over their administration and finances. The PM has suggested that this arrangement could be replicated throughout the country. These renewed efforts to decentralize government make understanding the views of public servants working at the subnational level (as this chapter seeks to do) even more important.

Other recent legislative changes have put pressure on the country’s bureaucracy. The Public Services (Management) Act (2014), passed under PM O’Neill’s government, led to a restructuring of the process for appointing senior public servants. It established the Ministerial Executive Appointments Committee chaired by the Minister responsible as well as other government ministers and public servants (Kama 2017). Kama (2017) argues that this arrangement has increased political interference, and Haley (2016) notes that the act “gives MPs a formal role in hiring and firing decisions at the subnational level.”

The challenges brought about by these reforms exacerbate other pressures facing public servants. In the absence of a welfare state, the wantok system (a system of reciprocity between friendship and kinship groups) provides important social protection for many citizens. However, it also means public servants are pressured to provide unofficial favors to their wantoks, which can lead to the sometimes-illegal redistribution of state resources.

Pyrethrum in Papua New Guinea

Pyrethrum produces a daisy-like flower that is used to make a natural insecticide. It grows best at high-altitude locations in the equatorial tropics, including in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and East Africa, and in some temperate-climate locations, such as Tasmania, Australia.

The active ingredient, pyrethrin, is extracted from dried pyrethrum flowers and used to make insecticides for household, agriculture, public health and food industry uses. These include aerosols, sprays, pet shampoo and mosquito coils. Pyrethrum is valued because it is highly effective at repelling or killing a broad range of insects, but is not toxic to mammals, including humans, and breaks down quickly in sunlight, leaving no residues.

Pyrethrum thrives at very high altitudes in the PNG highlands and flower production rises steeply with increasing altitude. Production of pyrethrum is weakly seasonal, being slightly higher in September–March and lower in April–August.

Adoption and history

Pyrethrum plants were first introduced into PNG in 1938. A number of other introductions were made in the 1950s, with plants from Kenya in 1957 forming the basis for selection of planting material in PNG. Agronomic research commenced at Aiyura in Eastern Highlands Province in 1961, but it was quickly found that the station (1600 m altitude) was too low for pyrethrum production. A new research station was established in 1966 at Tambul in Western Highlands Province (2300 m) and the pyrethrum selection program was moved there. The current germplasm collection is maintained at the Taluma Research Station on the Sirunki Plateau in Enga Province.

A processing facility was established in 1964 by Stafford Allen Ltd (PNG) at Kagamuga near Mount Hagen in Western Highlands Province. The enterprise was not profitable and the Australian Administration purchased the facility in 1973 through the company Kagamuga Natural Products Pty Ltd. The factory operated for another 20 years, but closed in 1994. The plant has a capacity to process 420 tonnes of dried flower per year.

Distribution of production and planting

All crop production was done by villagers and pyrethrum was usually interplanted among sweet potato and other crops. The Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries purchased dried flowers from growers. In the late 1960s production was encouraged in many places throughout the highlands, including the Lagaip, Kandep, Wabag and Wapenamanda areas of Enga Province; the Tambul area of Western Highlands Province; the
Nipa, Margarima, Ialibu and upper Mendi areas of Southern Highlands Province; the Kerowagi, Gumine and Gembogl areas of Simbu Province; and the Okapa, Henganofi and Lufa areas of Eastern Highlands Province.

Pyrethrum was initially grown by villagers at altitudes as low as 1800 m, but within a few years the producing areas shrank to a limited number of very high altitude locations where the crop was most productive. By the early 1970s much of the production was concentrated in the Laiagam area (Enga Province), with significant amounts also grown in the Tambul and Gembogl areas. In 1974 an estimated 22 300 villagers grew pyrethrum. By the late 1970s production was confined to a narrow very high altitude band, mostly in Enga Province (96–99%), and the high-altitude upper Nebilyer Valley in Western Highlands Province.

Levels of production

During the period 1965 to 1993, between 200 tonnes and 400 tonnes of dried flowers were purchased per year, with a peak of just under 600 tonnes in 1967. The volume of pyrethrum extract exported followed the pattern of flower purchases. The pyrethrum processing factory closed in 1994 and no flowers were purchased between 1995 and 1999.

In 1995, the Enga provincial government, concerned about the lack of cash-earning opportunities for villagers in high-altitude parts of the province, formed the Enga Pyrethrum Company to revive the industry. The company initially operated erratically but was revived in 1999 when the company took possession of the Kagamuga processing plant near Mount Hagen. Because pyrethrum was no longer being grown by villagers, it was necessary to multiply and distribute planting material again. This commenced in 1999 and dried flowers were purchased from 2000 onwards. In 2003–2006 the Enga Pyrethrum Company produced pyrethrum extract which it exported to the United States. The volume of exports has been small compared with volumes in the mid 1960s to early 1990s.

Processing, exporters and markets

One of the most important issues for regeneration of the PNG pyrethrum industry is to ensure that production takes place only at high altitudes (2400–2800 m) so that growers achieve the highest possible yields and the best returns on their labour.

Botanical Resources Australia Pty Ltd, a company based in Hobart, Australia, has signed an agreement with the Enga Government to import PNG’s pyrethrum extract from 2006 to 2008 with an option to extend this arrangement beyond 2008. This company is one of the largest pyrethrum producers in the world and has supplied about 40% of global natural pyrethrum products in recent years.

Enga Pyrethrum Company paid K1.50/kg for dried flowers in 2006 (K2/kg delivered to the Kagamuga factory). This was a much lower price in real terms than was paid in the past. For example, in 1989–1993, the price received by growers was K1.50/kg. However, the kina now has much less purchasing power than in the 1980s and early 1990s because of depreciation of the currency and inflation. At current prices, growers are receiving a gross payment of about K2 per day’s labour input. With such a low return to labour, production may not return to the levels experienced from the mid 1960s to the early 1990s. The PNG pyrethrum industry may become viable again but this will depend on improved productivity by the growers and the factory producing a reliable supply of good quality product for the export market.

Political Background of PNG National Election

Early and Colonial History

Archaeological evidence of humans on the island of New Guinea has been dated to approximately 50,000 years ago. Spanish and Portuguese sailors sighted the land in the early 16th century. The Dutch claimed the western half of the island in 1828 as part of the Dutch East Indies. There was some limited foreign exploration of the eastern half of the island in the 19th century, and a few settlements made. In 1884, Germany annexed the northern parts and Britain proclaimed a protectorate over the southern parts, which were formally annexed by Britain in 1888 and became British New Guinea.

In 1906, Australia took over British New Guinea, renamed a year earlier as the Territory of Papua. The Australian army occupied German New Guinea during the First World War and in 1920 Australia received from the League of Nations a mandate for the government of New Guinea, as it was then called.

In 1942 the Japanese army occupied parts of New Guinea and Papua; the Australian military administered the rest. Papua New Guinea played a significant role in World War II history, as a frontline of allied defence against Japan’s push southward. Following the war, under the Papua and New Guinea Act of 1949, the two parts were united for administration as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and put under United Nations International Trusteeship. The Act set up a legislative council, under an (Australian) Administrator, with a mix of elected and appointed members. Under the Papua and New Guinea Act of 1963, the council became a House of Assembly, with 64 members, ten of them nominated official members and 54 elected from throughout the Territory in 1964.

The House of Assembly established a Select Committee on Constitutional Development, and its recommendations were adopted in 1967. This resulted in the number of elected seats in the House being increased to 84 in elections in 1968. A new ministerial system was adopted and an Executive Council established. In 1971 a new Select Committee recommended that the Territory prepare for self-government. Elections were held in April 1972. The House then had 100 elected members, with an additional three appointed and four official members. Sir Michael Somare became Chief Minister of a coalition government. Self-government was granted at the end of 1973.


Papua New Guinea achieved independence on 16 September 1975, becoming a sovereign constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State, represented by a Papua New Guinean Governor-General, Sir John Guise. PNG adopted a five-year parliamentary term and Sir Michael Somare, the Prime Minister at independence and leader of the Papua New Guinea United Party (PANGU Pati), was returned to power at the 1977 election. A parliamentary defeat in 1980 led to his replacement as Prime Minister by Sir Julius Chan, leader of the People’s Progress Party (PPP). Chan served as Prime Minister until 1982 when, following a national election, the Parliament re-elected Somare (PANGU). In 1985, the Parliament again passed a vote of no confidence in Somare, and Paias Wingti, leader of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) was elected Prime Minister. Wingti (PDM) was re-elected Prime Minister following the 1987 national election, but was removed following a vote of no confidence in 1988. Sir Rabbie Namaliu, who had successfully challenged Somare for the leadership of PANGU, became Prime Minister. After the 1992 election, Wingti (PDM) won back the Prime Ministership.

At independence, PNG’s Constitution incorporated a six-month grace period after elections during which no-confidence motions were banned (s. 145(4)). The aim of the grace period was to allow government sufficient time to settle into office, develop and implement policies. Parliament amended this law in 1991 to extend the mandatory period between no-confidence motions to 18 months to increase political stability. In an attempt to extend his grace period by a second 18 months Wingti resigned in 1994 without notice and was almost immediately re-elected. PNG’s Supreme Court ruled the manoeuvre unconstitutional and Sir Julius Chan (PPP) successfully challenged Wingti for the Prime Ministership. Chan was forced to resign in March 1997 as a result of a political and military crisis arising from the Bougainville conflict. Cabinet appointed a caretaker government headed by the Minister for Mining and Petroleum, John Giheno (PPP).

At the election held in 1997, 16 ministers (including Chan) lost their seats and Sir William (Bill) Skate, leader of the People’s National Congress (PNC), was elected Prime Minister by Parliament after a month of negotiations as the head of a four-party coalition. Beset by corruption scandals and an acute financial crisis, by mid-1999 Skate lost the support of the majority in Parliament. He resigned as Prime Minister in July, shortly before Parliament started its new session, and Sir Mekere Morauta, then leader of PDM, was elected Prime Minister.

Under Sir Mekere Morauta’s leadership, Parliament passed the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC) in 2001 (amended in 2003), introducing legislative measures designed to address political instability. OLIPPAC instituted stringent party membership rules designed to make political parties stronger and governments more stable. Under OLIPPAC, members of Parliament (MP) were to be penalised if they switched parties, and had to vote in accordance with their party on matters relating to constitutional amendments, budget appropriations and motions of no confidence.

2002 National Election

The national election that took place in 2002 was chaotic and violent, and marked by widespread voting irregularities, inaccurate electoral rolls, voter manipulation and intimidation (including at times by electoral officials) hijacking of ballot boxes, and outbreaks of violence among rival candidates, their supporters and, in some instances, against polling officials, resulting in dozens of deaths. The Electoral Commissioner declared elections in six of the nine electorates in the Southern Highlands Province to have failed when officials were unable to retain control over the process. In Enga Province, ballot boxes held in a metal container outside a police station for safekeeping were bombed with drums of aviation fuel.

Following the election, Somare’s National Alliance Party (NA) won 19 of the declared seats. Somare once again became Prime Minister, heading a multiparty coalition. With the OLIPPAC in place, the 2002 Somare government became the first since independence to serve a full five-year term in office.

2007 National Election

The 2007 national election was the first held following the enactment of a series of electoral reforms, some of which had commenced under the Morauta Government in 2001 . Notably, these reforms included the replacement of the ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system with limited preferential voting (LPV). The decision to move to the LPV system was in response to calls for MPs to be elected with larger percentage of the vote and, in part, to reduce tensions associated with candidate movements during the campaign period.

Somare’s NA won 27 seats at the 2007 elections, and secured the agreement of a further 59 MPs to join his coalition. Somare was therefore duly re-elected as Prime Minister by Parliament.

In July 2010, PNG’s Supreme Court ruled that key elements of OLIPPAC were unconstitutional, including provisions that restricted MPs on votes relating to the election of (and vote of no confidence in) the Prime Minister, the budget, constitutional laws, and whether they wanted to remain within a political party or change allegiance.

2011-12 ‘Political Crisis’

In March 2011, Somare departed to Singapore for medical treatment, for what subsequently emerged as a serious health condition. His absence extended for several months. On 2 August 2011, amid increasing concerns that Somare would never be able to resume office, a parliamentary vote declared the office of prime minister to be vacant. Peter O’Neill, PNC party leader, was then elected Prime Minister.

Parliament’s actions were immediately challenged in the Supreme Court, spearheaded by the Somare-led NA. Upon his return from Singapore in September 2011, Somare joined this action. On 12 December 2011 the court ruled that the declared vacancy was unconstitutional, and therefore the subsequent election of Peter O’Neill as Prime Minister was invalid.

Parliament passed a law in response to the ruling to prevent a return by Somare as Prime Minister (notably by placing an age-limit on the eligibility requirements for the post). O’Neill remained in the position of Prime Minister, confirmed by a parliamentary vote, and continued to enjoy the support of the public service, police and other key agencies, although Somare attempted to appoint his own defence and police commanders.

On 26 January 2012, a small group of military officers briefly took up arms against O’Neill’s appointed Commander of the PNG Defence Force, claiming the authority of Somare as the lawful Prime Minister. The attempted mutiny was quickly and peacefully defused by police and military loyal to O’Neill.

Despite a period of political tumult, marked by proposed delays to the election and attempts to restrict the authority of the court, elections proceeded in accordance with PNG ‘s Constitution during June-July 2012.

2012 National Election

PNG’s 2012 national election took place between 23 June and 13 July 2012. Polling was marked with widespread delays, ranging from hours to several days in some locations, and the official date for polling to conclude, originally scheduled for 6 July, was extended by one week to enable teams to conclude polling. The writs, originally scheduled to be returned on 27 July, were returned on 2 August 2012.

In coastal areas, polling was peaceful and correct voting procedures were broadly followed, albeit with some variances. Polling was also largely peaceful in the Highlands, although there were some isolated instances of violence and security forces were deployed in large numbers, and serious irregularities were observed in the voting procedures. The accuracy of the electoral roll was a cause of concern to many voters, with reports that numerous voters were turned away in coastal and islands provinces. Voting proceeded in the Highlands, despite the abandonment of the electoral roll altogether in most parts.

O’Neill’s PNC party won 27 seats at the 2012 national election, and secured support from additional parties, including Somare’s NA, which had won 7 seats and independent MPs to form government. On 3 August 2012, Parliament elected O’Neill Prime Minister.

Mosbi, an urban site

by Christine Stewart

Port Moresby is girt with mountains and is beautiful with its lake-like harbour.

Captain John Moresby, 1873.


Here in the dusty streets is the most polyglot town population…. Here the new order is being born; and this is the germ of the new nation. The melting in this pot … is limited to the indigenous groups for the most part; and the Australian sauce on top does not melt officially.

Charles Rowley, 1966.

Port Moresby’s ‘discoverer’ was right about the beauty afforded by the great sweep of Fairfax Harbour. Unfortunately, however, he arrived in the middle of the wet monsoon season, when the hills were lush with long green grass, and it never occurred to him that the reason for the absence of tall trees and jungle was the local rainfall pattern. An exceptional rainshadow along this part of the coast means that only scrawny sclerophyll eucalypts dot the harbour slopes and the plains beyond, and by the end of the dry season even the grass is dead.

The town grew on a peninsula separating harbour from ocean, flanked on both sides by a line of Motu-Koitabu villages strung along the coast from west to east. The Koita were originally an agricultural people who moved towards the coast from the foothills of the ranges to the east, while the Motu were fishing and trading immigrants. Intermarriage and mutual gain saw former enmities transformed as their villages joined forces in symbiotic relationship.

Nigel Oram describes how topography, land tenure systems and legislation, the self-serving wishes of the colonial administration and subsequent piecemeal planning have combined to produce a scattered and formless city, with residential and commercial areas interspersed with undeveloped land, much of it too steep to build on, and too high for the water supply to reach. To this list, Alan Rew has added the colonial policies of racial segregation which divided even the indigenous immigrants into ethnic groupings.

The harbour is bounded on its southern side by a long peninsula on which the original township was built. The Motu and Koita villages dotting the harbour’s edges hindered expansion along the shoreline to the north and west, so the town spread eastwards along the ocean shore past the canoe anchorage at Koki Point to Badili where, during much of the colonial era, most indigenous town workers were confined in barracks after the 9:00pm curfew excluded them from the town and confined them indoors. Curfew regulations and other laws restricting the movement of Papua New Guineans to and in towns, probably the most stringent in the world outside South Africa at the time, were gradually relaxed through the 1950s and finally repealed in 1959 following criticism from the United Nations.

Despite its poor climate and limited local agricultural resources, Port Moresby went from southern administrative headquarters to base for the Allied Forces in the southwest Pacific during World War II, to capital of the joint territory of Papua and New Guinea. After World War II, the town spread over the steep coastal hills and inland to the east. Extensive residential suburbs sprang up, including that of Hohola, the first experiment in indigenous housing. Urban development in colonial times followed a western pattern, predominantly by and for non-indigenous people, and the implementation of municipal management processes lagged well behind town growth. The repeal of laws restricting movement around the country and into towns led to a vast increase in urban migration during the 1960s, with permanent residence starting to replace temporary urban migration and the sex-ratio imbalance starting to even out, so that by the mid-1960s, according to Oram, migrant workers and their families had increased to an estimated 80 per cent of the population. The rate of urban population growth has continued to be high. Charles Rowley, however, pointed out that the sex ratio was by no means equal. In 1956, there were four thousand single men living in labour compounds, and he assumed that this number must have increased in the following ten years, influenced by the wage structure which was incapable of supporting a family in town. In his view, this situation provoked an increase in sexual offences, prostitution and homosexuality.

When I first arrived in PNG in the late 1960s, expatriates shopped in ‘Town’ on the peninsula, where the Pacific-wide trading companies Burns-Philp and Steamships operated department stores close by the main wharf, and the Hotel Papua and its adjacent movie theatre were the principal focuses of colonial social activity. Another retail centre complete with Burns-Philp supermarket at Boroko, one of the inland suburbs, competed with ‘Town,’ while the former site of the native-worker barracks, the Koki-Badili area with its market, tradestores and industrial area, had become the indigenous commercial centre. Increasing numbers of Highlanders were joining the ranks of urban migrants, and village ties were gradually being loosened by many urban settlers, although this process has not progressed to the extent anticipated by writers of that period. At that time, the unskilled migrant majority of the population was largely invisible to expatriate officials and academics, their settlements hidden in the hills, their comings and goings barely noticed.

The Motu-Koitabuan resentment of these immigrants grew as the newcomers began appropriating the informal sector economy. Percy Chatterton attributes the origins of the Papuan separatist movement of the early 1970s to the smaller size and compact character of this former British territory compared to that of New Guinea, and the impact of Sir Hubert Murray’s long rule as a paternalistic and protectionist Lieutenant-Governor. These facilitated the growth of a concept of Papuan unity in a way which did not happen in New Guinea, a growth which was then reinforced, as immigration increased, by the economic neglect of Papua brought about by the adoption of World Bank policies of the 1960s.

Port Moresby of the decolonisation era has been described as

hung in a state of endless becoming, caught midway between its earlier role as a small, European center with a surrounding galaxy of native villages and labor compounds, and the more integrated role its apologists would wish for it in the future … no longer, as it was between the wars, a small European town with a fringe of native villages and compounds. It is now a complex network of functional and spatial positions creating distinctive settings for social life while it gathers a culturally highly diverse population to fill them.

Everyone lived in the town, or wanted to—but no-one owned it.

Gina Koczberski and others consider that the colonial control of the urban population has been replicated in contemporary times, often in more draconian form such as police raids and the bulldozing of informal housing. Attempts to provide low-cost housing failed to satisfy the accommodation needs of the influx of migrants, even before Independence. A substantial proportion of the population, which, in 2014, has been estimated as anywhere between 300,000 and 800,000, now lives in comparatively unplanned, unstructured locations known as ‘settlements.’ John Connell estimated that there were over eighty informal settlements around Port Moresby in 2003. Keith Barber describes one such settlement, composed mainly of related families from an area in the north of the country, who deliberately moved from formal housing dispersed around town to a reproduced ‘village’ in a settlement area, which enabled them to be together, carry out a little gardening, intermarry and provide their own internal security. Anou Borrey describes another, with a multiplicity of ethnic groups and less internal cohesion—inhabitants from one section of the settlement do not move freely through another part, especially at night. But these settlements are not segregated from the rest of the town. Outsiders may see a city divided in simple spatial and socio-economic terms, with a working population living in ‘legitimate’ housing contrasting to an underclass of the uneducated, the unemployed and the criminal; but closer investigation reveals a city of complex social organisation, with regional enclaves established in many areas, and complex degrees and forms of socialities pervading the entire town—Michael Goddard’s ‘unseen city.’

My impression of Port Moresby over the years since the 1960s has been one of space both resisting and adapting to attempts from on high to manage and control it. These adaptations can sometimes happen with remarkable speed. A retail centre is developed, or grows around a major retail enterprise (usually a supermarket/variety store). Gradually it becomes a hunting ground for pickpockets, bag-snatchers and carjackers; its storefronts provide an outlet for the venting of frustrations in demonstrations and riots, requiring extensive boarding-up and security grilles. The colourful thronging crowds through whom I once threaded my way thin and disappear; eventually, the centre becomes a ‘no-go zone’ for most shoppers; commercial enterprises relocate elsewhere; the crowds migrate there and the cycle repeats itself.

Unofficial roadside markets selling buai (betelnut), fresh produce and second-hand clothes spring up and many are eventually ‘legitimised,’ achieving official recognition from the city’s governing body, the National Capital District Commission (NCDC). Residential suburbs, originally planned as spacious single-family accommodation, are transformed into multi-residential compounds with houses and their colonial domestic quarters converted to communal hamlet-style residences, offices, professional suites or ‘guesthouses’; at the same time, industrial and commercial yards in other suburbs include small living quarters originally intended for single security staff but today occupied by extended families. Roads, even the main highways, are prone to develop alarming potholes in the tropical climate; mounds of refuse compost quietly along their verges; flamboyant gardens flourish everywhere; and the most noticeable change I observed when returning in 1988 after an absence of twelve years was that all the tree saplings planted and nurtured in the dustbowl of the pre-Independence town had grown strong and tall, greening the ever-growing city.

A main street in Boroko—all the trees planted in the colonial era have grown, and gardens flourish. Source: Photo by Christine Stewart, 4 September 2007.

The informal sector is everywhere evident, constantly defying efforts to manage and curtail its activities. Itinerant vendors roam the streets offering cold drinks and tourist artefacts. Increasingly these days, goods offered for sale include Asian imports of pencils, bootlaces, razors and so on. In the morning, these pedlars are joined by men (and recently, the occasional woman) selling the daily newspapers. Stationary vendors of food, iceblocks, cigarettes and most ubiquitously, buai, are to be found everywhere. Security issues have seen many vendors shift from the pavements outside their houses back into their front yards where they continue their business through wire-mesh fences. Inside many yards too are makeshift shelters for pool tables, dart boards and ‘black-market’ beer supplies. Or a tiny store constructed against the front fence sells basic tinned and packaged foodstuffs through a weldmesh security screen.

A ‘tuckerbox’ store constructed in a fence beside a suburban road in Tokarara, heavily screened for security. The graffiti are unsurprising.
Souce: Photo by Christine Stewart, 4 September 2007.

Most of the steep hillsides are still under direct government control. They are ribbed by garden plots built in the Highlands style, with downhill drainage which suits a high rainfall climate and contributes to soil erosion in Port Moresby’s rain-shadow climate. Once considered impossible to build on, the slopes are increasingly leased to land developers, particularly where water views are involved. This often involves ‘eviction’ of settler housing and destruction of food gardens.

An important feature of the city is its remarkably effective public transport system. A bus service was already operating vehicles of doubtful quality in the 1950s. In the late 1960s, the Port Moresby bus service, which provided huge vehicles on limited routes, was largely superseded by a local company, Buang Taxi Trucks, which operated a fleet of flat-top trucks with canopies and bench seats. Similar vehicles still operate rural services out to those Central Province villages which are served by road. In town today, however, the twelve- to twenty-seater passenger motor vehicles (PMVs) swarm everywhere. Most of these are operated as part of large fleets belonging to prominent businessmen; registration, routes and fares are controlled by a statutory body, the Land Transport Board. Taxis are more often individually owned and operated, and most are of dubious trustworthiness. Attempts to regulate their presentation, roadworthiness and fare charges are consistently foiled or ignored. Regardless of appearance and even safety, though, the PMVs and taxis of Port Moresby enable even the poorest of the population to move readily around the city. Meanwhile, the elites drive in air-conditioned four-wheel-drives, with windows rolled up and all doors locked, along ‘safe’ routes between destinations which are modelled on modern global lifestyles—supermarkets with fenced car parks patrolled by security guards with their leashed guard-dogs, five-star hotels, air-conditioned restaurants with elaborate security measures, apartments in walled guarded compounds.

High-covenant houses and apartments built to take maximum advantage of the spectacular ocean views. The houses are owned by politicians and other elites, and the apartments are mainly rented to expatriates.
Source: Photo by Christine Stewart, 27 January 2006.

The elites are not, however, completely insulated from their surroundings. Complex kin and ethnic networks continue to bind them into ongoing relationships which cross spatial and class boundaries. For example, a prominent lawyer friend once told me that she numbered many raskols among her relatives. Another friend of mixed ethnicity often found herself hosting visiting relatives from the home villages of both her parents, along with those of her husband who came from a different province again. Port Moresby has flung itself together, it belongs to everybody and nobody, and the process of its self-determination and self-definition is ongoing.

Papua New Guinea Sovereign Wealth Fund

Last updated: December 2017

The Papua New Guinea Sovereign Wealth Fund (PNG SWF) is an important mechanism to manage external shocks to the economy, to support the budget to fund priority areas such as education, health and infrastructure, and to invest for the benefit of future generations.

The Organic Law on the Sovereign Wealth Fund was passed by the Parliament in July 2015 to come into operation in 2016. According to the 2015 Budget, from 2016 onwards all mining and petroleum taxes were to have been deposited into the Sovereign Wealth Fund instead of flowing directly to the government’s consolidated revenue fund (CRF). However, a report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that the SWF was not yet in operation as at the end of 2016.

The SWF will comprise of two funds: the Stabilisation Fund and the Savings Fund. Tax revenues received from mining and petroleum projects, including the PNG LNG project, will be directed to the Stabilisation Fund, and be available to be drawn down into the budget, in accordance with a five-year moving average, to fund expenditure needs. When revenue flows are large, the excess will be deposited into the Savings Fund.

The Stabilisation Fund and the Savings Fund will each receive a proportion of the mining and petroleum dividends paid by state-owned enterprises. The Savings Fund will also receive some of the proceeds of state-owned assets that the government agrees to sell.

The government intends to appoint an experienced and well-qualified board to oversee the investment of these funds offshore to diversify risk and, over time, build up financial assets. The government will provide an investment mandate to the board, expressing the government’s expectations for the management of the funds. It was intended to set up this board, and a secretariat, in the first quarter of 2017 however this has not occurred at the time of writing this report. According to the announcement made by Treasury in the 2018 Budget tabled in Parliament recently, arrangements are being finalised to establish the board. The Department of Treasury stated that in the interim, all mineral and petroleum dividends are directed to the National Budget until the SWF is in place in 2018.

According to Treasury, the projected mineral and petroleum revenues and medium-term inflows between the budget and the SWF were yet to be operationalised. Based on current estimates by Treasury, 50% of mining and petroleum tax revenues will be channelled to the SWF Stabilisation Fund, while the other 50% will flow directly to the CRF to finance government operations. The establishment of the board and a secretariat to operationalise the SWF had been further pushed back to 2018, with the World Bank agreeing to assist the Bank of PNG and the Department of Treasury to establish the SWF Secretariat.

FYI: Commentary on the establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund from Transparency International

‘In November 2016 the Government announced that it engaged an independent firm to recruit suitable candidates to sit on the Sovereign Wealth Fund board, which will begin its work in early 2017. But the recruitment drive to get the new SWF board membership is now delayed due to challenges facing the accounting firm KPMG, says the BPNG governor Loi Bakan. The absence of accountability and transparency in the SWF board recruitment process and the failure by the Department of Treasury and the Bank of Papua New Guinea (BPNG) to continue to give the public updates is a cause for concern. The SWF bill is one of PNG’s most important legislations after 42 years of independence as it will literally guarantee the future of the next generation through the collection and savings of windfall revenue from gas and mineral exports.’

– Transparency International

National Agricultural Research Institute

The letters in NARI are the initials of the National Agricultural Research Institute. The PEOPLE symbolise those included in the mandate of NARI such as farmers, researchers, extension agents, partners, NGOs etc, backed with BLUE to encompass the sky and the macro environment. The LEAF symbolises crops, backed with GREEN to depict the crop environment. The PIG and CHICKEN heads symbolise livestock. The RED background portrays the toil and sweat of the people.

National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) was established by an Act of National Parliament of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in July 1996 as a public funded, statutory research organization, to conduct and foster applied and adaptive research into:

  • any branch of biological, physical and natural sciences related to agriculture;
  • cultural and socioeconomic aspects of the agricultural sector, especially of the smallholder agriculture;
  • matters relating to rural development and of relevance to PNG.

Besides, NARI is responsible for providing technical, analytical, diagnostic and advisory services and up-to-date information to the agriculture sector in PNG.

The Institute’s purpose (strategic objective) is to accomplish enhanced productivity, efficiency, stability and sustainability of the smallholder agriculture sector in the country so as to contribute to the improved welfare of rural families and communities who depend wholly or partly on agriculture for their livelihoods. This is intended to be accomplished through NARI’s mission of promoting innovative agricultural development in PNG through scientific research, knowledge creation and information exchange.

Following its establishment in 1996 and launch in 1997, the Institute was under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock but was brought under the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology in 2002.

In a short span of over a decade, NARI has emerged as a vibrant, dynamic and robust institution of high relevance to development in PNG and in the Pacific. In any one single year, NARI undertakes over 50 research and development projects; most of which are immediate and high impact projects for various areas and targets. These initiatives are undertaken in partnership with stakeholders including the farming community.

NARI has released 28 technologies to the agriculture stakeholders of PNG. Among them are improved crop varieties, information packages, pest and disease control strategies, improved methods of food crop farming, resource management initiatives, livestock development practices, and alternative crops. With the headquarters in Lae, Morobe province, NARI has five regional centres which are strategically located throughout PNG, according to the ecological zones.

The Momase Regional Centre is in Bubia; the Islands Regional Centre is located at Keravat, East New Britain Province; the Southern Regional Centre is at Laloki, Central Province; and the Highlands Regional Centres are at Aiyura, Eastern Highlands, and Tambul in the Western Highlands Province (with a sub-station in Kandep, Enga Province).

NARI has four main programmes, viz:

  • Agricultural Systems
  • Enabling Environment
  • Information and Knowledge
  • Institutional Management and Development

In order to achieve its institutional objective of creating positive development impacts, especially in the context of smallholder farming and rural communities in Papua New Guinea, NARI has adopted the ‘Agricultural Research For Development’ paradigm, or AR4D, an emerging global concept of linking research with development for impacts at farmer level.

Core of this new concept is the notion of “farmer first’ or being responsive to the real and perceived needs of the various farming communities in their biophysical and socio-economic and cultural environments.

NARI has thus recognised that it will require collective action at different levels within and outside of the sector to achieve rural development. NARI has long-term development priorities which are given in the Strategy and Results Framework and the immediate programme priorities in the Strategic Programme Implementation Plan. These plans form an integral part of the government’s Vision 2050, Medium Term Development Strategy and the National Agriculture Development Plan at national level, and will also be consistent with long term strategic plans designed by the national government. They are implemented through annual plans.

Contact Information:

NARI Headquarter, Sir Alkan Tololo Research Centre, PO Box 1445, Lae, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.

Phone: (675) 478 4000/1445/1446

Fax: (675) 475 1450

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Website: www.nari.org.pg

National Parliament of Papua New Guinea

National Parliament of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a single chamber legislature (law-making body) consisting of 89 Members elected from Open electorates and 22 Governors elected from Provincial electorates. The total 111 Members are directly voted into office by citizens over 18 years of age and represent Papua New Guinea provinces and districts.  After an election, the political party with the most seats is invited by the Governor General to form Government. Since Independence all Governments have been formed by a coalition of Parties because no Party has won enough Seats to form Government alone. The National Constitution gives the legislative (law-making) power of the people to Parliament. The PNG Constitution also declares that the maximum term of a Parliament is five years.

The National Parliament was first created in 1964 as the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea and became the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea in 1975 when Independence was granted. The House of Assembly building was located in downtown Port Moresby and had previously been used as a hospital. The new Parliament building was officially opened by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, on 8th August 1984. The old House of Assembly building has been demolished and a Political History museum/library is being built as part of the redevelopment of the site.

Parliament House

Parliament House is an iconic building in Papua New Guinea and a building that PNGans can all be very proud of. It is open to the public on week days (except for public holidays) and Parliamentary staff are available to do guided tours for groups of visitors. If you live in Port Moresby or are a visitor to Port Moresby make sure that you visit our Parliament – it is certainly worth the effort.

National Parliament Official Website: www.parliament.gov.pg