PNG: Happy birthday to the land of unexpected

Future depends on ability to fight crime

Papua New Guinea, the largest of the economies within the island-Pacific in terms of population and gross domestic product, reaches the milestone of being 39 years since independence. For most individuals, reaching 39 years is signalled by the appearance of the first grey hairs and with it the signs of maturity. For me personally this was also the time when I realised that I could not keep pace with the football or the players on the field.

PNG is different, however. It remains young and vibrant that has much to look forward to still. Here I provide a glimpse of the past to paint a picture of the unfolding present. Papua New Guinea is a nation with considerable promise and much potential. The challenge for its leaders and policymakers is to realise the potential of this young and vibrant democracy. The past Papua New Guinea has had a difficult past. Independence from Australia was attained in 1975. Some then argued that nationhood was handed to PNG too early.

A few continue to lament that Australia let go of its lone colony too early, and without having prepared the nation for the challenges of the future. One informed intellectual who was involved in the transition to independence told me that Australia hardly had a choice but to offer its colony independence. There was a move within PNG for independence. And Canberra decided to offer independence on good terms with the leaders in Port Moresby rather than be pushed out. This, with the benefit of hindsight, was wise.

Australia and PNG have remained on close terms and both have come to assist one another in need. PNG remains one of the largest recipients of foreign aid from Australia and is home to large foreign direct investments. Many in PNG are passionate about the Australian Rugby League (ARL) to the extent that the battle between the Blues from New South Wales and the Maroons from Queensland attracts crowds larger than those I see in Canberra.

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