Papua New Guinea: The Struggle for Development

Papua New Guinea: The Struggle for Development

Papua New Guinea: The Struggle for Development

Papua New Guinea: The Struggle for Development

Synopsis

Before independence Papua New Guinea's economy was largely based on agriculture, since 1975 it has focused on coal production. This is the first book to deal with these changes from an economic perspective.

Excerpt

Our island world ceased to be. The world exploded and our island became a remote outpost…the last place in a country which has few centres and much remoteness.

(Caspar Luana, Buka: A Retrospect, New Guinea, 1969, p.15)

The principal focus of this book concerns the various facets of Papua New Guinea's social and economic development, in an attempt to develop a 'posthorticultural' geography that does justice to the sweeping changes that have followed the establishment of mining and two decades of independence. In just three years, from 1990 to 1993, the country went from a phase of oil exploration to one of being a major exporter, whilst at least three 'unknown' or 'lost' tribes were (re)discovered. It is a nation of unparalleled diversity, a fact that makes producing an overview of this kind particularly difficult. Moreover this book seeks to go beyond the dry bones of the quantitative changes described in government reports and statistical series, especially since statistical data are sometimes unreliable, are rarely disaggregated to provide indications of regional variation and are all too often simply absent. Social and economic changes are examined together since such 'modern' phenomena as commodity production, voting patterns or urban migration are thoroughly integrated into particular social contexts. It has been specifically intended to provide a qualitative account, partly via the local media and through Melanesian voices, of the perception and flavour of development rather than inevitably, elusive 'reality'. Such a task is fraught with problems. There have been dangers in producing more of a pastiche, than an independent analysis. Relatively few good studies of development issues have been undertaken since the mid-1980s, hence the best of these have probably unduly influenced this book. At almost every point caution is required in interpretation; many statements should include phrases such as 'reasonably typical' and vague adjectives like 'most' and 'many' occur all too frequently. Of course, generalisation could never be more than a flawed undertaking, especially in Papua New Guinea. All attempts to adumbrate a 'typical' Papua New Guinea or the 'essential' Melanesia are doomed to failure. The speed of certain elements of development has posed its own problems.

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