logo
Papua New Guinea

Govt says “no job – get out”

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape has come up with an unusual proposal to help solve the nation’s economic and violence problem – kick all unemployed people out of the nation’s cities.

The PM said survival in the urban areas is tough and that anyone who doesn’t have a job should return to their villages and places of origin.

Confirming that this was not merely a suggestion, but the government’s intention, he also announced that a survey will be undertaken to see who has the ability to stay in the cities and who should return to their place of origin.

Mr Marape told the country’s parliament that urban areas like Port Moresby and Lae are not for the unemployed and people would go hungry if they remained unemployed. This can only be seen as an admission of the government’s failures.

The urban drift with the lure of better life has seen millions across many Pacific Island nations leave their villages where they have land and access to other bounties, and settle in urban areas.

One of the most common reasons given for the drift is the quality of education in rural areas and lack of development.

James Marape at a press connference in Port Moresby. Picture Royal PNG Constabulary
James Marape at a press conference in Port Moresby. He has come up with an unusual proposal to help solve the nation’s economic and violence problem – kick all unemployed people out of the nation’s cities. Picture: Royal PNG Constabulary

In the last three decades this has led to an increase in the number of informal settlements in cities like Port Moresby, Lae, Suva, Lautoka, Port Vila, and Honiara. These settlements in turn have given rise to the unemployed population and crime associated with it.

In PNG and Fiji, young women from such informal settlements enter the sex trade while young men are inclined towards crimes such as drug dealing, robberies and thievery.

A national census will be done in PNG next year to identify the unemployed and get them back to their villages. Mr Marape said there were hardships faced in some villages but overall there were more opportunities available to make a better living. He said people should return home to farm their land.

“Why go into prostitution? Why stay in Port Moresby when you are unemployed and sell your daughters?” he said in Parliament.

“In the past, it was understandable, there was a huge increase in urban drift and people came to cities in search of or to have access to basic services like schools or health centres.”

An aerial shot of the Hanuabada informal settlement in PNG. Picture UN Habitat
An aerial shot of the Hanuabada informal settlement in PNG. Picture: UN Habitat

Mr Marape said the governments including past and present had started to do their best to bring the focus back to the districts and the provinces.

“We are building schools, clinics, roads, bringing in electricity in a way to address urban drift. Why go into prostitution when you have land? We are Papua New Guineans. We have customary land and seas. There is money in the land and seas, grow crops, the Government will buy it from you,” he said.

The Papua New Guinea leader pointed out that there would be no financial compensation if the program starts. He said the provincial, district and national governments will partner to buy food crops and sea food from people sent to the villages.

Opposition Leader MP Joseph Lelang had questioned the government on the aid given to people during a tough financial time brought about by the pandemic and still continuing.

He said there were media reports of increased prostitution and other crime brought about by the high cost of living.

There has been mixed reactions to this statement from Mr Marape. Some are opposed but many actually believe this will solve a lot of socio-economic issues.

Joseph Benroy of Port Moresby is a finance officer at a vehicle dealership and he believes that Mr Marape could in fact be right.

“Not everyone has been able to make it out in the cities. Moresby is notorious for crime. I wish to live in a safer city and if this will allow that to happen, then it is a good thing. There is so much land and agriculture is the way forward,” he said.

Another Moresby resident Hector Tanda said the number of people in the cities is increasing and the amount of work is not enough.

“If I was unemployed and things hard. I would go back. Would be difficult in adjusting but I think through hard work it could be done. I just hope that children if forced to move back with their parents would have access to quality education and health care,” he said.

Amanda Tanda said it would be unfair and a violation of people’s rights if this was done forcefully. A few have also questioned the government’s ability to provide water and electricity to the informal settlements and eventually get them titles.

A settlement in NCD, Port Moresby. Government has been trying ways to curb these. Picture Mel Oplima Facebook
A settlement in NCD, Port Moresby. Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape has come up with an unusual proposal to help solve the nation’s economic and violence problem – kick all unemployed people out of the nation’s cities. Picture: Mel Oplima Facebook

According to the World Bank, the PNG’s GDP has steadily increased from US$3.5 billion in 2000 to US$24.97 billion today. Yet, it seems that poverty in Papua New Guinea is still pervasive.

According to UN Habitat, there are 44 unplanned settlements on state land and 37 on customary land in PNG. The growth of these settlements is the result of uncontrolled migration and population growth and the government’s failure to provide affordable housing and land that can be developed to meet increased demand.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like

Send this to a friend