Reason why Taripex Settlement is a better option than the village.

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A village setting

According to the 2011 census, the total population of PNG was 7.1 million. About 89% (6.3 million) were the rural people while 11% (770,600) lived in urban areas.

Sharp et al (2015) defines the same population based on economic criteria. The formal sector (13%) is the segment of society who receive a fortnightly wage. While the 87% informal are those involved in any activity that does not factor in the calculation of the country’s gross domestic produce.

Within the formal sector, Cox (2014) throws in a third group – the “predatory elite” – those “who wield real influence in PNG: senior public servants and powerful political patrons or the landowner rentier millionaires who capture the benefits of resource developments.”

When put under scrutiny, the informal sector is a blanket name for two groups: those who remain in the village and those that have migrated to towns in search of opportunities. The villagers are either selling cash crops or just concentrating on subsistence agriculture in the village (Kopel 2017) The village runaways are rural dwellers who have runaway from the village in search for opportunities in the city.

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Groups of people in PNG as classified by different researchers and estimates for this essay.

Papua New Guinea has three cities: Lae, Mt Hagen and Port Moresby with Port Moresby being the biggest and the center of business for PNG.  The 2011 census estimates that the Port Moresby population to be around 320,000.

A report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) assessing the fragility of urban settlements estimated the number of people in the informal settlement population in Port Moresby to be over 50% of the city’s total population (ADB  2013). These settlers are engaged in the informal sector – mostly as vendors.

For the purpose of making our point, and  based on ADB data, we assume that squatter settlements contribute to 50% of city population in PNG. According to this assumption, the settlement population in the three PNG cities may be estimated to just 3.3% of the 2011 PNG population.

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Estimated squatter population from the three PNG cities.

According to estimations,  the predatory elite has the smallest membership (2% or less). Membership of this group have been described as the parasitic group’ because they ‘act as if the control   access to education. The truly elite powerbrokers of PNG monopolise the resources of the state and ensure that those outside their patronage networks are locked out of access to education, employment and other prerequisites of social advancement.”This is made up of politicians and senior bureaucrats and landowners of resource rich provinces and their cronies.

The second group is the working class (10%). These are mostly those in the government’s service (public service) and those in private workforce and businesses.   The public service implements the government directive –  which is to serve the people. The clustering of government service in the urban areas show that this group serve themselves and others in the urban areas.  A tiny percentage of this group struggle to serve the rural masses. These include the teachers, nurses, the police force and the few dedicated  local government bureaucrats.

The third are the villagers and they make the biggest proportion (86%) of the population. The villagers are scattered throughout the country. The government’s mandate is to serve the villager. In reality, the villager is so far outside the government, they seem invisible. The villagers depend on their own system for making it day-to day, the villager uses the most authentic system that has supported life for PNGeans since the dawn of time: kin, custom and barter. In good times, the villager has food, family and shelter and is content living a life with less cargo and little money. In times of disaster, the village needs government support in terms of technology, medicine and food. If not for large scale disasters, the villager will remain invisible.

The fourth group are the urban settlers – the 3.3% of people who escape the village in search of opportunities. The settlers often realize very soon that they need money to survive in the city. This group relies mostly on street vending to raise their income. Their lack of education and qualification keeps them from more technical and decent paying jobs. These people pay no taxes, but they are the most demanding from the government system. Not engaged in meaningful employment and with relatively more free time on their hands, membership in this group are the main mischief makers in the city; causing petty crimes in the society. These group absorbs most of the law and order effort and budget in the cities

Why is it better to be in Taripex settlement than in the village? Despite the hard life and the absence of support from kin, the city is a big market for the village runaway to earn money from street sales. With money they can support themseves. They may have access to running water and light, even if illegally connected. They can access health care. They can send their child to a school where the teacher is always present. Importantly, through hard work, the membership of this group may get an education or make enough money to advance in life. Such opportunities do not exist in the village.

Indeed, people living in cardboard shacks in cities get more charity than people living in the village. Most often donor money for development projects in the country is used up in this group – even though their number is less than the villager.

The government system has lost sight of its duty to its biggest constituent – the villager. It is a contradiction when money for development is earned from resources belonging to the villager, but no goods or services goes back to the village. The money is stuck in the urban areas to maintain a self-serving system that is of no use to the villager. The settler by positioning themselves closer to the government system can punch a hole in the system to get some form of assistance to trickle down to them. The same cannot be said for the villager.

And that is why, it is better to be in Taripex and raising a family than in the village.  It is every person’s human right to seek better opportunities. The movement from the village to the settlements will continue until government services and opportunities for development becomes available in the village.

Reference

ADB (2013) Fragility Assessment of an Informal Urban Settlement in Papua New Guinea

COX, J. (2014)  ‘Grassroots’, ‘Elites’ and the New ‘Working Class’ of Papua New Guinea. State, Society & Governance in Melanesia ips.cap.anu.edu.au/ssgm

Kopel , E., (2017) The Informal Economy In Papua New Guinea: Scoping Review Of Literature And Areas For Further Research . www.pngnri.org

SHARP, J. COX , C. SPARK, S. LUSBY, & M. ROONEY (2015) The Formal, the Informal, and the Precarious: Making a Living in Urban Papua New Guinea. SSGM DISCUSSION PAPER 2015/2

 

 

This face, my face

mercyzStory of my life on this canvas,

This face, my face.

Kinks in the hair.

The serious brows.

The eyes – windows to the soul;

The sweep of the cheeks

… & the quietly determined chin

& the button nose.

In my smile,

I see my beginnings,

I see my grandmother,

& I see my mother.

In my reflection,

I see my sisters,

..& all the little girls of the future.

I recognize the smile, the chuckle,

Mannerisms and preferences.

It is all too familiar.

I have come home, yet I am home.


** A Poem celebrating family. Dedicated to the sisterhood.

 

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