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Wednesday, 23 August

01:18

FORENSICALLY ANALYSING GRAND CORRUPTION IN PNG "IndyWatch Feed Politics.pg"

by Professor Kristian Lasslett 

MAKING THE INVISIBLE, VISIBLE

The problem with corruption in PNG, at its most grand levels, is that it is everywhere and nowhere. Its morbid symptoms are apparent for all to see, but the particular mechanisms through which the disease of corruption infects governments and markets, and disables the body of the nation, proves difficult to observe, owing to its secretive nature.

Yet in order to fight corruption effectively, we need to answer elementary questions relating to its core characteristics. For example, what type of corrupt transactions are most common and damaging in PNG, who are the participants, what motivates them, how do they make their illicit gains, what do they spend it on, and which institutional structures permit these illegal activities to take place?

Despite the difficulties associated with observing corruption, we can still pull together enough credible data from the civil and criminal courts, commissions of inquiries, national audits, public account committee hearings, Ombudsman Commission reports, and independent research, to formulate hypotheses on these different dimensions of the corruption problem, for testing and refinement.

SHAM FRONTS, ILLICIT ENDS

And, in this respect, there is one general thread that runs through a vast range of corrupt schemes observable in PNG, whether it be rigged tenders, land fraud or sham litigation they employ, on the surface, a range of legitimate commercial/legal transactions, to cloak what is in fact crude theft from the public purse.

Often a real service is provided, for example a road is built, or expert advice is provided to a government department. However, the primary commercial motivation of the corrupt parties involved in these transactions is not to profit from providing the contracted good or service, at say a 10% rate of profit. The real motivation is to use the contract as a front, behind which a deal is rigged, that allow costs to be inflated well beyond market value, leading to substantial returns.

In this context the 10% rate of profit is small potatoes, when riggi...

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Tuesday, 22 August

22:00

Life as a seasonal worker: reflections of an au piki from Savaii "IndyWatch Feed Politics.pg"

For Samoa, as one of the pilot countries on New Zealands Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, the tenth anniversary of the scheme is a milestone. It follows the signing of PACER Plus in June and its accompanying Arrangement on Labour Mobility, aimed at enhancing and coordinating existing programs on labour mobility regionally.

Now the third largest contributing country to the RSE, Samoa has benefitted this season from an estimated AUD$10 million injected into the economy, with approximately 1600 people employed through the program. With the New Zealand Governments announcement of a NZ$10 million funding increase over the next five years to explore other industry options for the scheme, it is possible that the coming years will see continuing expansion of employment options and skillsets for Samoan workers.

The RSE has left a lasting mark on Samoans, who now refer locally to seasonal workers as au piki literally translating as group pickers, a reflection of both the horticultural focus of the current scheme and the fact that seasonal work is often undertaken as a coordinated village effort. The opportunities offered by the RSE are significant. Within five months, workers in New Zealand can earn more than three times the average annual wage in Samoa. But the work is often strenuous, with the physical distance from families placing an additional burden on au piki.

Mitiana Arbon reached out to a Samoan seasonal worker from his family village of Tafua tai, Savaii for his reflections on what it is like to be an RSE au piki.

Can you tell me about yourself?

I am from a small village of Tafua tai, Savaii, Samoa. When I am not in New Zealand working, I am at home looking after my parents who both passed away last year in January and December. I also collect coconut and charcoal and sometimes roast the coconuts before taking them to the shops to sell. I also look after my familys animals like pigs, chickens and cows. There is a lot of work involved, but it is rewarding in the end. I am also my familys right hand when it comes to organising things in the village and church.

How many times...

Monday, 21 August

22:00

Giant African Snails: devastating gardens and livelihoods in Solomon Islands "IndyWatch Feed Politics.pg"

Giant African Snails (GAS; Achtatina fulica), are a huge, but largely ignored, development issue in Solomon Islands. Native to Africa, these invasive snails are voracious eaters with an extremely high reproductive capacity producing some 1800 eggs annually throughout their 3-5 year lifespan and have exploded in numbers beyond control in the Honiara hinterland of northern Guadalcanal. GAS can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, and incursions into Auki, Small Malaita, and Gizo have recently been reported. Most critically, they are known to eat hundreds of plant species, including most vegetables and fruits grown in Solomon Islands as food crops.

Juvenile GAS, subsistence garden, East Guadalcanal (Dean Stronge)

Juvenile GAS, subsistence garden, East Guadalcanal (Dean Stronge)

The GAS invasion of Solomon Islands is not only a quickly unravelling environmental catastrophe but a huge threat to livelihoods. The majority of households in Solomon Islands rely heavily on gardens for subsistence production and also small-scale cash crops. 2009...

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