Social Concerns Notes – September 2011

(Monthly mailout from Philip Gibbs SVD (Commission for Social Concerns CBC – PNG/SI)

Antimalarials sold is of poor quality.  Post Courier 1/9/11
ANTIMALARIALS and amoxicillin currently being sold in the country have high non-compliance rates of 50 to 70 per cent, they could be contributing to problems such as drug resistance.
The above comments were made at Monday’s workshop on Drug Monitoring and Research, held at the University of Papua New Guinea School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
A presentation from senior lecturer in pharmacy Dr Naomi Hehonaha and her students, had shown that more than 50 per cent of the artesunate and artemether, the current antimalarials being sold and used in three different places in the country, are of poor quality because they do not comply with international compliance rates. A similar finding was made on amoxicillin, a common antibiotic used in the country. The non-compliance rate was 60-70 per cent for all amoxicillin brands sold in the country. This means that they may not cure the disease for which they are being taken or could be poisonous for human consumption.

Land Owners to shut school over unpaid compo. Post Courier 1/9/11
LANDOWNERS of the Catholic -run Tari Secondary School in Hela province have threatened to close down the school because the State has failed to honour a commitment to pay them K33 million for the land. The closure of the school will greatly affect students in Grade 10 and 12 who are preparing for their exams next month. The school was shut down in May this year but an assurance by high profile officers from the Lands Department and the Hela Transitional Authority convinced the landowners to reopen the school. At that time, the officers had promised to give them 60 days, so that they could fast-track the payment but nothing had occured. The 60 days lapsed last week and they are adamant to close the school.
Secretary General of the landowners, Moses Mai said the State had honoured other land payment for other schools in Hela and elsewhere in the country while their demands were ignored. He said they don’t have any conflict with the Catholic Church and appreciated what the Church had done for them. Mr Mai has sent his apology to the students, parents, guidance and staff of the school for the expected closure of the school.

The secret success of improving Human Development Index. Post Courier 5/9/11 

THE SECRET success to improving Papua New Guinea’s Human Development Index ranking is making strong commitments to improving the economic and political participation of women and girls. That is the message from Stuart Watson of UNAIDS. PNG still ranks 137 out of 168 countries listed in the latest global ranking – just 31 places from the bottom of the list. Mr Watson issued a challenge for the national policy for women and gender equality 2011-2015, to be fully realised. The policy is about addressing gender and equality programs and projects with partners and stakeholders. Countries like China, India, Chile, Mexico, Fiji, Rwanda and South Africa have all moved up over the years in their UN Human Development Index. Mr Watson mentioned that Rwanda until a decade ago was a poor, war torn country that had just had a massacre, genocide in which tens of thousands of people were killed. But something happened after the civil war. Women stood up. They demanded political representation. They had a Bill to reserve seats passed in parliament and now they have 33 percent of all seats in parliament held by women. “It frightened a lot of men, but in the end, the result benefitted everyone,” he said.

Sale of banned items irks censor. The National – September 6th 2011

THE Censorship Office is concerned about the sale of banned items such as the multi-titled DVDs. Deputy chief censor Jim Abani said some shop owners and business houses continued to ignore government warnings against the sale the such items. It follows a raid on Kimbe shops  in West New Britain last month which caught traders selling banned multi-titled DVDs. They claimed they were not aware of the ban.

Making Madang safe again   The National – August 19th 2011 [Weekender]

RUSSIAN anthropologist Mikloucho-Maclay who lived in the Madang province in 1871, described the area of Astrolabe Bay as the “Archipelago of contented people”. In recent years however, many people living in Madang have grown discontent, unhappy with what the province has become  a shadow of its former self. Among the issues the people are dissatisfied with is the breakdown of law and order in a province and town once considered peaceful and safe. Violent crime in the province such as armed robberies, kidnapping, rape and murder, and petty crimes including pick-pocketing, bag-snatching, and shop-lifting, almost non-existent in town ten years ago, are now common.
On Aug 13, Youth-Link, a Madang-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) launched its new law and justice programmes. Bryan Kramer, the organisation’s founder and director, told the 5,000-strong crowd that this Madang was not the Madang of his childhood. The Kramer family were Catholic missionaries and have been in Madang since the 1900s, and Bryan remembers the days when there were no fences and people walked the streets without fear.
“What can be done?” Youth-Link was Bryan’s answer to that question. Founded in 2006, the organisation’s mission is to connect all members of society to invest and empower youth to serve and improve security and quality of life in communities. The programmes’ key focus areas are to mobilise youth, the community, police, government and private sector to participate in a coordinated approach to address social issues.

Rise in Enga liquor trade poses threat.   Post Courier 6/9/11

THE presence of a large number of alcohol outlets has already posed a major threat to a much improved law and order situation in the Enga Province. Police, business houses and expatriates in Wabag yesterday said the province had seen a major improvement in law and order problems recently but that progress was already thwarted by the availability of alcohol outlets all over the province. The province has an alcohol ban policy in place. Only licensed hotels and guesthouses sell alcohol. The province, commonly tagged as the ‘Wild West’ and its capital ‘Way Back’, dramatically changed after Martin Lakari, a local Engan police officer, was appointed Provincial Police Commander about two years ago. With the province now uniquely appreciating an unprecedented lawlessness following a long period of general tribal unrest, the two men at the helm of the law and order sector- Lakari and Governor Peter Ipatas – are at loggerheads and pointing fingers at each other on the sale of alcohol that has already shown indications of destabilising peace with more problems. ….

Food prices hit families. The National – September 7th 2011

FOOD prices are increasing everyday and this is a threat to our livelihood, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Sir Puka Temu, said yesterday. Speaking at the National Research Institute’s food security conference, Sir Puka said the high prices not only made it difficult for people to have access to food but “affects the ability to meet and fulfil other basic needs such as health, education and other socio-economic obligations”. Sir Puka said this was true for the poor and low income worker in urban areas with large families whose income was spent mainly on food.
“These are highly vulnerable people and they are forced to sell their assets and become trapped in debt and subsequently engage in illegal activities or are pushed into poverty,” he said.
Sir Puka said one of the government’s concerns was that an estimated 41% of the rural population and 16% of the urban population lived below the poverty line of US$1 (K2.24) a day.
He said since the global food price increase in 2007 to 2009, major imported food items such as rice, flour, tinned fish and tinned meat increased by 40%, 32%, 24% and 19% respectively.
He said despite the retreat of global food prices, the prices on domestic markets had not fallen and he urged the relevant authorities to monitor these.

High food prices hurts poor.   Post Courier 7 September, 2011

Speaking at the first day of the Food Security Policy Conference on high food prices in PNG, Professor Satish Chand, of the School of Business, University of New South Wales, said households in PNG would substitute for the high food prices by foregoing basic rights such as not going to hospitals when they are sick and even not sending their children to school, just so they can afford to buy food. Professor Chand said at the moment the economy is growing but the challenge was to ensure that the benefits of this growth reach the poor, in particular.
“We think about two groups of people. One group of people live to eat, but there is another group who eat to live. The group who eat to live are people who struggle to find enough to eat, because they are not looking at what they are going to eat tomorrow but when they are going to have their next meal,” he said. “The people who are struggling for food right now are the people we have to think about. We have an opportunity to try to make life easier. We can’t solve the problem but we have an opportunity to make life easier, to make food more affordable,”

Donigi: UN goals failed.   The National, September 8th 2011

CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer and former ambassador Peter Donigi says the United Nations millennium development goals (MDGs) are a total failure. Donigi said the MDGs were the creation of 15 “wise men” convened by the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan in 1999 for adoption by heads of states. “They were never passed through the Committee of Ambassadors,” he said. “That is why the target date for these UN goals to be achieved will not be reached. They are a total failure with a large capital F,” he said. Donigi, an academic and former envoy to the UN, said “the PNG government has been totally duped by big players on the international scene who had pushed their own agenda down the throats of developing countries. “The poverty line has not improved and the truth is that the developing world is going backwards and the divide between the rich and the poor is greater than before,” he said.

‘PNG heads in right direction’  Post Courier 28 September 2011     
PAPUA New Guinea is heading in the right direction in regards to meeting its Millennium Development Goals (MDG). A confident looking Prime Minister Peter O’Niell made the encouraging statement on his arrival after attending the 66th United Nations (UN) General Assembly meeting in New York. The Prime Minister said the new direction, under the new country program, was well received, in particular, the Equality Bill that went through the first vote and the progressive MDG reports on poverty reduction and child mortality where PNG achieved some of its targets. “PNG stands to be proud by some of the initiatives,” he said.
Mr O’Niell said that the new country program that will be rolled out in January, 2012 will target governance, social justice, health education, gender, environment, climate change and disaster management. Mr O’Niell said talks included the possible opportunity for PNG students studying medicine to go to Cuba.

Baby boom forces vaccine shortage.   Post Courier 8/9/11
THE failure of health centres and clinics in Lae to order their supply of immunisation vaccines has left a lot of infants missing out or waiting until too late to be vaccinated. According to the Deputy Provincial Program Adviser of Health Micah Yawing, over the past few months, supply had simply run out due to the increasing number of babies born each day. He said the clinics and health centres placed their order for supplies after every two months but the need has been so high and that most of the ordered supplies from Port Moresby had run out.

Dry spell leaves thousands with food insecurity  http://asopa.typepad.com/ 7/9/11

AID WORKERS say more than 6,000 people on a remote cluster of islands off the north-east coast of Papua New Guinea have been left food insecure following an extended drought.

The government has distributed 34,000kg of rice to the isolated islands, expected to last a few months, but post-distribution monitoring is needed, Mr Kahwa said. Data on rainfall is not collected for this area, but the Nissan, Carteret, Mortlock, Fead, Pinipel and Tasman islands of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville traditionally experience a dry season from October to April. The rainy season, May to September, is critical to the harvest of sweet potato, banana and taro, the staple foods in an area where many residents are subsistence farmers. This year, however, the rains have largely stayed away, leaving islanders, disconnected from the rest of PNG, with a food shortage.

A failed population census  [editorial] Post Courier 8/9/11
We have been trying to get an update on the National Housing and Population Census from the National Statistical Office in Port Moresby for the last 10 days and we have hit a brickwall.
The exercise to count the population in Papua New Guinea started on July 11 and ended on July 17. The exercise was carried out after an extensive nationwide campaign combined with thorough planning. Seven weeks later we suspected all was not well. We are still getting reports from people around the country who tells us they are still waiting for the census officers to go and count them in. In Port Moresby, we were shocked to find out yesterday that all the people living in the settlements have not been counted because the census officers were scared for their own safety. Now, everyone knows that the major settlements in Port Moresby are home to the majority of the population of the city and they are homes, not only to the unemployed but a lot of working people because these people cannot afford to live in the city proper due to the high cost of real estates. The census exercise, we believe, has failed. The NSO must come out now and tell us the truth.

Women’s seat will cover province.   Post Courier 9/9/11
Under the proposed law to alter the Constitution to create reserved woman’s seats, there will be two members in a provincial electorate. One will be the governor while the other, which is exclusively for women, will become the member for women in the province.
If passed, Parliament will remain a single chamber with members elected from single-member open electorates and members elected from two-member provincial electorates.
From the two-member provincial electorates, one member will represent the province and occupy the governor’s seat while one woman member will represent the province and occupy the women’s seat.

Pacific Islands Forum shuns West Papua issue

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2011/09/pacific-islands-forum-shuns-west-papua-issue.html

THE MOST ASTONISHING story at last week’s Pacific Island Forum in Auckland was a remarkable shift by the UN chief Ban Ki-moon over West Papua. It was thanks to the probing of a young PNG journalist studying in New Zealand who knew the right question to ask.

Secretary-General Moon suggested that the West Papuan issue should be discussed by the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. What? Coming in the wake of the Indonesian repression in West Papua throughout August in the face of a wave of unrest by Papuans more determined than ever for self-determination, this was almost unbelievable.

Ban Ki-moon: “This issue should also be discussed at the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. And when it comes again, whether you are an independent state or a non-self-governing territory or whatever, the human rights is inalienable and a fundamental principle of the United Nations. We will do all to ensure that people in West Papua, their human rights will be respected.” ….

SP Brewery supports CFC  (Coalition for Change) Post Courier 12/9/11

SP BREWERY has come forward to support the work of the Coalition For Change PNG with a cheque of K20, 000 to curb domestic violence and violence against children. In presenting the cheque to CFC’s Lanna Assaigo-Kami, SP Brewery Key Accounts Manager Maybelline Fernandes said supporting the awareness of spousal violence and violence against children is a must in Papua New Guinea. “SP Brewery is confident that our support will help the organization in changing attitudes of people in our society towards their approach and acceptance of women and children’s role in our community,” said Ms Fernandes.

Govt to tackle alcohol abuse problems. Post Courier 12/9/11   
The O’Neill-Namah Government is taking bold steps towards developing appropriate policies and legislative responses to address alcohol abuse related problems in the country. Chief Secretary to Government Manasupe Zurenuoc said the abuse of alcohol has become so destructive in our society and the Government was taking a bold stand to control its usage. He said nearly 80 per cent of social problems that occur in Papua New Guinea can be associated with the abuse of alcohol so much so that it has come to a stage where government intervention is necessary.
“Drinking has never been our culture. Prior to 1962, Papua New Guineans were not allowed to consume alcohol.” However, after 1962, when the Government was given permission for the locals to consume alcohol we abused the privilege and lost control. This privilege was to better manage the problem of illegal consumption of alcohol. “As a result, our society has been faced with countless problems which bring disharmony to our families.

The preventative measures that he emphasised include passing laws:
– To control the issuing of licences to new liquor dealers;
– To review the existing liquor licences;
– Carry out nationwide awareness to parents on the need to educate their children on the harmful effects of alcohol and to discourage them from taking alcohol;
– Ban liquor dealers from selling alcohol in the residential areas;
– Restrict liquor dealers from selling alcohol after hours.

PNG must get rid of culture of corruption (letter) The National, September 12th 2011

PAPUA New Guinea is heading for disaster if the people continue to pin their hopes on the new go­vernment. One thing people must realise is that most of the MPs in this government are the same ones in the former regime. … Let us not fool ourselves by declaring them as saviours, “hope for the hopeless”, “Voice for the voiceless” or even “chosen by God”. God will never choose the lea­ders for us. God gave us intelligence and wisdom to choose leaders for ourselves. The more time we waste praying for His intervention, the more money will be drained from our coffers. This has been going on for a long, long time. There will never be any hope for the people in this country as long as the culture of corruption exists. The only hope we have is to kill the culture of corruption for good.   Lucas Kiap. Mul Baiyer

Our women routinely raped: Amnesty International. SolomonStar, 8 September 2011

WOMEN in the Solomon Islands are routinely raped and abused when walking from city slums in search of clean water, a grim Amnesty International report has revealed. The report – Where is the Dignity in That – looked particularly at the abuse suffered by women living in Solomon Island slums, and found 64 per cent of women aged between 15 and 49 in the country had been physically or sexually abused.

The depressing report highlighted that women in Honiara’s slums face particularly high risks of physical and sexual violence, especially when they are collecting water in the early evening, bathing, or using toilets at night. As described above, they often walk long distances, usually through the bush to get to a water source or to use the toilet. Because there is no electricity, settlements are generally poorly lit at night, with many dark spots which are dangerous for women, the report revealed. Amnesty International spoke to a number of women who said they were physically or sexually abused by some men outside their household, but were too frightened to make formal complaints to the police for fear of reprisals from their attackers.

The report noted that domestic violence against women was largely ignored and that the abuse continued to be seen as a private issue, with police often reluctant to intervene.

”The response so far has ranged from outright refusal to acknowledge a problem to toothless gestures. (The full report is available at http://www.amnesty.org.nz/files/SolomonIslandsWEB.pdf [688kb]).

 

Ongoing alcohol debate. Editorial.  Post Courier 13 Sept

A series of symposiums are being held to gauge views from all stakeholders in the country, from which legislative changes and policies will be formulated to curb this social ill in the society. The last of the four symposiums was held in Kokopo, and Attorney General Dr Allan Marat dropped the popular line that liquor should be banned in the country. Quickly churches, women groups and the police are throwing in their support but is a blanket ban, the answer? 
In a study commissioned by the Constitutional Reform Commission recently, it was found that 71 per cent of the women interviewed considered alcohol as the major cause of marital problems and 26 per cent attributed wife bashing to alcohol abuse.
The Government put the cost of alcohol related damage to infrastructure, lose of life, injuries and compensation for accidents on the State to a whopping K78.5 million annually. The Port Moresby General Hospital has put the cost of treatment for accident victims at K4 to K20 million annually. … 
In a study commissioned by the Highlands Regional Secretariat in the 1980s found that people spend a large amoung of money people on booze. For example, for a little province like Chimbu, (in the 1980s) the drinkers spent up to K150 million annually on alcohol. The brewers have taken the line in this alcohol debate that it is the way people drink that should be the concern.

Homebrew, alcohol abuse soar in ENB

The National, September 13th 2011

The Acting provincial administrator of ENB says that a major concern is the growing number of students who  were drinking homebrew and the provincial education board was dealing with its effects. He said a survey conducted in 2007 showed the two main causes of crimes in the province were lack of income generation and alcohol consumption and abuse.
He added that statistics had shown that the rate of incidents involving alcohol and homebrew in the province had increased in recent years. Statistics also showed that 80% of offences such as domestic violence, wilful damage to property, grievous bodily harm and trafficking were a direct result of alcohol abuse. He said more women in the province were now drinking alcohol and that had led to more problems. People had also shown disrespect for traditional norms and values, leading to a breakdown in family units as a direct result of homebrew and alcohol.

Is free education attainable? Letter. Post Courier 13/9/11

I HAVE no reason to doubt the sincerity of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in his bid to improve the delivery of services in the country and to eradicate corruption. I hope that he will succeed.
But there is something that troubles me: his promise of free education from elementary to grade 10; of subsidised education for grade 11 and 12; his promise that no child will be pushed out of the education system at grade 8; and his decision to scrap without further delay the out-comes-based education (OBE) system by next January. These promises are like sweet music in the ears of parents, but are they attainable? I applaud the goodwill of Mr O’Neill and his cabinet; but is he promising something that he and his team will not be able to provide? I am wondering why no one from the Education Department has come out publicly and give the Prime Minister facts and figures that will show that free or subsidised education is not just a matter of finding millions of kina. There are other issues at stake. As Bishop Deputy for Education of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I feel obliged to address the following questions to the Prime Minister: Will it not be more correct to use the term “subsidised education”. We all know that the National Education Board (NEB) recommended for 2011 for all Elementary, Primary, Vocational, Secondary Schools and FODE a “maximum school fee limit”. Will the government give the maximum school fees or less than the maximum allowed? If the government were to give less than the maximum fees approved, we cannot talk of free education, because the parents will be asked to pay the difference. And if the government were to give it, will it give directly to school accounts early enough for materials to be purchased or will it come with costly and time-consuming political fanfare. No child will be pushed out of the education system at grade 8, nevertheless, where will all the students be accommodated and who will teach them? Mr O’Neill has stated that we could have day classes and night classes where electricity is available. This may be possible in cities such as Port Moresby, even with all the risks that are entailed when we consider travelling at night. But the question is: who will teach these extra shifts in late afternoon and at night? Certainly not the same teachers who taught six hours during the day. Who will correct the assignments of two or even three shifts of 60 or 70 students each? We lack teachers and classrooms to cater for the children presently in school. Imagine the chaos when even more classes are added. To scrap the “out-comes-based” education system, is it the right thing to do? What about all the material being delivered to all schools? It was introduced without much consultation from partner-agencies and that was certainly a very regrettable thing to do. Teachers will stand in front of the students with only confusion behind them. The government would make a much better use of its money if it were to consult with its partners, subsidise education in increasing increments while allocating more funds for the formation of teachers (i.e. more teachers’ colleges and a three year program of teacher education), providing better housing facilities and more classrooms.
Francesco Panfilo, SDB Archbishop of Rabaul   Deputy Bishop for Education

PNG investment in SI hits K1bil The National, September 14th 2011

TOTAL value of Papua New Guinea’s investment in Solomon Islands has increased to K1 billion.
This made the south eastern island country PNG’s biggest investment destination, according to Commerce and Industry Secretary Steven Mera. He said there were already 22 Papua New Guinean companies operating in the Solomons. PNG companies which made up the bulk of the investment activities in SI included Bishop Brothers, Bank South Pacific, Credit Corp, Daltron, New Britain Palm Oil Ltd and the Constantinou Group of Companies. Mera said the largest investment that occurred recently is the acquisition of the National Bank of Solomon Island by BSP.

Health sector faces tough times ahead.  The National, September 14th 2011

ISSUES concerning HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and maternal mortality will remain a challenge for Papua New Guinea compared to other countries in the Western Pacific region, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. WHO said 98% of all new HIV/AIDS cases in the region were from PNG which also had the highest number of TB cases, as well as the worst maternal mortality rates. WHO communicable diseases team leader Dr Fabian Ndenzako said as of last December, PNG had about 34,000 HIV cases reported. He said TB was a problem with 337 per 100,000 people infected with the disease and had up to 21,900 cases reported annually. He said TB programmes were not up to WHO standards and that meant the country had a lot more to do in order to address the issue. WHO maternal health team leader, Dr Laura Guarenti said the maternal mortality rate locally was the worst in the region and was still increasing despite the government’s aim to cut it. She said there was a need to have more midwives because
there were fewer than two midwives for every 1,000 pregnant mothers.

Govt plans to cut maternal mortality rate. The National – September 14th 2011

THE national government’s medium-term development strategy is to reduce the maternal mortality rate by 75% by 2015. But according to the World Health Organisation, this was unlikely because maternal mortality rate had doubled. WHO team leader for maternal health, Dr Laura Guarenti, said in 1996, there were 360 deaths out of every 100,000 pregnant mothers.
This had increased by 50% to 733 in 2006.

Churches speak out on alcohol ban call.  Post Courier 14/9/11
ALCOHOL has been one of the main contributing factors to the breakdown of the sacred family circle and the wider community, Morobe Seventh Day Adventist Union Mission President Pastor Geoffrey Pomaleu has said. He said alcohol also played a part to the declining moral values of Papua New Guinea and turns even the most respectable person into an evil, aggressive, vile creature. Bishop Christian Blouin from the Lae Catholic Diocese explained that the best way to address the issue of alcohol abuse would be through the family unit. The family he said has been one value which most churches hold very dear to their hearts. They are the core of society and churches try their best to support families with programs that enhance family life.

Homebrew use increases in Chimbu The National – Wed, September 14th 2011

ABOUT 25% of young girls and women in Chimbu drink homebrew, provincial police commander John Kale said yesterday from Kundiawa, Chimbu. He said drinking of homebrew had gradually picked up this year compared to last year. Kale said in the past males used to drink homebrew and smoke marijuana but now many young girls and women had joined in. He said many people turned to homebrew because it was cheap and made them drunk faster.
He said some of the hotspots where homebrew was widely produced and consumed along the Highlands Highway were Duxs, Kombugomogo, Nend, Waigar, Chuave, Wara Chimbu and Yuwai.

 

15 girls among 23 caught with brew 

The National – September 15th 2011

POLICE have arrested 23 secondary school students in the capital city for drinking homebrew and believed to be in the process of performing cult practices. The 15 girls and eight boys all attend the same school but were in different grades. According to police report, most of the students were aged 16 and 17 years, while a few were over 18. During the arrest, police found a bucket containing 20 liters of home-brew. There was a pad containing a list of 23 nicknames, apart from their real names. Police became suspicious that the students were up to something sinister, such as cult practices.

People attack Governor Garia: Post Courier 19 Sept. 2011

SIMBU Governor Fr John Garia got more than what he bargained for when he visited Goglme in Gembogl district during the independence weekend. His Toyota landcruiser was chopped in the fuel tank before being set a light by angry locals who have had to live with the deteriorating road condition for the last five years. Fr Garia, reportedly got a shock and had to hop in a police escort car back to Kundiawa. According to the local Catholic parish priest, Mathew Maima who was at the scene, the people of Gembogl wanted to vent their frustration over the neglect of their road in the last five years.

Mingende comes alive  National 20 Sept. 2011   

Mingende, the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Chimbu came alive on the Independence weekend as hundreds of people celebrated the 36th Independence Anniversary.
The main guest at the celebration was the Catholic Bishop for the Kundiawa Catholic Diocese Anton Bal. Bishop Bal said Papua New Guinea is still dependent on foreign aid to fund vital services after 36 years of Independence. “We have been politically independent. I cannot say we have been economically and, socially dependent. We continue to depend on others,” he said. Sponsor of the two-day celebration and prominent lawyer, Peter Kuman, urged everyone to reflect on their lives at this time when they were celebrating the country’s independence anniversary.

Health Dept acts on fake drugs   Post-Courier 20 Sept. 2011

THE full extent of the problems associated with counterfeit and substandard drugs in the country is yet to be fully determined. A senior health official from the Health Department stated that it would take a while before the issue was tackled completely because of capacity issues that have plagued the health sector for a long time. “Soon after the report (on counterfeit and substandard drugs) came out some months ago, we took action quickly,” he said, adding also that a report was signed last week on recommendations that would be followed to tackle the issue. The report was from the team assigned by the department to carry out an independent investigation on the claims that there was a high non-compliance rates of all types of amoxicillin and antimalarials being sold and distributed in the country by major pharmacies and major hospitals such as the Port Moresby General Hospital. Although, PNG is an importer of drugs, it has not been able to set up its own laboratories to test its drugs. Its Central Public Health Laboratory at the Port Moresby General Hospital currently can do only certain tests.

Understanding the informal economy (From PNG National Informal Economy Policy (2011-2015) http://www.microfinancegateway.org/gm/document-1.9.50811/National%20policy,%20Informal%20economy.pdf

The informal economy is often misunderstood because it is very different from the formal economy. In the formal economy, people have jobs, pay taxes and are counted in the workforce. In the informal economy, people ‘get by’ without formal employment, earning income however they can. The informal economy is based on the household rather than the individual worker, and households often have a number of sources of income that may be both formal and informal.

Informal economy workers do not pay income tax (although they often pay VAT), are not counted in the workforce, do not work regular hours and are often denied the rights and protections of workers in the formal economy. Most informal economy workers are in the rural sector, where they require support and incentives to increase production of food and cash crops to reach its productive potential. The informal economy in urban areas plays an increasingly important role. For example, the urban informal markets of Port Moresby put food on the table of almost every household in the city. According to the 2000 census, a clear majority of households in PNG earn at least some income from informal economic activities.

Wage review hastened: Post Courier 21 September 2011    

LABOUR and Industrial Relations Secretary George Vaso wants a meeting to review the national minimum wage quickly. Yesterday, he put pressure on the National Tripartite Consultative Council (NTCC) to call an ‘extraordinary’ meeting as soon as possible to discuss the issue of an increase to the national minimum wage of K2.29 per hour. Mr Vaso said the NTCC was to conduct a review yearly since the 2008 national minimum wage determination but has not since.
This particular increase will be of great benefit to the low bracket income earners including casual cleaners, shop attendants, security guards, tea boys and drivers etc.

PNG Trade Union Congress President Michael Malabag stressed that despite the national minimum wage determination of an hourly rate of K2.29 per hour, many companies are still not complying. “Those companies who are not complying to pay the minimum wage should be penalised and told to shut down,” he said.

 ‘B’ville should tap into rice industry’ Post Courier 21 September 2011
BOUGAINVILLE imports 11,000 tonnes of rice worth more than K40 million year, a Bougainville Agriculture specialists working in remote Kunua, Allan Simon announced recently. The region is blessed with rich soil and specifically vast environment conducive to planting rice, that is why Bougainville should now seriously tap into the rice industry by planting its own and save millions of kina. ‘’If Bougainville wants to be independent, we have to save money that is used to import rice by planting rice in Bougainville because each year 11,000 tonnes of rice worth more than K40 million is imported,’’ said Simon

Madang police reports high rate of violence The National, September 21st 2011

INCIDENTS of violence are on the rise in the South Ambenob LLG, according to police.
Mawan police officer-in-charge Senior Sgt Lawrence Kasira said most incidents emanated from land disputes and sorcery-related rows. He said there were four such cases in one month.
“Those accused of sorcery could not be arrested and charged because of the lack of evidence to prove their guilt,’’ he said. “Most often we encourage the people to allow mediation by elders in the community to solve the issue.” He said marijuana was affecting youths in the area.
“We depend on the community and public to assist police by reporting incidents,” he said.
Kasira said some people were scared to report crime because they feared their lives could be at risk. He said about 30% of drugs were grown and cultivated locally while the other 70% was brought into the province.

Illicit drug use alarming in Chimbu: Post Courier 21 September 2011   

In a statement yesterday, the National Narcotics Bureau confirmed the worsening abuse of the illicit drug and homebrew in Chimbu and urged the Government for funding to tackle the situation. “The widespread use of homebrew and marijuana in the Chimbu Province is alarming. The fact that young women and girls are now the most dominant users of illicit drugs in certain parts of the country is indicative of the drug culture having reached a new demographic threshold,” director general John Mapusa said. Mr Mapusa said traditionally,it was men and young boys who were the main users but the current trend is symptomatic of cultural breakdown and family disintegration of unprecedented proportion. He said there is a strong correlation between illicit drug use and the escalating rate of social issues like prostitution, murder, rape, HIV/AIDS, child abuse, violence against women, teenage pregnancies, school drop outs, psychotic disorders, lifestyle diseases, road accidents and many others were attributed to drug use. Leaders in Kerowagi said the police are doing everything they can but they have an uphill battle because more and more people are taking the illicit drugs. “Even village court magistrates are taking the homebrewed alcohol. You see the plastic bottles sticking out of their pockets as they hear the court cases,” one leader said.

The face of HIV epidemic in PNG:  Post Courier 22 September 2011 

In 2009, the number of adults (aged 15-49) living with HIV was estimated to be 35,800 which was equivalent to a national prevalence rate of 0.9 per cent. To the end of 2009, a cumulative total of 11,520 people were estimated to have died because of HIV-related illnesses and 5610 children had became orphans, losing one or both of their parents, as a result of the epidemic.
Based on the 2010 Estimates and Projections exercise, the period of most rapid increase in new HIV infections was between 1998 and 2005. Since 2006, there has continued to be an upward trend in national prevalence, but at a less rapid rate. It is estimated that national HIV prevalence will reach 1.0 percent in 2015. In Momase and New Guinea Islands, the epidemic is still on rise, with no sign of a plateau.

Institute: Oil Palm is not the best option: Post Courier 23 September 2011  

The Australian Institute (TAI) is an independent public policy think tank based in Canberra, Australia. Since its launch in 1994, the Institute has carried out highly influential research on a broad range of economic, social and environmental issues.  An independent institute, it was asked by Greenpeace Australia Pacific to provide a critique of the report “Economic Benefits of Palm Oil in Papua New Guinea” commissioned by Rimbunan Hijau (PNG) Group and produced by ITS Global. TAI released its findings last month outlining a number of limitations in the economic analysis undertaken by ITS Global, and after having done so, rejected the conclusion that the expansion of palm oil production in PNG will improve the wellbeing of the PNG people in the short or long term.TAI challenged policy makers in PNG to cautious when reading the ITS Global report because it leaves many questions unanswered. It said the benefits of expanding palm oil industry remains uncertain. What is certain, however, is that increasing the productivity of existing plantations and small holdings will have a greater positive impact on both the economy and environment, than clearing land for new palm oil plantations.

Pastors warned on roles: Post Courier 22 September 2011   

HELA church pastors have been urged not be used as ‘rubber stamps’ by politicians and resource developers in their area but rather stay firm in proclaiming truth and justice.
Joseph Warai, director of Community Based Health Care (CBHC),  told pastors that they played vital roles in their communities and that they were morally and ethically obliged to even tell leaders, developers and people what they did was wrong or right even if it meant that their actions and words might not go down well with the perpetrators. Mr Warai said on many occasions and ceremonies, he had seen pastors being called to say the opening prayer for the ceremony. He said if the ceremony was about signing agreements, the pastors were also called to be signatories to bear witnesses to these signings between the State and developers without even reading and understanding the contents of the agreement.  Mr Warai said: “If you see that the agreement is morally wrong in nature while natural resources for the people would be exploited, as pastors they have a moral obligation to refuse signings and even bear witness.”
“Who will be the voice of God and His people if pastors and church leaders compromise their position with corrupt politicians and the government who offer them money, vehicle and other material stuff? “Politicians will use you (pastors) as rubber stamps for their political gain and you will be suppressed to speak about their wrongs,” he said.

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