| My Land, My Country
KUK – Public sector reform is an alien concept to the people of Papua New Guinea.
The idea has been brought into countries like PNG by fly-by-night consultants, whose knowledge seems based almost exclusively on trendy paperbacks purchased at airport bookshops on their way to their new jobs in Third World capitals.
PNG has been one of the testing grounds for weird ideas on governance, development, education and service delivery.
The reforms have been pushed by international organisations whose consultants often lacked knowledge of local conditions with the inevitable outcome that reforms fell short of achieving their objectives mainly because they were not needed in the first place.
PNG has lost 40 years of development opportunity because of poor advice from foreign consultants.
It is embarrassing that the best and brightest in this country have not been consulted on these reforms.
The best analysis of public sector reform has been provided by Papua New Guinean academics and public servants, but our government has consistently ignored the evidence.
The failed outcome based education (OBE) system set back PNG 20 years. This, together with the Tuition Fee Free policy, is responsible for the poor standard of education.
The failed provincial government and local-level government system has also set PNG back many years – this time back to the stone age.
The transport infrastructure remains collapsed. The plantation economy was killed by the high cost of security and by mismanagement. Extension services were withdrawn from rural agriculture.
Funding for core areas of health, education, agriculture and village courts was cut and diverted to electoral purposes with MPs as fund managers.
That is what happens when structural changes are brought about without understanding the purpose of public sector reform.
PNG is now ranked among the lowest country in terms of the human development indicators, despite increases in life expectancy and literacy rates since 1990.
We cannot afford to have people with no real life experience in parliament, running government departments and state enterprises, or working for the government as consultants.
Similarly, we must never allow corrupt people in these places. We have suffered enough at the hands of incompetent and corrupt leaders.
Let’s work together to salvage what is left of our country for our children.
Dr Joseph Ketan lives at Kuk near Mount Hagen and is an independent researcher and sociopolitical commentator with a background in anthropology, political science and governance. He has held academic posts at the Institute of PNG Studies, the National Research Institute and the University of Papua New Guinea. You can follow him on Facebook