Scott Waide: Open letter to PM James Marape: Treat our people fairly

Prime Minister James Marape … “Our resources. Our country. We deserve more.” Image: Scott Waide/Lowy Institute

COMMENTARY: By Scott Waide in Lae

Dear Prime Minister Marape

Our government has to admit the fact that there is a glaring imbalance between Papua New Guinean and foreign ownership of businesses. We own very little in our country.

The retail, wholesale and real estate in our towns and cities are controlled by Chinese interests. We own almost nothing in the logging industry. It is, as we all know, controlled by Malaysian interests.

There is an increasing push by (new) Chinese business owners who are buying up National Housing Corporation (NHC) properties and forcing out Papua New Guineans – YOUR people – onto the streets.

There is no strong legislation that prevents 100 percent foreign ownership of property and land. We need those laws in place now. We need the political will to do it. Now.

The justice system can’t protect our people. They don’t have the money to fight long protracted legal battles… …and the syndicate – yes, syndicates – know this and they take advantage of it.

Recently, local people along the North Coast of Madang protested against a sand mining proposal. The people associated with the sand mining company have also evicted families from NHC properties in Madang.

It is no secret. It was reported by the media.

Tack Back PNG more than a slogan
Take Back PNG must not remain a political slogan for elections. The people must live it.

I am calling for legislation that protects the social and economic rights of our people. I want lower taxes (or no taxes at all) for struggling SMEs.

Give them tax holidays like the government did for RD Tuna and the petroleum sector. Give them REAL financing. Not a figure on paper they can’t access.

We want shop spaces in the centre of our towns and cities. Give it to us. This is our country. We want what is ours.

If the laws don’t allow it. Change the laws to suit our people’s needs.

We cannot continue to exist on the fringes of a large Pacific economy that boasts a “healthy” GDP yet cannot show it in the impact on the lives of our people.

Tax the alcohol companies. They contribute to the widespread abuse and the violence associated with it.

Society not mature enough
Our society is not mature enough to allow the widespread consumption of alcohol.

Tax the cigarette companies. Make them all pay for the ill health of our people.

We are not taking back PNG by allowing these cancers to continue untreated. We are in fact, selling off PNG’s future.

Reduce the cost of medical treatment at the private clinics and hospitals. Reduce the cost of dental care. It’s UNAFFORDABLE. How can a papa or mama in the village afford K500 for a tooth extraction.

Give your people the means to look after themselves. Give your people the means to pay for their children’s education so they don’t become enslaved by politicians who peddle election policies that don’t really serve our people.

We don’t want to be dependent on government. We want to make our own money. Wealth in the hand of its people is real wealth.

We demand preferential treatment for US.

Our resources. Our country. We deserve more.

Scott Waide is a leading Papua New Guinean journalist and a senior editor with a national television network. He writes a personal blog, My Land, My Country. Asia Pacific Report republishes his articles with permission.

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This post was originally published on Radio Free.