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Agriculture is PNG’s only hope

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 17 March 2023

There is a debate in the PNG National Parliament this week on unemployment, and especially youth unemployment.

It is an issue seldom seriously debated. It is just all too hard.

There is a view that the future lies in some of the more exotic new industries such as carbon credits. It doesn't. It simply cannot make an impact on unemployment which is somewhere north of 80 per cent and rising at over 20000 a year with school leavers alone.


Of the 30000 school leavers barely 6000 can go on to tertiary education. The number of career positions available to graduates each year is probably no more than 2000.

So the problem is massive and the cure just about impossible in the short to medium term.

In the very first speech I wrote for Iambakey Okuk in 1978 he warned that unless the decline in agriculture was reversed then unemployment would just get worse.

Not only has it not been reversed it has got much worse. The export figures don't lie with export volumes for coffee, cocoa and copra are about half what they were 20 years ago.

Underspending on extension services, poor infrastructure such as rural roads and a lack of affordable finance have all contributed.

Only palm oil, an industry still heavily dependent on large scale plantations has grown.


PNG now has three agriculture ministers. It has made no real difference.

If PNG wants to secure the future for its young men and women then it must focus on rebuilding the farm sector. The fisheries sector varies. Sadly too much of it is subject to illegal foreign fishing activity.

Capital investment in fisheries is inadequate. There is no effective promotion of exports.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu – Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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