The ‘year of APEC’ – reflections on PNG in 2018
By Bal Kama
The people of Papua New Guinea woke up to 2018 as the ‘year of APEC’. The thought of having some of the world’s most powerful leaders descending on the rough yet fertile soils of PNG appeared unreal to many, but blissful to some. The assurances of what it would mean for the country were a notch higher with the government promising social and economic transformation. The population was divided: some driven by pride curiosity supported the cause; while others, unable to quantify any meaningful progress on their daily challenges and amidst failing social infrastructure, remained sceptical.
The APEC show began with new hotels erected, roads paved and the construction of the spectacular APEC Haus along the Ela Beach. These were some of the most significant infrastructural developments the country had ever seen. Security was amped as political leaders urged residents in Port Moresby to embrace the foreign tides that were about to visit its shores. But buried away from the APEC limelight were the country’s realities. A weakening health system that was unable to prevent the return of polio from its long absence; the simmering tensions in local communities from the controversial elections in 2017; and the daunting offshore loans that will continue to burden future generations. These were just a few of the ‘demons’ that haunted the country as it braced itself for some salvation though APEC.
As polio made its unwelcome entry into Port Moresby, the contrast became stark – a booming city under the spell of a global event was also under threat from a killer epidemic. As it turned out, the polio threat was contained but the message was clear – there is chronic negligence in the delivery of basic services in the country.
In June, the country’s security and social fragility was brought to …read more