Feasibility of building permanent roads in PNG under current circumstancesFebruary 5 2012 at 9:43 AM
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Response to Part of what i think
I would like to make several different observations in reply to your posting.
First, the money we're getting from the LNG project does not rank well against the revenue earned by developed countries when they have developed their own resources, at least when they were in PNG's stage of development. When those developed countries were in that earlier economic stage, their resources were nearly always developed by local or national (not foreign) companies. Also, it was relatively rare (and non-existent in the mining sector) for the resources to be shipped overseas in raw form. Instead, they were consumed locally or turned into finished products, which resulted in a huge economic bonus. PNG does not follow any of these tried and true policies or ways of developing resources. For that reason, we get very little benefit from our resources in comparison to the full value of those resources. This means ultimately a more restricted tax base, less economic spinoff, etc. To face greater economic challenges in building roads while wholeheartedly pursuing a strategy for the use of our nonrenewable resources that only benefits PNG in terms of a few hundred jobs (that's all the LNG project will support once the construction phase is over) and gas royalties is suicidal in the long run and does not set the stage for sustainable funding of infrastructure creation, then sustainable maintenance.
My second comment is that the mining technology is so good these days that we don't need road construction and tunnels to find new mining prospects. Tunnels are a very dangerous alternative for PNG for many reasons, mostly involving the unstable geology and stone makeup. We are not Japan or Europe!
In fact, if the roads were limited to reaching areas with agricultural potential (just like the original intent of the highlands highway), those roads would earn back their investment money in increased tax revenues... maybe. If we continue deforesting our country in the name of covering all the land with products that foreigners want (coffee, oil palm, cocoa, etc) we will end up destroying what the whole world says is one of our most unique natural resources - the wildlife and plants in our forests. Thus, we destroy long-term sustainable ecotourism in the name of short-term wildly fluctuating commodities. We would destroy only a small part of those forests if we used that land to feed ourselves in a healthy way. If we continue trying to run after world demand for commodities, we will truly end up a tropical agricultural wasteland, with massive erosion, huge use of toxic agricultural chemicals, and declining soil fertility.
In these discussions we always focus on the idealistic and close our eyes to the reality. As you said, we should actually contract a qualified company, here or overseas to engineer the road, and then to construct. If we pull in a firm from overseas we can use our manpower for labour etc, creating jobs for both skilled and unskilled workers. But that is idealism. Until our system of government changes, we will focus on getting the construction company that is willing to kickback money into the bank accounts of pollies, whether those companies are good or bad. Mostly they will be bad, because when you submit the lowest bid AND you have to pay a kickback, you obviously don't have as much money left over to do the best possible job in road engineering and construction. Thus, we should be focusing most of our discussion on this board in how to stop the corruption that eats up PNG and it will involve far more pain than hardly any of us recognises. We currently refuse to bear that pain, thinking there is an easier way to fight corruption but there is not. But even on the internet, most people look away from that problem, and instead rush over to the idealistic, often imaginary development conversations.
My last comment refers to your idea that road networks can curtail urban drift. Nowhere in the world have road networks curtailed urban drift that I know of. Instead, they do just the opposite. Look at Lae as the starting example, then proceed to Africa, South America and Asia for many more examples. If you mean the road network will generate rural development, thus preventing people leaving the village for the cities, you are wrong on that do. The dying rural areas of Australia, USA, and most areas of Europe is proof enough that the more pathways you make between urban and rural areas, the more wealth will flow out of rural areas to urban areas. For example, farmers will take their money and instead of spending it in local stores, will drive to the larger cities and spend the money there. Thus, the soil fertility and the farmer's hard work no longer benefit the local area as it once would have done, but instead benefit the cities. This is what happened to all the oil revenues of Gobe/Kutubu. The money was taken out of the rural areas and spent in the cities. That money has continued to create jobs and circulate in the cities whereas in the oil areas, everything the money bought was either quickly eaten or is now broken. This is the OPPOSITE of rural development, and roads promote that tragic end. Look at developed countries and study carefully the decline in their rural areas, the loss of jobs (all coming after better road networks were built).
You are a fine person to bother questioning and questioning to get as much information as possible. I can guarantee you that hardly 1 person in government and maybe only 2-3 MPs out of 109 would bother to become as educated as you are seeking.