Micro Solutions for Macro Issues in NCD

In 1980 the census registered 120,000 residents for Port Moresby; by 1990, this had increased to 195,000 and in our last census in 2000 this had further increased to 255,000. It’s therefore not hard to speculate that our current city residents would stand at 300,000 or more today.

One discussion that has been made regarding a population boom is the impact of the PNG LNG project on the city, from Eda Ranu, to PNG Power and to our traffic and housing. I won’t go into the pressures on these utilities and public infrastructures because I think they’re quite self evident. I also won’t be discussing other major economic pressures such as the ‘dutch’ disease or the governments budgetary expenditure from the LNG revenues. But if you are interested in these facts and figures you should read the ACIL Tasman impact study of the PNG LNG here. (This was last reviewed in April 2009).

The PNG LNG project is estimated to be in full production by 2015, so as a mental guide you could say that we have only 5 years left to start working on our infrastructure. Governor Powes Parkop’s K37 million to upgrade 30 roads in the National Capital District (NCD) is a nice start but we need to do more than that and soon.

Another major issue with a population growth is our long standing cousins who live in settlements, the more settlements grow the more evident it is that the government has failed with infrastructure developments for them. There is also the debatable issue of how much crime they introduce into the city, so settlements are not just a housing issue, they are a quality of life issue. An Islands Business article stated that “…Port Moresby by 2020 would have a population exceeding half a million, or more than twice the current total, of which nearly 40 percent will be housed in settlements.” 40%!!?? That’s nearly half the population living in settlements, in other words one in two people you meet everyday will be living in the settlements by 2020.

So with these looming population issues, what do we do?

The first step is not just identifying the issues but how we look at the issues. For example, we shouldn’t look at the settlement issue as, ‘OMG, now we have to spend tax payers money on these people who don’t have jobs, why don’t we just send them back home!’  because for one you’ll have human rights people jumping up and down etc, but more seriously we have to start looking at every individual person in Port Moresby as a potential customer for services.

Eda Ranu, PMV’s, PNG Power, Telikom, bemobile, Digicel, Real Estate owners, Shopping Centres, Traditional Motuan landowners and all the other entrepreneurs in Port Moresby; your market for your services is just going to get bigger and so will your profits if you invest in your capacity today for the next 5 years to come.

Growth is inevitable and we have allot of land that the state and Motuan landowners can capitalise on so that we all make money and live in houses and if people want to live in settlements well turn the settlements into suburbs and make everyone pay for what they get.

I know some may argue ‘well how can they be a customer if they have no jobs’ well just look at what everyone spends money on. Everyone in Port Moresby regardless of whether you live in a settlement or not, regardless if you have a job or not, seems to be able to afford to have a mobile phone. Everyone is able to make calls, so why is that? Well because of the payment method or what they call ‘micropayments‘. The mobile phone industry has led the way for the concept of micropayments for a long time and it’s a model that we all can learn from especially in an economy where you have a drastic divide in the levels of income. Another example of downsizing products and services for lower incomes is what you see when you go to the markets here in Port Moresby. You can buy an individual carrot for what would end up being more expensive than what you buy per kilogram if you went to say Boroko Foodworld. Why would you pay more?, well because the type of customer who buys one carrot a day can only afford to make payments that way.

The entire 300,000 potential customers need to be a part of the NCD economy in some way and Eda Ranu, PMV’s, PNG Power, Telikom, bemobile, Digicel, Real Estate owners, Shopping Centres, Traditional Motuan landowners and all the other entrepreneurs in Port Moresby are the ones who can help do this.

Now from the list above I think the telecommunications companies, PMV’s and the Shopping centres are well on their way to understanding and capitalising on the micropayments model.

Its the Eda Ranu’s, PNG Powers and Real Estate owners that I have issues with. Why is the minimum amount of Power you can get K10? Maybe some families would rather get K3 power and use it just for cooking/reading time and then that’s it, isn’t that still money going to the company? And Eda Ranu, why is it when people have overdue bills, you are forced to pay the whole lot before you re-connect, why can’t people make part payments to pay off the bills while still being connected. This only forces people to make illegal connections. And Real Estate owners, why are we building high class apartments in the CBD when the majority of the population lives in the rest of Port Moresby? And why have only monthly rental arrangements? What about rentals by week or per day? And Motuan Landowners, you have so much prime land out there, if you don’t have the cash to develop it then lease it out or get into partnerships to develop it. But by all means don’t sell it.

If we can get everyone in on the NCD economy then there should be less of a worry for Returns on Investment (ROI) for these service providers and their infrastructure investments. We can then take things a step further by looking at examples like transport. Imagine if NCDC Holdings bought back all the buses and licenses from all the current PMV owners and the city began running the service again. Imagine if the NCDC transport system bought Ferries for exploring the local islands. Imagine if all the buses were powered by Methane Gas created from the waste from the Waigani Swamp sewerage dump and rubbish from Baruni. What if you could pay for your bus fare the way you pay for Esi Pay through your mobile phone. Or another example like power. Imagine if all that land out near the cemetery was turned into a solar farm to power just the public city lights. NCDC would save money on power bills which it could re-direct into other areas of Port Moresby like roads and especially maintenance of smaller streets.

In short, we have to bring everyone into the city’s economy and high barriers of entry if knocked down can only bring benefits for the services providers and the customers alike. So everyone wins and best of all it stimulates the economy of Port Moresby right from the roots up.

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5 thoughts on “Micro Solutions for Macro Issues in NCD

  1. Emmanuel,

    Excellent discussion.

    I like your idea for two reasons:

    1) It allows us to unlock the ‘stranded capital’ that is held in the hands of the low class majority by making goods and services more affordable. The carrots example is spot on! Digicel opened everyone’s eyes when they entered PNG and have since used this strategy with great success so far.

    2) By making goods and services more affordable, we are actually empowering our people and opening up opportunities for them to better their own circumstances. For example, affordable electricity will mean children in the settlements can be able to study well under proper lighting. Such empowerment should lead to the low class graduating into the middle class over a period of time. The cycle continues and before we know it, povertry issues have been addressed.

    I like the idea. Is there any biksot out there listening?

    1. David,

      I personally would not pass the bark to biksots. If we want these changes to materialize, it has to start with us as individuals. We have to advocate what we believe how best things should be done, either direct or through our influences. We have to take responsibility and initiatives by shedding light on those responsible, or even leading the way to do things which they fall short. You know, at the end of the day, you have played a part to see changes in this beautiful nation of ours and not being a mere spectator hoping for messiah(s) to salvage us .

      Thanks Manu for this thought provoking post and credit to David for compelling me to comment.

      1. Thanks for the comment Syl.

        I agree we must play some part. But in terms of making prices of basic services such as power more affordable, that’s beyond my realm of influence. All I can do is to ask the responsible corporate heavies to consider my opinion. That’s the basis for my calling for biksots to listen up.

        Otherwise, yumi olgeta ken wok bung wantaim long mekim sampla senis long ol narapla liklik samting long skel blong yumi.

  2. An ideal vision you have there, some of which I’ve personally thought about for example looking at settlements population as potential economic contributors and not the stereo type unemployed, underdeveloped criminal haven area etc.

    Most people living in the more established settlements (Morata/Erima) do have money, mainly derived from informal activities such as market produce not only that but a lot of PMV and taxi operators live in these settlements too, and I think we all have relatives who are in the formal work force that resides in settlements. Practically they have there own little informal economy happening there, and the bad thing from all this is that they don’t necessarily pay tax…so how is NCDC going to fund the necessary services?

    Now the question is: How are we going to get them involved in the formal economy, what employment opportunities can be created to involve such a demography?

    Maybe encourage out sourcing industries such as call centres, clothing factories or even electronic assembling manufactures or generally corporate multinationals to invest in our human resource here. Now it may sound like inviting Nike to operate sweat shops here but not necessarily, we just have to find out which industry suits us and work with that. Imagine this, a call centre near Erima and couple of clothing factories out in 9mile. Different settlements can specialise in a particular industry and can centre around that.

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