The informal economy under siege
The informal economy in Port Moresby is once again under siege. The National Capital District Commission (NCDC) has announced another ban. This one will target street sellers of cooked foods. The end of this week is shaping up to be D-Day for street sellers in the city.
The last ban was the controversial betel nut ban introduced in 2013 that was eventually replaced in 2018 by a partial ban. Stories of abuse, harassment and deaths that unfolded at the height of the betel nut ban are still fresh in the memories of many city residents. The ban quickly turned into a game of “cat and mouse” as smuggling became a new phenomenon. Defiant betel nut vendors, buoyed by the prospect of huge gains, colluded with law enforcers to smuggle in large quantities of betel nut into the city. The dramatic fall in the supply of betel nut saw prices go through roof. This caused a frenzy as producers, middle-men, transporters and retailers did anything and everything under the sun to cash in. Even law enforcers were not spared. There were media reports of police barracks that were awash with betel nut as families of police officers set up tables/stalls to sell betel nut that that had been confiscated or smuggled.
Instead of addressing the hygiene and health problems it intended to solve, the ban made the betel nut industry even more lucrative. The winners were the law breakers. Families’ livelihoods and childrens’ education were adversely affected. Threats of legal challenge were made as the ban took its toll on those that depend on betel nut for income-generation. If contested in courts, the ban may have been found to be illegal in light of the Informal Sector Development & Control Act …read more