Modern Papua New Guinea

By Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi | Go to book overview

POLITICS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

THIS CHAPTER ANALYZES THE EFFECT of salient political forces on economic development in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The relationship is going to be interpreted in the light of African experience. It is argued that a number of political forces operating in PNG have close parallels in Africa,1 and that PNG is in danger of replicating the main elements of African development. This may result in the African malaise: low rates of economic growth in the agricultural and industrial sector of the economy, and dismally low levels of performance in a public sector that is riddled with corruption.

Some important events began to unravel in Africa shortly before independence. One of the main promises of independence was material betterment of the populace, an expectation nurtured by the local politicians themselves. These promises were easily fulfilled for the elite.2 However, to fulfill the promises to the populace at large constituted a major political problem. Since people expected material betterment, successful performance in this respect largely legitimised political power in the eyes of their constituents. Failure to perform

1 More precisely, the focus is on sub-Saharan Africa.

2 For our purposes, members of the elite are those individuals with access to state power either directly through the control of the legislature and/or administration or indirectly through their ability to influence those who have this power. Since substantial businesses are usually not simply exploiting market forces but using monopoly power acquired through political influence, many owners of private enterprises are part of the elite in our sense.

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