History of Papua New Guinea and occupied West PNG|
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 1995 02:12:05 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
Subject: IMF Plan Rejected by Papua New Guinea People
/** econ.saps: 270.0 **/
** Topic: IMF plan rejected by png people **
** Written 1:16 PM Sep 7, 1995 by margross in cdp:econ.saps **
From: Ross Hammond <margross>
/* Written 7:16 PM Sep 6, 1995 by twn in igc:twn.features */
/* ---------- "IMF plan rejected by png people" ---------- */
IMF plan rejected by PNG people
By Kalinga Seneviratne, for Third World Network Features
6 September 1995
To curb rising civil unrest, the Papua New Guinea government
may withdraw the Land Mobilisation Programme imposed by the
International Monetary Fund, the Australian government and the
Japan Export-Import Bank in exchange for a $235 million rescue
Sydney: Mounting civil unrest is forcing the government
of Papua New Guinea to rethink pushing through with a land reform
programme that is a major component of a deal it struck with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Reports reaching here indicate that the PNG government
may yet withdraw the Land Mobilisation Programme (LMP) that was
among the conditions imposed by the IMF, the Australian
government and the Japan Export-Import Bank in exchange for a $235
million rescue package.
Protests greeted the World Bank appraisal team that was
in Papua New Guinea in July to assess the implementation of the
various elements of the reform plan agreed to by a cash-strapped
University students attacked and set fire to government
vehicles, while the vehicles of provincial officials on their way
to a meeting on the LMP were commandeered by protesters. Labour
leaders, non-government organisations (NGOs) and even soldiers
also joined demonstrations in the capital. In a phone interview
from Port Moresby, National Union of Students of PNG vice
president John Napu told IPS that students and NGO
representatives had met with Lands Minister Albert Kipalan two
weeks earlier during which the official gave an undertaking to
withdraw the LMP legislation.
But Prime Minister Julius Chan balked at the idea, and
said the government would go ahead with the LMP. Said Napu: 'The
Prime Minister says that because we have debts to the World Bank
and IMF, beggars can't be choosers and the government has to
enforce (the agreement). We students and the people of the
country are saying, "No, we don't want the legislation of
customary land."' Customary land tenure in Papua New Guinea
covers 97% of all land and supports more than 85% of the total
Customary land rights are obtained by virtue of being a
member of, or being affiliated to, a land-owning group.
'Customary land tenure system serves the needs and
requirements of the people,' says University of PNG lecturer and
land tenure specialist Andrew Lakau.
'It has preserved a way of life which the people know
best,' he adds. 'Because of it, people have remained on or
returned to the land, rather than drift to remain in a stagnant
urban sector. It has also prevented the rise of a tenant-landlord
class of people.'
But for some time now, the government has been trying to
register all customary land. It said it wanted to find out how
landowners could benefit by developing the property without
losing it. Kipalan himself has said it was important to work out
a system where customary owners could develop their land in
joint-ventures with developers or by just becoming landlords
while others lease and work the land.
Meanwhile, foreign consultants, including those from the
World Bank, have called for structural changes to the customary
land tenure system. According to them, the present set-up is an
impediment to productivity and economic development.
In this regard, customary land registration is the main
policy strategy that has been repeatedly advocated.
When the government moved to introduce legislation to
implement the LMP in the midst of negotiations with the IMF, many
Papua New Guineans thought they saw a conspiracy by foreign capital
to buy their lands.
Lakau insists that rather than being a disincentive to
development, the customary land tenure system has provided
subsistence security in a country where there are no unemployment
benefits or a social security system to speak of.
He notes, 'When people fail in the education system,
fail to find any job or are fed up with living in the urban
ghettos and squatter settlements, their most worthwhile options
is to return to their homeland and make a living from their
Lakau also says most of the country's cash crops are
produced on customary land with no serious land tenure obstacles.
For example, he says, 70% of coffee, 42% of copra and 40% of
cocoa are produced by small holders on their customary landholdings
with no registered titles.
'People are generally quite willing to work harder,
produce cash crops and make other economic use of their land,'
observes Lakau. But he says they can only do so if the government
provides them with favourable support services such as transport,
credit extension and market outlets.
There seems to be divisions within the government itself
regarding the issue. While the premier was championing the
programme, his deputy speaker was busy calling for the immediate
withdrawal of the LMP legislation.
The deputy speaker also publicly supported the protests
and even went as far as calling the IMF and the World Bank
'monsters' for pushing the LMP under the name of economic
development to suit their own ends.
Napu said they will be fanning out to the provinces to
explain to landholders the ins and outs of the government's land
reform moves. He dismissed as 'total rubbish' suggestions in the
Australian media that the PNG demonstrators are being manipulated
by Australian and other Western NGOs.
'We have access to all the policy papers of the IMF and
the World Bank, including all the added policy documents on the
structural adjustment programmes and draft legislation,' he said.
'We have read them and act on this information, not on any advice
of foreign NGOs.'
Added Napu: 'If we are given an opportunity to see the
people concerned with the prime minister and his deputy...we'll
place it on the table.'
_ Third World Network Features/Inter Press
About the writer: Kalinga Seneviratne is a Sri Lankan-born
Australian journalist, broadcaster and media researcher. He
writes for the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and teaches
Development Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney.
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