Modern Papua New Guinea

By Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi | Go to book overview

Part Two
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

THE UNEVEN PACE AND DISTRIBUTION of economic development in Papua New Guinea is an ongoing challenge facing Papua New Guinea's leaders. Everyone wants ‘development’ be it a road, a mine, or better ways of marketing agricultural production to fast-growing towns and cities. Writing in the 1960s and 1970s, when cash cropping was the ‘road’ to wealth throughout Papua New Guinea, anthropologists described the early success stories of the ‘big men of business’, entrepreneurs who organized coffee or cocoa plantations using traditional ties to get land and labor (Epstein 1968; Finney 1973; Salisbury 1970). Subsequent accounts have focused more on development's negative effects, such as the environmental destruction associated with large gold mines (Hyndman 1994) and unregulated commercial logging (Barlow and Winduo 1997), increased economic and social inequality (cf. MacWilliam 1993; Thompson and MacWilliam 1992), and economic individualism and the ascendancy of short-term private ends over public interests (Errington and Gewertz 1993). Why people want development requires more than a simple answer. One reason, however, lies in the dynamic and demanding traditional exchange systems that siphon income from development to be used in creating and recreating extensive series of reciprocities linking village and town, and rich and poor. In the highlands society where I do most of my research, inequality in jobs and income makes it difficult for Gende men and women to maintain their exchange relations in good order. Many young people, without lucrative employment in town or at home, disappoint their

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