PNG NEW VOICES CONFERENCE
Port Moresby, 29th May 2014
National Research Institute Conference Room
Plenary Session: Responsible sustainable development.
Speaking Topic: Social/Community Entrepreneurship and Innovation
A Talk by Reuben Mete
PNG Consulate-General HE Sumasy Singing;
Retired General Jerry Singirok;
Organizers of the event – Lowy Institute and National Research Institute;
Moderator Mr. Paul Barker, Executive Director of Institute of National Affairs in Papua New Guinea; and
My fellow Leaders of Papua New Guinea.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak at this conference today. This morning I do not wish to be dramatic, but would like to gently draw our attention to an issue that I believe really matters most to our heart–innovation in sustainable communities on a more rural perspective.
Responsible sustainable development is a developing country’s phenomenon and can take us a whole year discussing it. I do not wish to raise my voice in the issue of sustainable developments now and again, all I want is to create PNG, a nation where ‘responsible’ and ‘sustainability’ doesn’t need people to talk about. The whole reason why we have to discuss this now is I believe human beings are now putting dollars and cents before common sense. Mining industry have been working on sustainable development policies but still have a lot to improve on. The onus, however should not be on investors but on Papua New Guinea to develop own policies and regulations to guide sustainable development.
It is not my intention to justify the level of expectations our rural communities have on sustainable development as many have lag behind basic developments.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the village where I came from we usually walk eight hours even to date to access basic services such as health, education and manufactured goods.
We recently saw the launching of the first shipment of liquefied natural gas of the PNG LNG project. The Elk/Antelope Gulf LNG and Stanley Gas projects are also coming up. We got Solwara 1 deep sea mining project being the latest to join the mining industry. All of these new projects as well as the existing ones are anticipated to propel our economy.
PNG has a population estimated to be a little over 7 million. Despite significant resource wealth from minerals, oil and gas, forestry and fishing, the vast majority of our population still lives a precarious subsistence farming existence with little or no access to the provisions of a modern state such as education, healthcare, sanitation or infrastructure such as roads.
The feeling is that if they are giving the miner the gold from their land, they are expected gold in return – gold in the form of hospitals, schools, compensation for their customary land.
In his speech to the 30th Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum and Trade Expo, Cairns Australia, Sam Koim, Chairman of the Task Force Sweep says and I quote – “I have however noted that globalization has not only marked a new phase in the development of capitalism in our country, it has accelerated the pace of social change. It has infested the desire of individuals and groups to amass wealth. What globalization has not done, among the developing nations such as ours, is the attitude – the desire for capacity building, entrepreneurship, enterprise, productivity, critical knowledge-leadership qualities, hard work, competitiveness, introspection with regard to developing indigenous knowledge and technology. It has robbed the developing nations the traditional culture of independence in productivity, communal efforts at development, crafts and guild production, disorganized the traditional agricultural and production systems that hitherto ensured food on the table of every Papua New Guinean and has rather diverted attention of the people to importation of finished goods, service industry and established the culture of consumerism, dependence and luxury.”
Watut River Development Limited (WRD) is a not for profit 100% locally owned social enterprise aiming to add value to the lives of every Papua New Guinean by providing high quality water supply and sanitation at an affordable cost. Given the reality that 4.2 million people in Papua New Guinea do not have access to clean water supply system; WRD has identified the only 30% of the entire 7 million population has access to clean water system and sanitation.
Building infrastructure is a major issue for the Papua New Guinea Government as it takes responsibility for the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure in difficult terrain which is high. The government and the Papua New Guineans believe that if entire infrastructure plans were implemented it would be unaffordable. Although foreign investments and donor funding was highly sort after, there was some capacity within Papua New Guinea to provide affordable Water Supply and Sanitation and this is where WRD comes in to play.
We believe that rural and remote communities needed to see more of the benefits of national economic growth, and resource sector-driven growth and we believe we can achieve this by providing quality Water Supply and Sanitation to every Papua New Guinean in a little way we can. Big problem have big solutions too. If I don’t give back to my communities, I wonder who will be able to give back to his or her communities. We need you, you can join us and that is why I come here for.
We are now working on to upscale our programs to service the entire Papua New Guinea population through our Lutheran Youth Network. Which has well over 500,000 youth membership untapped and that is the big advantages we now have to enhance our program going rural. We do not believe in getting donor funding assistance but we believe in providing opportunities and powering local Changemaker to bring change back to their communities. Local problems have local solutions and thus needs people within to drive that change that they themselves wanted to see.
Information Communication Technology (ICT)
My participation in this information pool through ICT has had a lot of benefits to me as a person and also to others through the organization. I believe with ICT, we cannot find remoteness/ rural and isolation as Technology help us build a better World.
The media landscape is now changing rapidly with the arrival of social media. It also presented an opportunity for everyone to get their message to public sphere. I have to thank Digicel for its monopoly service in this rural communities include mine where we usually walk to hours uphill to access its crystal clear coverage’s and have access to ICT.
As I come to a close of my talk, I hope you’d appreciate some contributions our new generations have been doing. In so doing, I have drawn only the social or community entrepreneurship and innovations from my past experiences to share some lights to your thought that Papua New Guineans have potentials to help reaching the unreached and touching the untouched. We should now give the people access to learn for living, than they can make change in their communities themselves. I am glad to say here that the process to do so has already begun.
Thank you for listening.
God Bless you all.
Reuben Mete is the Director of the Youth Desk of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea. He is also the President and CEO of the Union of Watut River Communities Association Inc and Managing Director of Watut River Development Limited, a social enterprise that works in partnership with Morobe Mining Joint Venture to provide clean water and sanitation supplies to rural communities.
Reuben was previously a Spark* Changemaker and President of the PNG University of Technology Morobe Students and Staff Association. Reuben strongly believes that Papua New Guinea needs to invest developing sustainable rural communities where every individual has access to basic health and education services and a reasonable income.
All views expressed on this paper are the opinions of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion or position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea.