- Written by Wendy Morona, Cadet Research Officer, Economic Policy Research Program Wendy Morona, Cadet Research Officer, Economic Policy Research Program
About 80 percent of Papua New Guinea (PNG) population live in rural areas where there is little or no access to economic and social services. Poor rural road network , in particular, has significantly burdened the rural population. Poor rural roads has been the bottleneck, hindering the country’s rural developments. It stifles the mobility of the rural communities and this has contributed to increase the poverty of opportunity- the lack of equal access to opportunities- in the country. About 40 percent of Papua New Guineans are believed to be living below the poverty line. This is a real economic, humanitarian and political issue that has been existing in both urban and rural areas over a long time. Yet, the country is very rich with natural resources. Even then, certain factors like; corruption, income inequality and, lack of long term planning are some of the factors that have caused the poverty of opportunity to be predominant over the years. However, the fact is that, there is virtually little or no public road network in the rural and remote areas across the breath and width of PNG.
Over the past years , the Government has not been able to address the matter of poor road networks in rural areas. Successive governments have been focusing on urban infrastructure while overlooking the essential needs of the rural populace. A good road is one of the most essential needs of the country’s rural communities.
Other services such as; health care centers, water supplies, schools, electricity, telecommunication and markets cannot be provided where there are no roads. That means that the 80 percent of population continue to struggle in the isolated rural mountains, thick rainforests and along the swampy lowland areas of PNG.
The consequence of poor investment in rural road network has continued to stifle productivity by limiting the use of agricultural inputs. Both natural constraints (rugged terrains) and inaccessibility of economic, social services affects the living standard of the rural population. Rural folks usually walk long and treacherous distances to and from their homes to reach basic services. The cost of transportation is therefore very high in the rural areas, so the opportunity for the agricultural producers is limited. Many farmers are, thus, unable to supply their fresh garden produce to the country’s urban, and even international markets.
There are many deaths in the villages, due to no proper roads and means of transportation. The government’s inability to provide good road networks in rural areas contribute to vulnerability of rural dwellers to diseases, deaths and increase in illiteracy. These factors affect the productivity of the country’s rural folk. Sick people are unable to produce and sustain their living, so they starve and continue to live in poverty.
Investment in rural roads can alleviate poverty of opportunities in PNG
- PNG has abundant and fertile customary land. But lack of proper road network has affected the conversion of the land resources for the socio- economic benefit of the country’s rural dwellers. Investing in good road networks can make it possible for the poor rural population to access markets for their garden produce. This will enable them to generate income from the cash crops. By doing so, most people from the rural areas can live today and save for tomorrow.
- Improving roads network will enable financial institutions establish branches and to operate in the rural areas and remote areas of PNG. This will open up the opportunity for the rural folks to be financially included- the rural farmers will have access to much needed financial services (savings and borrowings).
- Investing in good road networks in the rural areas is indispensable for country’s export of agricultural products. PNG can export more agricultural products which, in turn, will potentially increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- In the short-term, investing in rural road networks will have positive impact on employment, as many people will be engaged in the construction of rural roads.
- With good road networks, rural population will have better opportunity to access health care facilities and that will reduce the high mortality rate in PNG.
- Good roads network will shorten the time that children used to travel to school. Thus, more people from rural areas will have access to better education and the standard of living will improve.
Successive PNG Governments have focused on urban infrastructure while overlooking the essential needs of the country’s rural populace. Yet, building and maintaining rural road network is vital for alleviating of poverty of opportunity in PNG. Since most people are in the rural areas of the PNG, investing in rural roads will stimulate the rural economic activities which will, in turn, reduce the country’s poverty of opportunity rates. Investing in rural roads will certainly reduce the cost of transportation, increase the accessibility to markets and financial institutions, reduce the cost of agricultural inputs and enhance the accessibility to social mobility with better healthcare and the opportunity to have better education. Investing in rural road network is therefore the sure way to move the country forward.