Planning the unplanned: reflections on the PNG Government’s interventions in the informal economy
In Papua New Guinea it is commonly assumed that the informal economy operates without any policies or legislation. This view is often attributed to the public’s negative perception of the informal economy. In most locations, informal economic activities are conducted in a chaotic and disorganised fashion with very few controls in place. Market inspectors or urban/town councils rarely enforce relevant rules and regulations intended to protect the interests of consumers and the public. In their absence, the police sometimes step in to bring order through the use of heavy-handed tactics. Such moves are controversial and in some cases fatal, especially when police officers fall victim to the wrath of disgruntled vendors. Such incidents lead to police retaliation, where vendors may lose thousands of kina worth of saleable items.
Managing the upkeep of towns and cities in PNG is a daunting challenge to say the least. Local administrators have limited resources and are faced with perpetual waves of people migrating into urban areas; regulating the informal economy has been an overwhelming task for most urban authorities. As a result, most local government authorities have resorted to imposing bans as a quick fix solution to addressing problems arising from the informal economy. However, these more extreme measures often prove to be unsuccessful.
The National Capital District Commission (NCDC) recently made a decision to ban the sale of cooked food and betelnut at bus stops and in public spaces in a bid to address petty crime, littering and other issues of health and safety in Port Moresby. NCDC introduced the ban citing the Public Health (Sanitation & General) Regulation and Informal Sector Development & Control Act (ISDC) Act. It was inaccurately claimed that the ISDC Act has led to the uncontrolled proliferation of informal economic activities throughout the country. …read more