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Papua New Guinea



Independent State of Papua New Guinea

CAPITAL: Port Moresby

FLAG: The flag is a rectangle, divided diagonally. The upper segment is scarlet with a yellow bird of paradise; the lower segment is black with five white stars representing the Southern Cross.

ANTHEM: O, Arise All You Sons.

MONETARY UNIT: The kina (k) of 100 toea is linked with the Australian dollar. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 toea and 1 kina, and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 kina. k1=us$0.32468 (or us$1=k3.08) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Queen's Birthday, 1st Monday in June; Remembrance Day, 23 July; Independence Day, 16 September; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.

TIME: 10 pm=noon GMT.


Situated to the north of Australia, Papua New Guinea has a total land area of 462,840 sq km (178,704 sq mi), including the large islands of New Britain, New Ireland, and Bougainville and hundreds of smaller islands. Comparatively, the area occupied by PNG is slightly larger than the state of California. The country extends 2,082 km (1,294 mi) nnessw and 1,156 km (718 mi) esewnw. Mainland Papua New Guinea shares the island of New Guinea, the second-largest island in the world, with Irian Jaya, a province of Indonesia. To the n is the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; to the e, the Solomon Islands; to the w, Irian Jaya; and about 160 km (100 mi) to the s, the nearest neighbor, Australia. Papua New Guinea has a total boundary length of 5,972 km (3,711 mi), of which 5,152 km (3,201 mi) is coastline.

Papa New Guinea's capital city, Port Moresby, is located on the country's southern coast.


Papua New Guinea is situated between the stable continental mass of Australia and the deep ocean basin of the Pacific. The largest section is the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, which is dominated by a massive central cordillera, or system of mountain ranges, extending from Indonesia's Irian Jaya to East Cape in Papua New Guinea at the termination of the Owen Stanley Range, and including the nation's highest peak, Mt. Wilhelm (4,509 m/14,793 ft). A second mountain chain fringes the north coast and runs parallel to the central cordillera. In the lowlands are many swamps and floodplains. Important rivers are the Sepik, flowing about 1,130 km (700 mi) to the north coast, and the Fly, which is navigable for 800 km (500 mi) in the southwest. The BougainvilleNew Ireland area comprises Bougainville and Buka islands, the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain, New Ireland, New Hanover, the St. Matthias group, and the Admiralty Islands.

The smaller islands of Papua New Guinea are also areas of extreme topographic contrast and generally feature mountain ranges rising directly from the sea or from narrow coastal plains. Volcanic landforms dominate the northern part of New Britain and Bougainville, and some of the smaller islands are extremely volcanic. An eruption in September 1994 of two volcanoes caused the destruction of half of the town of Rabaul on New Britain Island. The country also experiences periodic high-magnitude earthquakes. On 16 November 2000, the New Ireland region experienced a quake that hit 8.0 on the Richter scale. It was recorded as the largest earthquake of the year worldwide, but fatalities were limited to two people. On 11 March 2003, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the same region, and on 9 September 2005, a 7.7 magnitude quake occurred; both quakes caused some damage but no reported deaths.


The climate of Papua New Guinea is chiefly influenced by altitude and by the monsoons. The northwest or wet monsoon prevails from December to March, and the southeast or dry trade winds from May to October. Annual rainfall varies widely with the monsoon pattern, ranging from as little as 127 cm (50 in) at Port Moresby to an average of 584 cm (230 in) in the western river basin. Most of the lowland and island areas have daily mean temperatures of about 27°c (81°f), while in the highlands temperatures may fall to 4°c (39°f) at night and rise to 32°c (90°f) in the day-time. Relative humidity is uniformly high in the lowlands at about 80% and averages between 65 and 80% in the highlands.


The flora of Papua New Guinea is rich and varied, with habitats ranging from tidal swamps at sea level to alpine conditions. In low-lying coastal areas, various species of mangroves form the main vegetation, together with the beautiful casuarina, sago, and palm. Most of the country is covered by tropical and savanna rain forest, in which valuable trees such as kwila and cedar are found. Orchids, lilies, ferns, and creepers abound in the rain forests. There are large stands of pine at elevations of 9101,220 m (3,0004,000 ft). At the highest altitudes, mosses, lichens, and other alpine flora prevail. There are over 11,500 species of plant throughout the country.

Papua New Guinea supports a great diversity of bird life. About 400 species have been recognized. Papua New Guinea is the major center for a number of bird families, particularly the bird of paradise, bower bird, cassowary, kingfisher, and parrot. There are about 214 species of mammals, many nocturnal, of which rodent and marsupial orders predominate. Butterflies of Papua New Guinea are world famous for their size and vivid coloring.


Papua New Guinea's environmental concern includes pollution, global warming, and the loss of the nation's forests. Coastal waters are polluted with sewage and residue from oil spills. The nation has 801 cu km of renewable water resources, of which 49% of the annual withdrawal is used to support farming and 22% for industrial activity. Only 88% of the nation's city dwellers and 32% of the rural population have access to improved water sources. Another significant source of pollution is open-pit mining. The country's cities have produced an average of 0.1 million tons of solid waste per year. Global warming and the resulting rise in sea level are a threat to Papua New Guinea's coastal vegetation and water supply.

The Department of Physical Planning and Environment is responsible for integrating environmental planning and conserving natural resources. In 2003, only about 2.3% of the total land area was protected. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 58 types of mammals, 33 species of birds, 9 types of reptiles, 10 species of amphibians, 31 species of fish, 2 types of mollusks, 10 species of other invertebrates, and 142 species of plants. Threatened species in Papua New Guinea included four species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherback) and Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly.


The population of Papua New Guinea in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 5,887,000, which placed it at number 103 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 2% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 40% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 106 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.1%, a rate the government viewed as too high, although the fertility rate declined from 5.1 births per woman in 1990 to 4.4 births per woman in 2005. The projected population for the year 2025 was 8,205,000. The population density was 13 per sq km (33 per sq mi), with major concentrations of population in the high-lands and eastern coastal areas of the island of New Guinea.

The UN estimated that 13% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.56%. The capital city, Port Moresby, had a population of 275,000 in that year. Other large cities and their estimated populations include Lae, 120,000; Madang, 35,300; Wewak, 25,143; Goroka, 25,000; and Rabaul, on New Britain, 17,855.


The numbers of emigrants and immigrants have been roughly equal. In the 1980s, many came as refugees from Irian Jaya. In 1993, some 3,750 such immigrants were living in a camp in Western Province, while another 6,000 or so had land or kinship ties with Papuan New Guineans and were living near the border. In earlier years, emigration of nonindigenous residents may have been influenced by constitutional provisions that restricted eligibility for naturalization to those with eight years' residency, but limited their tax and business rights to the same status as those of aliens. Many rural dwellers migrated to Port Moresby and other urban centers during the 1970s and 1980s. The number of migrants in 2000 totaled 23,000, including 5,900 refugees. By the end of 2004, there were 7,627 refugees (all of whom were Indonesians), 198 asylum seekers, and 135 others of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

From 19992005, the net migration rate was zero. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory. In 2002 residents of Papua New Guinea received $65 million in remittances.


Papua New Guinea has more than 1,000 different ethnic groups. Indigenous Papua New Guineans vary considerably in ethnic origins, physical appearance, and spoken languages. The indigenous people are Melanesians. They are usually classified by language group, with Papuans representing the descendants of the original Australoid migration and Austronesian speakers descended from later migrants. The former are generally found in the highlands and the latter in coastal areas and on the islands other than New Guinea. Other groups with significant populations include Negritos, Micronesians, and Polynesians.


Under the Australian administration of the former Territory of Papua and New Guinea, English became the official language; however, it is only spoken by 12% of the population. More widely spoken, there are now two other official languages: Pidgin, a Melanesian lingua franca with roots primarily in English and German, and Hiri Motu, another lingua franca of Papuan derivation. In all, there are more than 700 indigenous languages, most of them spoken by a few hundred to a few thousand people.


Indigenous religions, varying widely in ritual and belief, remain important in tribal societies in Papua New Guinea, with about 34% of the population practicing some form of traditional belief either exclusively or in conjunction with another faith. However, most of the population is nominally Christian. Of these, about 22% are Roman Catholics; 16% are Lutheran; another 8% are Presbyterian, Methodist, or of the London Missionary Society; 5% are Anglican; 4% from the Evangelical Alliance; and 1% Seventh-Day Adventist. Other Protestant sects account for 10% of the population. There are about 40,000 Baha'is and less than 2,000 Muslims. Certain Christian holidays are recognized as national holidays. There is a Council of Churches that serves to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding; members are primarily Christians.


Transportation is a major problem in Papua New Guinea because of the difficult terrain. Major population centers are linked chiefly by air and sea, although road construction has increased to supplement these expensive means of transport. Of some 19,600 km (12,179 mi) of roads in 2002, only 686 km (426 mi) were paved. In 2003, there were 34,468 passenger vehicles and 89,215 commercial vehicles. Papua New Guinea has no railroads. However, there are 10,940 km (6,798 mi) of waterways.

The government operates a fleet of coastal work boats, none more than 9 m (30 ft) long. The principal harbors are Madang, Port Moresby, Lae, and Rabaul. There are international shipping services by refrigerated container ships, other cargo vessels, and some passenger service to Australia, Southeast Asian and Pacific island countries, the US west coast, and Europe. The main shipping lines are government owned. In 2005, the merchant fleet was comprised of 22 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 47,586 GRT.

Papua New Guinea had an estimated 571 airports in 2004. As of 2005 only 21 were principal airports with paved runways, and there were 2 heliports. Papua New Guinea's national air carrier, Air Niugini, established in 1973, has undertaken most of the services previously provided by Australian lines. In 2003, about 691,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Papua New Guinea appears to have been settled by 14,000 bc, with migrations first of hunters and later of agriculturists probably coming from the Asian mainland by way of Indonesia. Early communities had little contact with each other because of rough terrain and so maintained their autonomy, as well as their distinct languages and customs.

New Guinea was first sighted by Spanish and Portuguese sailors in the early 16th century and was known prophetically as Isla del Oro (Island of Gold). The western part of the island was claimed by Spain in 1545 and named New Guinea for a fancied resemblance of the people to those on the West African coast. ("Papua" is a Malay word for the typically frizzled quality of Melanesian hair.) Traders began to appear in the islands in the 1850s, and the Germans sought coconut oil available in northern New Guinea about that time. The Dutch and the British had earlier agreed on a division of their interests in the island, and from 1828, the Dutch began to colonize the western portion.

Although the British flag was hoisted on various parts of eastern New Guinea, the British government did not ratify annexation. Some Australian colonists were eager to see New Guinea become a British possession, for trade, labor, gold mining, and missionary reasons. However, it was not until 1884, after an abortive Australian annexation attempt and under fear of German ambitions in the area, that Britain established a protectorate over the southern coast of New Guinea and adjacent islands. The Germans followed by laying claim to three different parts of northern New Guinea. British and German spheres of influence were delineated by the Anglo-German Agreement of 1885. Germany took control of the northeastern portion of the island, as well as New Britain, New Ireland, and Bougainville, while Britain took possession of the southern portion and the adjacent islands.

British New Guinea passed to Australian control in 1902 and was renamed the Territory of Papua in 1906. German New Guinea remained intact until the outbreak of war in 1914, when Australian forces seized it. Although the territories retained their separate identities and status, they were administered jointly by Australia from headquarters at Port Moresby. In 1921, the former German New Guinea was placed under a League of Nations mandate administered by Australia; in 1947, it became the Trust Territory of New Guinea, still administered by Australia but now subject to the surveillance of the UN Trusteeship Council.

Both territories were merged into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in 1949. A Legislative Council, established in 1953, was replaced by the House of Assembly in 1964. Eight years later, the territory was renamed Papua New Guinea, and on 1 December 1973, it was granted self-government. Separatist movements in Papua in 1973 and secessionist activities on the island of Bougainville in 1975 flared briefly and then subsided, though debates over citizenship and land-reform provisions were vigorous until the passage of a constitution in 1975. Papua New Guinea achieved complete independence on 16 September 1975, with Michael Somare as prime minister of a coalition government.

Somare was voted out of office in 1980 but reelected in 1982; subsequently, he put through a constitutional change giving the central government increased authority over the provincial governments. In November 1985, Somare was again voted out of office on a no confidence motion, and replaced by his previous deputy, Paias Wingti. Elections in mid-1987 returned Wingti to office at the head of a shaky five-party coalition, but his government was defeated in a no confidence vote in July 1988, and a coalition government led by Rabbie Namaliu replaced the PDM government.

A secessionist crisis on Bougainville dominated domestic politics during 199091. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) declared the island of Bougainville to be independent from Papua New Guinea in May 1990, and in response government forces landed on the north of Bougainville in April 1991. Paias Wingti, the leader of the People's Democratic Movement (PDM), was reelected prime minister in July 1992 as the leader of a new coalition government with the support of the People's Progress Party, and the League for National Advancement. During 1993 the government continued to extend its control over Bougainville, partly because of popular revulsion against human rights violations by members of the BRA. In September 1994, rebel troops withdrew to the surrounding hills of the Bougainville copper mine allowing government forces to reclaim it. In 1995, the prime minister halted cease-fire talks.

Julius Chan was elected prime minister on 30 August 1994, but stepped aside pending a judicial inquiry into his hiring a group of mercenaries to put down the rebellion in Bougainville. In 1997, reformist premier Bill Skate, governor of Port Moresby, was elected by members of PNG's 109-seat parliament, defeating Michael Somare. Skate represented Julius Chan who lost his seat in the elections but who supported Skate's selection as premier.

Resolution to the Bougainville problem remained elusive until the government of Bill Skate reached a truce with the rebels in 1998. In April 1998, a permanent cease-fire agreement was signed and the reconstruction of war-torn Bougainville commenced. Up to 20,000 people had been killed during nine years of conflict. In 1999, the rebel leaders and the PNG government signed an agreement known as the Matakana and Okataina Understanding which established an agreement to continue discussions about the island's political future. In August 2001, the Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed, which would provide for an autonomous Bougainville government and secure a plan of disarmament. A referendum on independence would be conducted in 10 to 15 years' time.

In July 1999, Bill Skate resigned as prime minister as allegations regarding the misappropriation of development funds arose. On 14 July 1999, the national assembly chose Sir Mekere Morauta as prime minister in a 99 to 5 vote. Morauta sought to restore damaged relations with the People's Republic of China, which was angered by the Skate government's decision to accept normal relations with Taiwan in return for economic assistance. The Morauta government engaged in a privatization program, and successfully negotiated with the IMF and World Bank for an aid package in 2000. On 14 March 2001, hundreds of soldiers led a mutiny against Morauta's government in protest of a proposed defense force restructuring plan. They seized an armory, and only relinquished their weapons a week later when Morauta promised a full amnesty for the soldiers involved in the revolt and a withdrawal of the controversial military restructuring plan.

Former Prime Minister Michael Somare became prime minister once again on 5 August 2002 when his National Alliance won the parliamentary elections in June that year. The elections were marked by violence and widespread irregularities, including vote-rigging. Somare was elected unopposed by a vote of 88 to 0, with members from Morauta's People's Democratic Movement and a section of the PANGU Party abstaining. Somare immediately set out to halt Morauta's privatization program, stating that the government would need more time to assess state assets. Somare headed a coalition of 13 parties and 20 independent members of parliament. He named a 28-member cabinet, including 19 new members of parliament.

In 2003, the PNG government formally began planning for setting up an autonomous government in Bougainville, with a multinational team in place to monitor the effort. In December 2004, the cabinet gave formal approval to a draft constitution granting the province of Bougainville free elections and an autonomous government. The cabinet also requested the United Nations Security Council to keep its mission in place in Bougainville 612 months to oversee elections. In May 2005, elections took place, with 293 candidates competing for 40 assembly seats. One month later, Bougainville elected Joseph Kabui president. Kabui named a caretaker cabinet comprising 10 members, with 8 of the ministries going to members of the ruling Bougainville People's Congress Party.

Following the deadly tsunamis of December 2004, in 2005 the Japanese Meteorological Agency was to begin providing PNG and 5 other western Pacific nations alerts of any tsunamis following earthquakes of 6.5 or greater on the Richter scale.


Papua New Guinea is an independent, parliamentary democracy in the Commonwealth of Nations, with a governor-general representing the British crown.

Under the 1975 constitution, legislative power is vested in the national parliament (formerly the house of assembly) of 109 members, including 20 representing provincial electorates and 89 from open electorates, serving a term of up to five years. Suffrage is universal and voting compulsory for adults at age 18. The government is formed by the party or coalition of parties, that has a majority in the national parliament, and executive power is undertaken by the national executive council, selected from the government parties and chaired by the prime minister.

The government has constitutional authority over the defense force, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, and intelligence organizations.


Political parties in PNG lack ideological conviction and rely almost exclusively on patronage politics, personalism, and regional bases. Generally, party allegiances have been fluid, with regional and tribal politics impacting greatly on political events. More than 40 parties registered to participate in the June 2002 elections. In those elections, Michael Somare's National Alliance Party (NA) took 19 seats, and formed a 13-party coalition. Former Prime Minister Mekere Morauta's People's Democratic Movement (PDM) took 13 seats. Other parties winning seats included the United Resources Party (URP), the People's Progressive Party (PPP), the Papua and Niugini Union (PANGU), the People's Action Party (PAP), and the People's Labor Party (PLP). Next elections were to be held no later than June 2007.


Papua New Guinea is divided into 20 provinces, including the National Capital District. Each province has its own government, headed by a premier. In addition, there are more than 160 locally elected government councils. The local government system went through a process of reform in 1995, when the then-19 provincial governments were replaced by regional authorities. Bougainville presently exercises significant autonomy in its administrative affairs.


The legal system is based on English common law. The Supreme Court is the nation's highest judicial authority and final court of appeal. Other courts are the National Court; district courts, which deal with summary and nonindictable offenses; and local courts, established to deal with minor offenses, including matters regulated by local customs.

The Papua New Guinea government has undertaken a process of legal reform under which village courts have been established to conserve and reactivate traditional legal methods. Special tribunals deal with land titles and with cases involving minors. An Ombudsman Commission has been established to investigate and refer to the public prosecutor cases involving abuse of official authority.

The constitution declares the judiciary independent of executive, political, or military authority. It also provides a number of procedural due process protections including the right to legal counsel for criminal defendants. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the governor-general upon nomination by the national executive council in consultation with the minister for justice. The Judicial and Legal Services Commission appoint other judges.


Papua New Guinea's armed forces in 2005 had a total of 3,100 active personnel. The Army had an estimated 2,500 personnel that consisted of two infantry battalions and one engineering battalion. The country's maritime forces (400) were equipped with four patrol and coastal vessels and two amphibious landing craft. The Air Force (200) had no armed aircraft, only six fixed wing transports, and four utility helicopters. Australia provides a 38-member training unit. The defense budget totaled $26.7 million in 2005.


Papua New Guinea became a member of the United Nations on 10 October 1975 and participates in ESCAP and several UN nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, ILO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. It also belongs to the WTO, the ASEAN Regional Forum, APEC, the Colombo Plan, the ACP Group, the Asian Development Bank, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Commonwealth of Nations, G-77, the Pacific Island Forum, the South Pacific Commission, and the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (Sparteca).The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Papua New Guinea is part of the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program, the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


Economic activity is concentrated in two sectors, agriculture and mining. The subsistence sector, which occupies more than two-thirds of the working population, produces livestock, fruit, and vegetables for local consumption; agricultural products for export include copra, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, and tea. Rubber production has declined, and in the mid-1980s, coffee crops were threatened by the spread of coffee rust fungus through Western Highlands Province. New mining operations have compensated for the 1989 closure of the Bougainville mine, which had been a chief foreign exchange earner since the early 1970s. The main gold and silver mines are located at Ok Tedi in the Star Mountains, on Misima Island, and at Porgera. Oil and natural gas have been discovered in Southern Highlands Province. Forestry and fishing hold increasing importance.

Economic growth, which averaged 3.7% in the late 1980s, rose to 9% in 1991, 11.8% in 1992, and 16.6% in 1993. The growth was driven by a mineral and petroleum boom centered in the Highlands region. Growth slowed to 3% in 1994, 2.9% in 1995, and 1.6% in 1996 and 1997 due to an anticipated drop in production from Papua New Guinea's aging mines and oil fields, and a 1997 drought that cut the coffee crop in half. To halt the economic decline, the government awarded a lease to private developers for the $800 million Lihir gold project. In addition, construction projects involving airports, highways, disaster rehabilitation, development of the Gobe oil field, and a petroleum refinery are planned or being implemented. These projects, together with the onset of new production at the mine, generated a slightly improved GDP growth rate of 1.6% in 1998. The economy did not reach the expected 4.5% increase in part because of the Asian financial crisis, and recurring drought. Growth in 1999 was 3.6%, and in 2000 and 2001, the economy experienced small contractions of -0.8% and -3.3%, respectively. Inflation persisted in double digits, averaging just over 10%. In 2002, positive growth returned, but at an anemic 1.2%, while the annual inflation rate rose to 12%.

In 2004, the economy expanded by 2.5%, down from 2.7% in 2003; in 2005, the GDP growth rate was estimated at 2.8%. The inflation rate has decreased from 14.7% in 2003, to 2.1% in 2004, and is not posing problems to the economy anymore. The unemployment rate has been fairly stable, hovering at around 3.3%. Although the country is endowed with natural resources, the poor infrastructure, and the difficult nature of the terrain, hamper exploitation efforts. Subsistence agriculture continues to provide a livelihood for 85% of the population.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Papua New Guinea's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $13.3 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,400. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 1.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 35.2% of GDP, industry 38.3%, and services 26.4%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $6 million or about $1 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.2% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $221 million or about $40 per capita and accounted for approximately 8.1% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 1990 household consumption in Papua New Guinea totaled $1.9 billion or about $346 per capita based on a GDP of $3.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 5.6%. It was estimated that in 2002 about 37% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The Papua New Guinea labor force numbered an estimated 3.4 million in 2005. Agriculture accounted for 85% of the workforce, particularly in small farming communities and isolated villages. There is no data available on the country's unemployment rate. Legislation covers working conditions and wages, and provides for collective bargaining. The Papua New Guinea Trade Union Congress is the main union federation. About one-half of the wage earners were unionized, and there were about 50 trade unions. Unions have the right to organize and bargain collectively but the government may cancel wage agreements if they are deemed to be against "public policy." The right to strike is protected, and it is prohibited to discriminate against union activity. However, there have been some reports of retaliation against union members. Approximately half of the 250,000 wage earners are union members.

The minimum working age is 18, although children may be employed in family-related work as young as 11. However, few children work in any capacity outside of subsistence farming. The minimum weekly wage in urban areas was $9.87 as of 2001. The law provides for minimum occupational health and safety standards; however, due to a shortage of inspectors, workplaces are not inspected regularly but only when a union or worker requests.


Agriculture in Papua New Guinea is divided into a large subsistence sector and a smaller monetary sector for export. Agriculture's importance has steadily declined since 1985, when it made up 34% of GDPin 2003, agriculture only contributed about 26% to GDP. About 74% of the population engages in subsistence agriculture. Subsistence crops include yams, taro, and other staple vegetables. Cash crops are increasing in rural areas, stimulated by government-financed development programs. Production by small farmers of coffee, copra, cocoa, tea, rubber, and oil palm is important for export, although production on plantations, which are usually foreign owned, is also significant. Such plantations are gradually being sold back to nationals. Principal crops and 2004 output (in tons) included sweet potatoes, 520,000; sugarcane, 442,000; palm oil, 345,000; coconuts, 650,000; coffee, 60,000; cocoa, 42,500; rubber, 4,000; and pyrethrum, 1,000. Papua New Guinea grows very little rice, the staple food for many of its inhabitants. A single Australian company imports over 150,000 tons per year to satisfy demand.


Livestock in 2005 included an estimated 1,750,000 hogs, 7,500 sheep, and 4 million chickens. That same year there were 91,500 head of cattle, and production was being encouraged with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency in meat supplies. Local poultry and beef production is sufficient to almost meet domestic demand. Beef imports are subject to quota controls. The farming of crocodiles, whose hides are exported, has also been expanded. Total crocodile production in 2003 was 27,000 tons.


In many coastal parts of Papua New Guinea, fishing is of great economic importance. The government is involved in the development of fishing through supply of freezers and of transport and research facilities. The total catch in 2003 was 188,217 tons, 7% from inland fishing. Fish exports in 2003 were valued at $98.7 million.


Forests and woodlands covered about 67% of the land area in 2000. Exploitable forests account for roughly 40% of the total land area and include a great variety of hardwood and softwood species. The total roundwood production in 2004 was 7.241 million cu m (255.6 million cu ft), as compared with about 7.06 million cu m (249 million cu ft) in 1981. About 76% of all the timber cut in 2004 was used for fuel; production of sawn timber was estimated at 70,000 cu m (2.5 million cu ft). Plywood, hardwoods, and logs are regularly exported to Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.


The mining of gold, silver, and copper were leading industries in Papua New Guinea. The country also produced cement, common clays, sand and gravel, stone, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and crude petroleum.

Gold output in 2003 was estimated at 70,000 kg, unchanged from 2002. In 1888, gold was discovered on Misima Island, marking the start of mining on Papua New Guinea. Prior to World War II, gold mining contributed 75% of export earnings. This proportion declined greatly in subsequent years, reaching 40% in 1995. Reserves on Lihir Island have been estimated to contain 613 tons of recoverable gold, and deposits at Porgera, near Ok Tedi, in the Star Mountains, were considered to hold another 470 tons. Production of silver in 2003 was estimated at 73,000 kg, unchanged from 2002.

Copper output (metal content) in 2003 was estimated at 204,000 metric tons. All copper came from the Ok Tedi mine, near the Indonesian border. In 1971/72, the Bougainville copper mine, one of the richest in the world, began to export copper ores and concentrates, which totaled 220,000 tons in 1988 and accounted for 44% of all exports in the years the mine operated. The mine closed in 1989 because of civil unrest caused by Bougainville Revolutionary Army militants. Nine years of civil unrest were temporarily halted by a cease-fire in 1997.

Mineral exploration was being expanded. Bauxite was known to exist on Manus Island, in the Admiralty Islands, and on New Ireland Island. Additionally, lead, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, limestone, and phosphate guano and rock deposits were present. Major deposits of chromite, cobalt, and nickel were believed to be recoverable at a site on the Ramu River, northeast of Ok Tedi. Mineral resources in Papua New Guinea were difficult and expensive to mine, and exploration and mining were hampered by rugged terrain, the nation's poor road infrastructure, and the high cost of developing infrastructure. Ethnic strife has become commonplace, and has had a negative impact on mining exploration and investment. Land disputes have become common as well, because land was communally held and there was no real system of land registration. To revive waning mineral exploration interest, the government announced a major overhaul of the tax system, which has been criticized for making investment in mining too expensive. The new tax regime was applicable only when a project was under way, and included guaranteed fiscal stability for the financing period of a project, the lowering of corporate tax rates, and the reduction of dividend holding tax. Companies were also able to deduct 25% of exploration expenditure against income, and were required to pay an additional profit tax. The mining levy would be phased out within a four-year period.


As of 2002, Papua New Guinea had a total installed electrical capacity of 0.542 million kW, of which conventional thermal plants accounted for 59% of capacity and hydroelectric plants the remainder. Electricity generated in 2002 was 1.538 billion kWh. Of this total, 44% came from fossil fuels and the rest from hydroelectric facilities. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 1.538 billion kWh.

Papua New Guinea had proven oil reserves estimated at 170 million barrels, as of 2004. In that same year, oil production was estimated at 46,200 barrels per day. However, the country has no refining capacity and in 2002, its production was totally exported. In 2002, imports and domestic demand for refined oil products each averaged 22,040 barrels per day. Proven reserves of natural gas totaled 385.5 billion cu m in 2004. In 2002, the country's gross production of natural gas totaled 4.24 billion cu ft, of which 0.35 billion cubic feet was re-injected. Dry consumption that year totaled 3.88 billion cu ft. The country also imported 1,000 short tons of hard coal in 2002.


The industrial sector, constrained by the small domestic market and the population's low purchasing power, is largely undeveloped. Industries are concentrated in industrial metals, timber processing, machinery, food, drinks, and tobacco. Although industrial production, including construction and the provision of utilities, electricity and water, has increased to about 40% of GDP, the manufacturing component has been decreasing as a percent of GDP, from 9.5% in 1980 to 9% in 1990 to 8.2% in 2001, according to Asian Development Bank statistics. This relative decline is mainly due to double digit growth in the construction sector, a boom led by work on the Lihir gold mine and the Gobe petroleum project. The growth rate in construction peaked in 1997 and 1998, at 21.7% and 25.4%, respectively, but the sector continues strong.

In 2002, a number of construction projects involving housing, airports, highways, disaster rehabilitation, and a petroleum refinery were planned or under way. Handicraft and cottage industries have expanded. A government-sponsored program assists Papua New Guineans in setting up businesses and purchases equity in existing firms. It has also encouraged small-scale import-substitution operations.

In 2005, industry accounted for 38.3% of the GDP, and was seconded by agriculture with 35.2%, and services, with 26.4%. However, 85% of the 3.4 million labor force continues to be engaged in subsistence agriculture.


The Papua New Guinea Scientific Society, founded in 1949 at Boroko, promotes the sciences, exchanges scientific information, preserves scientific collections, and establishes museums. The University of Papua New Guinea, founded in 1965 at Waigani, and the Papua New Guinea University of Technology, founded in 1965 at Lae, provide scientific and technical training. The Lowlands Agricultural Experiment Station, founded in 1928, is in Kerevat. The Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research was founded in 1968. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 10% of college enrollments.

In 2002, Papua New Guinea has high technology exports totaling $11 million, or 195 of its manufactured exports.


Trade in rural areas is mostly informal and cash is used in transactions. The local market, particularly in fruit and vegetables, is an important feature of economic and social life. Domestic trade in urban centers is primarily through modern supermarket chains and independent stores. The companies sponsoring supermarkets tend to be in both the importing and wholesale businesses and take responsibility for distribution of goods to outlying villages, which are generally somewhat isolated. Domestic trade is hampered by street gangs that terrorize local and foreign residents and merchants. There are a few Australian-based franchises within the country.

Most stores are open weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm and until noon on Saturdays. Banks are open from 9 am to 2 pm Monday through Thursday and from 9 am to 5 pm on Fridays. Other businesses operate from 8 am to 4:30 pm weekdays. Most businesses and government offices do not open on the weekends.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 2,260.2 1,302.4 957.8
Areas nes 1,228.9 1,228.9
Australia 358.3 729.8 -371.5
Japan 96.1 65.4 30.7
United Kingdom 78.9 10.2 68.7
Germany 76.6 4.5 72.1
United States 59.8 115.7 -55.9
Philippines 35.0 3.6 31.4
China 28.9 57.4 -28.5
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 28.9 2.3 26.6
Singapore 27.5 89.2 -61.7
() data not available or not significant.


In 2000, Papua New Guinea's exports totaled $2.4 billion while imports totaled $1 billion, down from $1.1 billion in 1999. Consumer goods accounted for 9.3% of imports; machinery, 17.8%; industrial supplies, 18.3%; transportation equipment, 15.1%; food and beverages, 17.2%; and other imports, 0.3%. Of its natural resources, Papua New Guinea mainly exports crude petroleum (29%), copper ore (8.9%), and coffee (6.1%). Other exports include palm oil (6.0%) and rough wood (1.8%).

Through most of the period when Papua New Guinea was a territory administered by Australia, the two were also major trading partners. In the 1970s, Papua New Guinea's trade with other countries, especially Japan and Germany, increased.

In 2005, exports reached $2.8 billion (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $1.6 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Australia (28%), Japan (5.8%), Germany (4.7%), and China (4.6%). Imports included machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food and live animals, and chemicals, and mainly came from Australia (46.4%), Singapore (21.6%), Japan (4.3%), and New Zealand (4.2%).


Papua New Guinea relies heavily on imported goods and services, both for consumption and as inputs for its exports. The country registered deficits on current accounts during the early 1980s, after recording annual surpluses in the late 1970s. In the late 1980s, mine closings, civil unrest, and sustained deterioration in prices for the country's principal agricultural exports severely tested the economy and led to a program of structural adjustment supported by the World Bank and IMF. When the economy rebounded in the early 1990s, however, the government lost interest in the reforms and instituted expansionist fiscal policies that led to a decline in international reserves. To restore foreign exchange levels, the government devalued the currency in 1994. When that failed to solve the problem, the government let the kina float, resulting in a depreciation of about 28% by 1996. In 1995, Papua New Guinea reached an agreement with the World Bank and IMF on a series of economic reforms. The subsequent receipt of approximately $200

Current Account 282.1
     Balance on goods 880.5
         Imports -932.4
         Exports 1,812.9
     Balance on services -376.9
     Balance on income -230.2
     Current transfers 8.6
Capital Account
Financial Account -151.9
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Papua New Guinea 62.5
     Portfolio investment assets -72.7
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -66.9
     Other investment liabilities -74.7
Net Errors and Omissions -1.6
Reserves and Related Items -128.6
() data not available or not significant.

million in loans in August 1995 substantially bolstered foreign reserves. Another agreement with the IMF in 2000 brought in an additional $115 million in loans to the country.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Papua New Guinea had exports of goods totaling $1.81 billion and imports totaling $932 million. The services credit totaled $285 million and debit $662 million. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Papua New Guinea's exports was $1.8 billion while imports totaled $1.024 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $776 million.

Revenue and Grants 2,666.3 100.0%
     Tax revenue 2,449.2 91.9%
     Social contributions 4.4 0.2%
     Grants 47.6 1.8%
     Other revenue 165.1 6.2%
Expenditures 3,052.4 100.0%
     General public services 1,821.8 59.7%
     Defense 72 2.4%
     Public order and safety 227.6 7.5%
     Economic affairs 369.5 12.1%
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities 10.7 0.4%
     Health 174 5.7%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 26 0.9%
     Education 305.7 10.0%
     Social protection 45.1 1.5%
() data not available or not significant.

Exports of goods and services totaled $2.4 billion in 2003, while imports grew to $2.0 billion. The resource balance was consequently positive, at $378 million. The current account balance was fairly stable in 2003 and 2004, hovering around $237 million. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) increased to $636 million in 2004


The Bank of Papua New Guinea, the country's central bank, was established in 1973, and the currency, the kina, was first issued in April 1975. The kina is backed by a standby arrangement with Australia, and the value of the kina is tied to the Australian dollar.

The Papua New Guinea Banking Corp. was set up in 1973 to take over the savings and trading business of the former Australian government-owned bank operating in Papua New Guinea. It competes with seven other private commercial banks, three of which are subsidiaries of Australian banks. Liquidity increased over the first six months of 1996, with total liquid assets held by the commercial banks standing at $2.1 billion at the end of 1996. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $376.6 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $846.1 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 11.25%.

There is no securities exchange in Papua New Guinea.


In 1997, there were at least 11 insurance companies operating in Papua New Guinea.


Papua New Guinea receives most of its bilateral aid from Australia, which donates about $200 million a year in assistance. Foreign budgetary support was phased out in 2000; aid is now concentrated on project development. Other major sources of aid include Japan, the EU, China, Taiwan, the UN, the Asian Development Bank, the IMF, and the World Bank.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Papua New Guinea's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.3 billion and had expenditures of $1.3 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $14 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 47.1% of GDP. Total external debt was $1.978 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were k2,666.3 million and expenditures were k3,052.4 million. The value of revenues was us$1,036 million and expenditures us$1,186 million, based on a official exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = k2.573 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 59.7%; defense, 2.4%; public order and safety, 7.5%; economic affairs, 12.1%; housing and community amenities, 0.4%; health, 5.7%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.9%; education, 10.0%; and social protection, 1.5%.


Company incomes are taxed at a rate of 2550%. Additional profits tax is calculated on the net profits of mining and petroleum companies at a rate of 3550%. In addition, progressive tax rates are applied to individuals' wages and salaries, with taxes automatically withheld from paychecks. Tax rates range from 1035%. Land and property taxes, estate and death taxes, gift taxes, stamp taxes, excise taxes, and sales taxes are also imposed.


Papua New Guinea acceded to the World Trade Organization in 1996 and has liberalized its trade to conform to WTO standards, removing all nontariff barriers to trade including quotas, bans, and license requirements. The government put a value-added tax (VAT) into effect in 1998 and intends to reduce all nonprotective tariffs to zero using the VAT. There are import duty rates of 5%, 8%, and 11%. The protective tariff is 40% and there are higher rates applied to luxury items such as tobacco and liquor.


The bulk of foreign investment is in the mining and petroleum sector. Statistic on foreign equity holdings for 1995 show that Australia was the largest investor with k1,446 million, followed by the United Kingdom with k160 million and the United States with k91 million. Overall, foreign equity holdings fell from 55% of GDP in 1990 to 33% in 1994, primarily due to the completion of major mining and petroleum projects. In 1995, developers RTZ and Niugini Mining were awarded a lease for the $800 million Lihir gold project raising foreign equity holdings to 37% of GDP.

The Investment Promotion Authority (IPA), established in 1992, facilitates and certifies foreign investment. Corruption, civil unrest, and bureaucratic delays, however, frustrate the process. A number of free trade zones are in the early stages of development.

Foreign investment in Papua New Guinea took on an air of international intrigue when it was revealed that in early 1997 Prime Minister Julius Chan had entered into a $46 million contract with Sandline Incorporated, a mercenary military organization, to retake Bougainville Island and in particular the copper mining complex there that had been occupied by separatists since 1989. Money behind the contract was traced to the British-Australia mining company, RTZ-CRA. The army prevented the use of the mercenaries. Chan lost his parliamentary seat in the 1997 elections, and a peace agreement was signed with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) in 1998.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) was only $87.6 million in 1997 and $109.6 million in 1998. FDI nearly tripled in 1999, however, to $296.5 million, before falling back to $130.7 million in 2000. FDI in 2002 was $178.7 million.


The fundamental purposes of Papua New Guinea's economic strategy have been distilled into the nation's eight aims: a rapid increase in the proportion of the economy under the control of Papua New Guineans; a more equal distribution of economic benefits; decentralization of economic activity; an emphasis on smallscale artisan, service, and business activity; a more self-reliant economy; an increasing capacity for meeting government spending from locally raised revenue; a rapid increase in the equal and active participation of women in the economy; and governmental control and involvement in those sectors where control is necessary to achieve the desired kind of development.

In March 2000, Papua New Guinea's economic reform efforts came under the supervision of an IMF Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) financed by a stand-by credit line of sdr85.54 million (about $120 million) that ran from 29 March 2000 to 29 September 2001. The IMF is critical of policies through which the government has intervened heavily in the economythrough tax incentives, licensing and approval requirements, trade restrictions, tariffs and price controlsto create an economy dominated by a few privately-owned, highly protected, noncompetitive, import substitution enterprises. The SAP called for privatization of the few state owned enterprises, liberalization of trade and investment, reduction in public service employment and the decontrol of prices. In 2002, the government was implementing many of these reforms either as conditionals under the IMF stand-by agreement and/or as requirements for participation in APEC and accession to the WTO.

The annual growth average is supposed to pick up over the rate registered in 2005 (2.9%), as a result of stronger mining and petroleum sectors. The Kainantu and Simberi goldmines will likely be put into operation at the beginning of 2006, boosting gold output, while work on the Hidden Valley gold project and the Ramu nickel-cobalt project could also begin in 2006. However, if the country is to benefit significantly from an export-led growth strategy it needs to carry on serious infrastructure improvements.


A mandatory occupational retirement system covers persons employed by firms with 20 or more workers, providing old age, disability, and survivor benefits. The system is financed by 5% contribution of earnings from employees, and 7% of payroll from employers. Retirement is set at age 55, or at any age with 12 years of contributions. Benefits are provided as a lump sum, and include total contributions plus interest. Workers' compensation is provided by employers through direct provision of benefits or insurance premiums. Medical services, where available, are provided free or at a nominal cost. Rural communities traditionally assume communal obligations to those in need.

The constitution and other laws provide extensive rights for women, however traditional patterns of discrimination still prevail. Women are considered second-class citizens. Village courts tend to enforce these patterns, and intertribal warfare often involves attacks on women. Polygymy is common, and the tradition of paying a bride-price persists. Violence against women is widespread and few victims press charges. Much of the violence is committed by women against another of their husband's wives. The government does not adequately fund programs to protect the rights and welfare of children.

In 2004, human rights violations included excessive use of police force, poor prison conditions, and limits on freedom of assembly.


Government policy is to distribute health services widely and to provide comprehensive medical care, both preventive and curative. Approximately 96% of the population had access to health care services. As of 2004, there were an estimated 5 physicians, 53 nurses, and 2 dentists per 100,000 people. In 2000, 42% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 82% had adequate sanitation. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 3.2% of GDP.

The main health problems are malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, and venereal disease. Significant malnutrition occurs in some areas and pneumonia and related respiratory infections are major risks. The increased incidence of malaria has been linked to importation from neighboring islands. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were fairly high: tuberculosis, 91%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 66%; polio, 66%; and measles, 39%. The rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 56% and 58%. While malnutrition remains a major problem, dramatic changes have occurred in some groups with exposure to more Westernized diets. Diabetes in the highland populations is low but has been documented to be as high as 16% in major cities of Papua New Guinea.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 31.6 and 7.8 per 1,000 people. Approximately 26% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception. The infant mortality rate decreased from 110 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1974 to 51.45 in 2005. Approximately 16% of all births were low birth weight babies. The maternal mortality rate was 370 per 100,000 live births. Life expectancy was 64.93 years in 2000.

Papua New Guinea had the highest per capita HIV prevalence in the North and South Pacific regions. As of 2004, there were approximately 1,600 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.60 per 100 adults in 2003. There were an estimated 600 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Coronary heart disease, previously rare or nonexistent, has become more prevalent in past years. Total cholesterol values are higher in urban coastal and periurban subjects than in rural locations.


Traditional housing in rural areas appears to be adequate, but in urban areas there are acute shortages because of migration. In most urban areas, squatter settlements have been established. New housing has generally fallen far short of meeting the demand, especially for medium- and low-cost units. As of 1988, the housing stock totaled 555,000 and the number of people per dwelling averaged 5.8. As of 2000, about 87% of the population lived in rural areas.


The present government aims at upgrading and improving the system and quality of education. Children attend state-run community schools for primary education and provincial and national high schools for secondary education. Primary school covers nine years of schooling, including one year of preschool and grades I to VIII. The provincial secondary schools cover a two-year program, which may be followed by a two-year national high school program. Students choose to enter a two-year technical school for their secondary education. In addition to the national government system, there is an international school system that ends at high school. Fees are considerably higher than the government run schools, and the curriculum is based on the British system. There are also privately run preschools and primary schools. The academic year runs from February to November.

In 2001, about 38% of all six-year-olds were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 74% of age-eligible students; 79% for boys and 69% for girls. In 2001, secondary school enrollment was about 23% of age-eligible students; 25% for boys and 20% for girls. It is estimated that about 52.6% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 35:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 22:1.

The University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby offers degrees in law, science, medicine and arts. The University of Technology in Lae offers degrees in technical subjects such as engineering, business, architecture, and forestry. The Pacific Adventist College, a privately run university outside Port Moresby, offers courses in education, business, accounting, secretarial studies, and theology. In 1999, about 2% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 57.3%, with 63.4% for men and 50.9% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.3% of GDP, or 17.5% of total government expenditures.


The largest libraries are at the University of Papua New Guinea (440,000 volumes) and at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (130,000). Local libraries are well established in urban centers. The National Library Service in Boroko has 85,000 volumes. The Papua New Guinea Institute of Public Administration in Boroko holds 90,000 volumes.

The Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery, in Boroko, has a good collection of art and general ethnography. The museum is implementing the National Cultural Property Act to protect the country's cultural heritage and to further establish appropriate museums. In 1981 the country opened the Madang Museum, Culture and Tourism Center in Yomba. The J. K. MacCarthy Museum, an ethnological collection, is located in Goroka.


In 2003, there were an estimated 12 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately three mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. A coastal radio service provides communications between land-based stations and ships at sea.

In 2004, the government-owned National Broadcasting Commission was operating two radio networks with limited range. NBC broadcasts in English, Pidgin, Hiri Motu, and a dozen other vernaculars. EMTV, owned by a private Fijian company, was the only television broadcaster in 2004. There were also two independent local cable companies. The privately owned NAU-FM radio network is based in Port Moresby. In 2003, there were an estimated 86 radios and 23 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 4.2 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 58.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 14 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There was one secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The Papua New Guinea Post-Courier is published daily in English with a 2002 circulation of about 30,480. The National, another daily, is published on Boroko and had a 2002 circulation of 20,000. Other local news sheets are published, many in Pidgin. Niugini Nius, also in Boroko, is published TuesdayFriday (circulation 31,000) and also has a weekend edition (16,000).

The constitution provides for free speech and free media, and the government is said to generally respect these rights in practice.


The Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce and Industry is located in Port Moresby. There are some organizations dedicated to the promotion of specific industries, such as the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority and the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Mines and Petroleum.

National youth organizations include the Papua New Guinea National Union of Students, YMCA/YWCA, and the Scout Association of Papua New Guinea. There are several sports associations organizing amateur competitions for such pastimes as cricket, track and field, baseball, lawn tennis, tae kwon do, and squash. Women's organizations include the East Sepik Women and Children's Health Project and the Simbu Women's Resource Center. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and Caritas.


The Tourism Promotion Authority of Papua New Guinea works with the government to actively promote tourism as a priority for economic development. There are large-scale resorts and basic lodges to accommodate all travelers. Ecotourism is the main attraction with an abundance of vibrant flora and fauna in the rain forest and national parks. Water sports, golf, tennis, and rock climbing are popular pastimes. Tourists must have a valid passport, onward/return ticket, proof of sufficient funds, and an entry permit. A 60 day visa may be issued upon arrival to visitors from Australia, Cyprus, Japan, Portugal., Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

In 2003, about 56,000 tourists visited Papua New Guinea, over half of whom came from Australia. There were 2,830 rooms in hotels and other establishments with 4,306 beds.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Papua New Guinea at $217.


The best known Papua New Guineans are Michael Thomas Somare (b.1936), chief minister during colonial rule and the nation's first prime minister; Sir Albert Maori Kiki (193193), author of Kiki: Ten Thousands Years in a Lifetime ; and Vincent Eri (193693), author of The Crocodile.


Papua New Guinea has no territories or colonies.


Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.

Lepowsky, Maria Alexandra. Fruit of the Motherland: Gender in an Egalitarian Society. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Lilley, Ian (ed.). Archaeology of Oceania: Australia and the Pacific Islands. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2006.

Mead, Margaret. Growing Up in New Guinea. Middlesex: Penguin, 1973 (orig. 1930).

Turner, Ann. Historical Dictionary of Papua New Guinea. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2001.

Waiko, John. A Short History of Papua New Guinea. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Wanek, Alexander. The State and Its Enemies in Papua New Guinea. Richmond, Surrey, U.K.: Curzon, 1996.

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Papua New Guinea


Independent State of Papua New Guinea

Major City:
Port Moresby

Other Cities:
Goroka, Kerema, Lae, Madang, Rabaul, Wewak


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Papua New Guinea. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


PAPUA NEW GUINEA "The Land of the Unexpected" is one of the last windows into the Stone Age. It is a country of striking contrasts where more than 1000, diverse tribes coexist with a modern economy based on world-class copper and gold mines.

It is the largest and most diverse of the Pacific Island nations. Covering a land area of nearly 180,000 square miles, it is nearly twice as large as the United Kingdom, and the size of Oregon and Idaho combined.

The geography is dramatic and tremendously varied. The country boasts great outcroppings of mountains ranging in height up to 15,000 feet, as well as vast river systems and some of the world's most extensive swamps. A number of Papua New Guinea's islands border the Coral and Solomon seas. The coastal waters contain live coral reefs, some rivaling Australia's Great Barrier Reef in all but size.

Much of the country's appeal lies in its people. The more than 3.7 million inhabitants are sparsely scattered throughout the country, with concentrations in a number of towns as well as in the highlands. Physical characteristics vary widely, and over 800 distinct languages have been identified, some spoken by as few as 30 to 40 individuals. This diversity, which has been the subject of intense anthropological and linguistic research, also poses unique political challenges as the government attempts to strike a balance between local autonomy and national authority, which will permit orderly political and economic development.

Independent since 1975, Papua New Guinea retains an Australian flavor and a large expatriate population in its modern sector. The tropical climate is ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving, and sailing.

Living in this island nation presents rare opportunities to observe a traditional society coping with major social, cultural, and political transformations, while striving to maintain the splendor of its history.


Port Moresby

Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, is a sprawling town with a population of over 300,000 (1998 est.) located on hilly terrain on the southern Papua coast. Because it lies within a small rain shadow, the city's geography and climate differ substantially from other parts of Papua New Guinea. During the dry season (June-September), hills in the city dry up and turn brown. However, the climate, although hot, is usually pleasant: low humidity (60%), steady trade winds, daytime highs of 80°F, and nighttime lows in the high 60s°F.

During the rainy season, which coincides with the southern summer (October-May), daytime highs frequently reach the low 90s°F; 80% humidity is normal. However, lengthy afternoon rain showers cool things off, and nights are usually in the low to mid 70s°F. At this time of the year, the landscape in Port Moresby is green.

The old center of town is located, lies on a peninsula that helps protect the large harbor from the Coral Sea. A number of modern high rise buildings punctuate the skyline, contrasting with the traditional Motuan villages on stilts along the shoreline. The city's shipping docks and a yacht marina are located along the shore.

Next to the city center are Touaguba and Ela Makana Hills, sites of Port Moresby's best housing and the location of all the Embassy housing. Both benefit from cool ocean breezes and spectacular views of harbor and sea. Centered on a small business district by the harbor, over the years, Port Moresby has expanded via suburban developments some 11 kilometers inland. Boroko, the main shopping area, and adjacent Gordons are the largest middle-class areas of Port Moresby. Both are located 6 to 8 kilometers inland. Jackson's Airport, which can handle 747s, is 11 kilometers from downtown via a newly constructed highway.

Papua New Guinea's capital center is the suburb of Waigani, 8 kilometers from downtown. A six-lane boulevard leads to several modern high rise buildings that house government offices. Waigani is also the site of an 18-hole golf course and several diplomatic missions.

The Parliament House, National Museum and a small theater for live performances are also in Waigani, as is the Prime Minister's official residence. The University of Papua New Guinea, and the National Botanical Gardens, home of one of the world's largest orchid collections as well as a fine sample of Papua New Guinea's exotic birds, is nearby.


Electricity is 240v, 50hz. Power can be erratic; surges and spikes are common. Employees are advised to bring voltage protectors and surge suppressors. Those who own computers should bring an uninterruptible power supply. The water supply is usually dependable.


Although some imported items are significantly more expensive than in the United States, most foods used by American or Asian families are regularly available in Port Moresby. Supermarkets and pharmacies resemble their counterparts in Australia rather than those of other developing countries.

A wide variety of meats, fish, canned goods, fruits, vegetables and frozen goods is available. Quality in general is high, with the exception of imported fresh fruits and vegetables which are sometimes offered in poor condition. Most food items are imported from Australia, although limited items imported from the United States are also found in the stores. Locally produced fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood, chicken, eggs and beef are also available. Bread is baked locally. Fresh and UHT "long life" milk, both imported, are widely available. A wide range of good quality dairy products, including ice cream, is always available. Major supermarkets maintain delicatessen sections stocked with a good selection of sausage and cheeses. Coffee produced in Papua New Guinea is high quality and flavorful. However, instant coffee is imported and decaffeinated is not available in the local market. There is a bottling plant in Port Moresby and a wide variety of soft drinks are always available.

Wines available locally are primarily from Australia and New Zealand.

In general, prices of imported and processed foods are 1.5 to 2 times more expensive than in the United States. Locally produced fruits, vegetables and sea food, however, are quite inexpensive. Some all-American items which are not quite the same locally and which employees may wish to bring with them are chocolate chips, peanut butter, decaffeinated coffee and special convenience foods, like canned pumpkin or pudding mixes. Candles are expensive and not good quality.


Lightweight, summer clothes are most useful in this tropical climate. Cotton clothes and underwear are most comfortable for activities out of doors. Locally available shoes, clothing and fabrics are limited in choice, expensive and generally not good quality.

Fashion tends to the practical and casual. During the wet season, an umbrella is most useful. Raincoats are too hot. However, raincoats, ponchos, sweaters and light-weight jackets are useful for travel in the highlands, where temperatures are significantly cooler. Light sweaters or wraps are also useful in Port Moresby after sundown during the cooler months. Hats and sunglasses are necessary even for short periods in the sun.

Men: During the day, short-sleeved, open neck shirts with slacks are customary. Tropical formal wear includes a summer-weight suit and tie, or long-sleeved white shirt and tie with slacks. Tropical informal attire (for most social events) is an open-neck sport shirt worn with slacks. Tropical floral print shirts, like those widely sold in Honolulu, are currently fashionable for informal evening wear.

Women: Lightweight dresses and short-sleeved summer suits are worn to the office. Many women find pantyhose uncomfortable in the tropical heat and do not wear them. Slacks, walking shorts, and cotton skirts and dresses are acceptable for street wear and travel. Cotton underwear and sleepwear are most comfortable. Tropical formal evening wear is generally street-length cocktail dresses or suits. Tropical informal evening wear can be summer dresses or summer evening slacks and shirts.

Children: Primary and secondary students wear uniforms to school. Shorts, blue jeans, and t-shirts worn with sandals or athletic shoes are universally popular. Girls may want cotton dresses for dressier occasions. Children too should have hats and sunglasses.

Supplies and Services

Toiletries, cosmetics, medicines and common household articles normally used by American families are available locally. Many are U.S. brand names made by Australian subsidiaries. However, prices for toiletries are high and brands of cosmetics sold in the United States are not available. Bring a supply if they have special preferences. Hardware stores are well stocked, and kitchen-ware and household linen is available, although more expensive than in the United States.

Most medicines are available, but sold under brand names common in Australia. Ask your doctor for the generic name of the medication they will need in Port Moresby. Common medicines are sometimes considerably cheaper than in the United States.

Most basic services are available at varying levels of reliability. Dry cleaning and shoe repair are available, but expensive. There are good unisex hair salons which offer competent service at prices similar to those in the U.S. Garage and appliance repair services are spotty in quality and parts can be expensive.

Domestic Help

Female domestic servants who do general housework, laundry and child-minding are available, although those who are English speaking and well-trained are not easy to find. Competent cooks are very scarce. Families with small children usually rely on their domestic help for babysitting services. Current weekly wages for domestic help, working five days a week, range from $140 to $200 a month.

Religious Activities

Most major Christian denominations are represented in Port Moresby. Anglican, Assembly of God, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist, Methodist, Mormon and Jehovah's Witnesses churches all have weekly services. Congregations include Papua New Guineans and foreigners. Ministers and priests are both expatriate and Papua New Guinean. Services are in English, pidgin or Motu. An Islamic congregation also meets weekly. There is no Jewish synagogue, or Hindu or Buddhist temple.


Schools used by children of post personnel in Port Moresby include the Port Moresby International School (kindergarten through grade 12), the Ela Beach School (primary grades), and the Murray International School (primary grades). The schools employ national and expatriate teachers, many of whom are spouses of expatriates working in Papua New Guinea. The curriculum is similar to that followed in Australia. All three schools have extensive playing fields and sports programs. The Port Moresby International High School offers an International Baccalaureate program in grades 11 and 12. The school year begins at the end of January and ends in mid-December. It is broken into four terms approximately ten weeks in length, with a long vacation in December-January.


Sports available to everyone include golf, tennis, scuba diving, bush walking, jogging, softball, swimming, waterskiing, windsurfing, squash, snorkeling and sailing. Soccer and rugby are popular spectator sports. Little League Baseball is available to both boys and girls. Parents willing to help coach are always welcome.

Karate and dance schools take all ages. Diving lessons are offered on a regular basis. There are occasional theater productions by university, regional and amateur groups. The amateur theater group is open to new members. There are occasional choral presentations by church-based choirs. Exhibitions of contemporary and traditional art are organized at the National Gallery and Museum, which has a good permanent collection of traditional art as well as a small collection of live domestic birds and animals. The beautifully kept National Botanic Gardens feature an orchid exhibition and a walkthrough aviary and provide safe and beautiful picnic facilities for a small fee. There are several restaurants throughout the city, featuring both Asian and Western cuisine. Many expatriate residents are members of clubs, which run restaurants, bars and sporting facilities. The Port Moresby Yacht Club operates a marina in the city center. Another boat mooring facility is available for a fee a short distance out of town. There are also some secure night spots which offer discotheques, bars and slot machines.

There are no movie theaters, although a local hotel offers recent releases every Sunday night in a theater atmosphere. However, video tapes can be rented and satellite television us available.

Special Information

Crime is a serious problem in Port Moresby, and consists of everything from bag snatching and car jacking to armed robbery and rape. Much of the crime is committed by young men and boys who, if they have access to weapons, easily become violent. Widespread abuse of alcohol and marijuana aggravates the problem. Hijacking and highway robbery is common and makes road travel outside the towns dangerous. The few criminals notwithstanding, there have been no incidents of terrorism in PNG. Nor is xenophobia, or racial or religious animosity common.


GOROKA , located in the central highlands 300 miles northwest of the capital, is a provincial headquarters with 22,000 residents. The center of European settlement in the region, the city has an animal husbandry station. Goroka's mile-high elevation contributes to its expanding tourist business. There is an airport here, as well as a major truck route heading east.

The port of KEREMA lies on Kerema Bay on the Gulf of Papua, in south-central Papua New Guinea. This became a regional seat in 1958 when the district (now provincial) headquarters was transferred from Kikori. Kerema has a fish-processing factory; rubber and coconuts are grown near the city. There is a road link to Malalawa and an airstrip. The population is approximately 4,000.

LAE is situated on Huan Gulf on New Guinea Island, approximately 200 miles north of Port Moresby. During World War II, it was occupied by the Japanese, and became a major supply base. The city suffered heavy bombings by Allied planes in that period, and was eventually occupied in September 1943 by the Australians. Today, Lae is a commercial center, and a base for air transport lines in the area gold fields. Lae has an estimated population of 80,000.

MADANG (formerly called Friedrich-Wilhelmshafen), with some 27,000 residents, is situated on Astrolabe Bay, on the country's eastern coast. The area is a center for the timber industry based in the Gogol forest. It also is a communications point for offshore islands, as well as a distribution hub. Agricultural products are exported from Madang; industries include engineering workshops and timber milling. This was the administrative center for a German colony abandoned because of malaria in 1899. Madang was the objective of an Australian drive along the coast in World War II. It was captured by Australian and U.S. forces in April 1944. A lighthouse in the harbor commemorates coast watchers who helped the Allies in the war.

RABAUL , situated on Simpson Harbor in the northeastern part of New Britain Island, was a major Japanese air force base after occupation in 1942 and, as such, was headquarters for the projected invasion of Australia. The city, surrounded by volcanoes, was damaged by the eruption of Matupi in 1937 and, consequently, the administrative government of the Trust Territory of New Guinea was moved to Lae. Rabaul had been the capital of German New Guinea in the early years of this century and, from 1920 to 1941, was the principal town of the Australian mandate. It is still a major port and has a population of nearly 18,000.

WEWAK is located on the country's northern coast, about 75 miles west of the mouth of the Sepik River. It was a Japanese base in World War II, bombed heavily by Americanforces in 1943. The Allied advance along the northern coast bypassed the city. Wewak is a port of call for coastal and Australian shipping. The economy is hindered by the primitive back-country conditions. The discovery of gold in the Sepik area in the 1930s led to the community's founding. The fields have since been abandoned. With over 23,000 residents, Wewak has an international airport and road links to Maprik and Paguwi.


Geography and Climate

Papua New Guinea lies in the southwest Pacific, just south of the equator and about 100 miles northeast of Australia. The largest of the Pacific Island nations, it includes the eastern half of the island of New Guinea which it shares with Indonesia and numerous offshore islands, the largest of which are New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, and Manus. Their combined surface area is 286,248 square miles, slightly larger than the state of California.

The main island comprises 85% of Papua New Guinea's total land area. A complex system of mountains extends from the eastern end of the islands to the western boundary with Indonesian Irian Jaya. Precipitous slopes, knife-sharp ridges, great outcroppings of mountains rising to heights of almost 15,000 feet, and broad upland valleys at altitudes of 5,000-10,000 feet characterize this area. Most of the terrain is covered by dense jungles of tropical rain forest. Large rivers comprising the world's twelfth largest riverine network flow to the south, north and east; few are navigable except by small boats in the lower reaches. The largest river, the Fly, which begins in the mountains of western Papua, flows over 700 miles, and can be navigated for 500 miles.

Between the northern and the central range of mountains lies the Central Depression, which contains the Sepik, Ramu, and Markham River valleys. Lowlands and rolling foothills of varying widths stretch along most of the coasts. Huge stretches of wetlands are common in the poorly-drained coastal areas. On the southwest littoral, the great delta plain of the Daru coast forms one of the world's most extensive swamps, exceeding 100,000 square miles.

The archipelagic areas of Papua New Guinea include three major islands-New Britain, New Ireland, and Bougainville-as well as a great variety of smaller, often very isolated island groups. The islands contain many volcanoes, both active and dormant; rich agricultural zones; and considerable mineral wealth. Thousands of coral reefs make the surrounding waters a mecca for marine biologists and scuba divers, while several of the smaller island groups, including the Trobriands and Manus Island, were the sites of classic anthropological studies.

Papua New Guinea lies wholly within the Tropics, and its climate is monsoonal. The "wet" northwest monsoon season extends from December to March and the "dry" southeast monsoon from May to October. Average annual rainfall is high, ranging from 80 to 100 inches for most districts. Although many areas have a wet and dry season, these terms are relative. Even in the so-called dry season, 2-4 inches of rain per month fall in most areas. Many areas receive more than 200 inches, but a few, like Port Moresby, lie in a rain shadow and receive 40 inches or less annually.

Although tropical, temperatures are not extreme. Most lowland, coastal, and island areas have a daily average temperature of 81°F, and seasonal variations are slight. In the highlands, temperature varies with altitude. At 6,000 feet, the average temperature is 61°F; daytime temperatures rise to 90°F and nighttime temperatures fall between 40°F and 50°E Lowland humidity is uniformly about 80% with very little seasonal variation. Humidity fluctuates more in the highlands where temperatures are lower.

Papua New Guinea's rugged geography has hindered the development of adequate transport and communication facilities. The lack of this infrastructure continues to inhibit the development of some of the interior areas. It also has a negative impact upon the entire process of social, political and economic integration.


Papua New Guinea's population grows at about 2.3% per year and was estimated in 1998 at approximately 4.6 million. It is one of the most heterogeneous populations in the Pacific, including several thousand villages, most with only a few hundred people. Divided by language, customs, and traditions, some of these communities have engaged in tribal warfare with their neighbors for centuries. The isolation created by the mountainous terrain is so great that some groups, until recently, did not know that neighboring groups lived only a few kilometers away. Nearly 800 identified languages (20% of the world's languages) are spoken in Papua New Guinea.

Melanesian Pidgin is the lingua franca. An English cognate, Pidgin is relatively easy for Americans to learn and understand. English, the official language, is spoken by a rapidly increasing group of educated people.

Population density varies widely from the nearly uninhabited forests of Western Province, which has an average population density of 1 person/sq. km., to the relatively crowded Western Highlands, which reports 40 persons/sq. km. Although there is considerable urban drift to the cities of PNG, there are no recent statistical studies of the phenomenon. The UN Population Fund estimates that current growth rates are no higher than those measured in a 1980-90 study which showed 4.6% annual growth for Port Moresby and 2.7% annual growth for Lae on the north coast.

Though decreasing in size, there is still a relatively large expatriate community in PNG. About 10,000 Australians, 2,000 British, 3,000 New Zealanders, 2,000-2,600 Americans (mostly missionaries), and 5,000 Filipinos make up the bulk of an expatriate population estimated at 22,600. This number is decreasing as the government pursues a program to have Papua New Guineans take on jobs now held by expatriates.


Papua New Guinea is a young nation, made up of hundreds of smaller cultural groups, which speak nearly 800 separate languages. First loyalties are to family and clan. Strong attachment to the idea of a nation or obedience to government imposed regulations is common for the most part only among the educated elite. For most Papua New Guineans, the interface between traditional and modern economic and government systems is the "wantok system:" Wantok means literally "one talk," i.e., common language. It includes clansmen, relatives and friends who speak the same language. The wantok system involves people in an intricate network of rights and obligations extending well beyond the primary family. For a person who has prospered materially, the wantok system creates an obligation to assist other group members with gifts, money or jobs. To a Westerner, and occasionally to a Westernized Papua New Guinean, the wantok system may seem regressive or an impediment to modernization. However, most Papua New Guineans still regard it as part of the basic scaffolding of their social system. Forced to choose between obligations to the extended family and to their employers, many Papua New Guineans will choose the family first, which poses a problem for foreign managers.

Generally speaking traditional society in Papua New Guinea is male dominated and, in some areas, polygamous. Melanesian society generally does not have hereditary chiefs. Villages and clans are dominated by a Big Man, someone who has attained power and influence through demonstrated ability and the acquisition and sharing of property. Although most Papua New Guinea microsocieties feel that important matters should be decided by consensus, it is the Big Man who shapes the consensus. In Port Moresby, these structures are hidden, but they do exist and are important. Members of Parliament and senior government officials at both national and provincial levels often are Big Men in their own microsocieties or are close relatives of Big Men. Women are traditionally expected to be subservient to their male relatives; to be seen and not heard. Fewer girls than boys attend school and the rate of literacy for women is lower than for men. Bride price, which traditionally cemented social obligations between families and clans, is frequently abused in the modern economy, particularly in areas where cash incomes are high. This makes it hard for young men to get wives legally and reduces marriage in some cases to the purchase of women. Nevertheless, with increased education and economic opportunity, the gap between male and female is slowly closing.

As in many other developing countries, there is a steady flow of economic migrants from the rural areas to Papua New Guinea's few cities. Jobs, particularly for those with little education, are generally not available, and basic needs, which in the village are either produced by the family or gathered from the forest, are expensive. Most rural migrants to the cities live in shanty towns, called "settlements," which have few, if any, public services and where crime breeds and criminals take refuge.

Public Institutions

Papua New Guinea became self-governing on December 1, 1973. The Australian Government progressively transferred political and administrative responsibilities, and Papua New Guinea gained full independence on September 16, 1975.

The Constitution provides for a national government consisting of a Parliament and an independent Judicial system. The Parliament is a single-chamber legislature based on a modified Westminster system whose members are elected for 5-year terms under a system of universal adult suffrage. The last national election was held in June 1997.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State; she is represented in Papua New Guinea by a Governor General who must be a citizen of Papua New Guinea and is required to act under the advice of the National Executive Council. Executive power is vested in the Cabinet (National Executive Council), led by the Prime Minister (Head of Government).

The National Executive Council is made up of members of the National Legislature (Parliament) who are chosen by the leader of the political party or coalition of parties that holds the most seats in the Parliament. Party influence is weak and members of Parliament are often elected on the basis of their prominence in local communities rather than their party affiliation. Consequently, ideologies are not sharply drawn between parties, and voters frequently cross party lines. As a result, the governments since independence have been formed by different, highly fluid coalitions. Votes of no confidence are common, and debate is often vigorous.

The country is divided into 19 provinces plus the National Capital District (NCD-Port Moresby). A constitutional amendment in 1995 significantly changed the administration of the provinces. It both centralized the political control of the provinces-by appointing as governors the regional members of the national parliament and providing most provincial funding through the national government-while decentralizing to the provinces the responsibility of providing most government services for the people, such as health and education. Implementing the new system has proven to be more difficult than originally envisioned, and many coordination problems are still being worked out.

Arts, Science, and Education

There is a system of state and private schools in Papua New Guinea which provides primary through tertiary education. However, education is neither compulsory nor free, and overall school facilities are not sufficient to meet the rapidly growing numbers of children who require education. Failure to provide education appropriate to fill the demand for skilled workers has created large groups of early school leavers among the PNG population who do not have sufficient skills to find jobs, but who have just enough education to make them dissatisfied with village life. Expatriates in Papua New Guinea and well-to-do Papua New Guineans either enroll their children in private institutions or send them abroad for schooling.

Approximately 72% of Papua New Guineans are literate. English is introduced into the school curriculum no later than second grade, and all those who complete the sixth grade or better can speak and read English. Reforms introduced in primary education in 1994 divide early education into elementary, grades prep through two, and primary, which carries the student through grade eight. Secondary schools are divided into lower secondary, grades nine through ten, and upper secondary, grades eleven through twelve. National examinations are given at grade six and grade ten. Students who cannot pass those exams, or whose parents cannot afford to pay for continued schooling, must leave school. As of 1996, a little over 90% of school age children started primary school. However, only 33% of those could expect to go on to lower secondary, and only 10% of those in lower secondary, will be able to complete 12th grade. The school reforms, which aim for universal primary education by 2004, hope to enable at least 50% of all primary school graduates to go on to lower secondary. However, shortcomings in budgets and administration in recent years make it unlikely that the target will be met by that date.

A correspondence system, known as the College of Distance Education (CODE) covers grades 7 through 12 and is available to children who cannot find places in the high schools. As of 1996, about half the number of those enrolled in high schools were enrolled in CODE courses. There are also 14 centers for the disabled throughout PNG, which are operated by Non-Government Organizations with some support from the Government of Papua New Guinea.

There are over fifty tertiary institutions, the most important of which are the University of Papua New Guinea at Port Moresby (liberal arts, law, medicine, and business administration), the Papua New Guinea Institute of Technology at Lae, and the University of Papua New Guinea at Goroka (teacher training and business education).

Private international schools operated under the aegis of the International Education Agency (IEA) and staffed primarily by expatriate teaching staff, are found in the main population centers. Of these there are about 22 primary schools and eight high schools in the country.

Papua New Guineans express their rich cultural heritage in wood carvings, pottery, bark painting, dancing, costuming, and personal ornamentation. Oral tradition and legends, which are often surprisingly similar despite the diversity of peoples and languages, have also played an important role in the culture. They form the basis of traditional village social structure and are reenacted in song and dance. They are also depicted in carvings and bark paintings that are closely associated with clan customs and ceremonies. Magic and ancestor worship also play an integral part in everyday village life. The PNG Government promotes indigenous art and is actively sponsoring a revival of older forms of cultural expression. Artists now also work in such modern mediums as textiles and lithographs.

Port Moresby's excellent National Museum and Art Gallery has a large permanent collection of traditional arts. The National Library also has an extensive collection of books and video tapes on aspects of life in Papua New Guinea, both traditional and modern, which Embassy personnel can borrow. The National Research Institute has a variety of publications, tapes, and records of traditional songs, stories, and legends. Other groups, including the National Theatre company, Raun Raun Travelling Theatre, and National Arts School, present cultural events periodically.

Several art shops in Port Moresby sell artifacts collected from all over the country. Hundreds of dancers from various villages, wearing elaborate headdresses and body decorations, perform annually at the world famous Highlands Sing Sing, held alternately in Mount Hagen and Goroka. The annual Hiri festival is held in Port Moresby each September with a week of traditional dancing, singing, sailing, and canoe racing. The latter commemorates old trading voyages that set out from the region when the southeast trade winds were blowing and returned with the northwesterly monsoons.

Commerce and Industry

The World Bank classifies Papua New Guinea as a middle-income country based on its estimated 1995 per capita GNP of $1,160. However, although capital intensive exploitation of natural resources (copper, gold, oil, timber), along with tree crops (coffee, copra, palm oil, cocoa), generates significant export revenues, at least 80% of the population reside in isolated villages, engaged in subsistence agriculture and smallholder cash-crop production. Non-export private-sector activity is mainly distributive rather than productive. Thus, the living standards and standard social indicators (such as literacy, infant and maternal mortality, and life expectancy) of the vast majority of the people are akin to those in low-income developing nations. The minimum weekly wage in 1998 was slightly less than $11.00.

Traditional villages are still home for most of the population, but education and exposure to Western culture are leading more young people to leave the village to look for work in towns. Unfortunately, economic growth in the non-mining sector has not kept pace with population growth over the past decade. The relatively small urban-based manufacturing and service sectors are unable to provide jobs for the increasing numbers of youths who leave their villages. Consequently, centers such as Port Moresby, Lae and Mount Hagen have large, growing, squatter settlements.

In an effort to slow migration and bring villagers into the money economy, the Government encourages agricultural development. Agricultural extension services and price-support programs have encouraged the planting of export crops. In addition, the Government has supported projects including large sugar, oil palm, and rubber plantations, which are now slowly being privatized. Development of locally-owned commercial fishing and sustainable forestry ventures is also a goal.

Economic growth continues to be hampered by the geography of the country. The extremely rugged terrain inhibits road construction; and the capital and most populous city, Port Moresby, is accessible only by sea or air. In the center of the country, the Highlands Highway links the port of Lae to major towns and mining and petroleum sites in the Highlands. Additional road development has been slow since independence and maintenance of existing roads has been poor, though improving this is a major goal of the Government's development program. Some third-tier airlines and helicopter companies complement the national airline, Air Niugini, in providing cargo and passenger service to over 400 airports and airstrips throughout the country. Coastal and inter-island shipping is expensive and often not equipped to carry passengers.

Papua New Guinea is heavily dependent on imports for manufactured goods and exports raw materials and agricultural products. In 1997 Papua New Guinea imported $1.5 billion in machinery, transportation equipment and other manufactured goods, rice and processed foods, fuels and chemicals. Its principal suppliers are Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Malaysia. During the same year, it exported $2.2 billion in gold, copper ore, oil, timber, palm oil, coffee, and cocoa. Its major markets are Australia, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea and China. U.S. trade with Papua New Guinea is limited. In 1997 U.S. goods, dominated by machinery and aircraft, accounted for about 8 percent of PNG's total imports. During the same year, the United States purchased about 3 percent of PNG's total exports, primarily oil, coffee and cocoa.

Historically, the mining and petroleum sector has contributed 25% of PNG's GDP and between 65 to 80% of export earnings. While production from older major ventures, including the Ok Tedi Copper Mine, the Porgera Gold Mine and the Kutubu oil fields, has begun to decline, new projects are under development or active exploration. The Lihir Gold Mine, one of the largest gold mines outside South Africa, commenced production in 1994 in New Ireland Province. A new oil field was also opened at Gobe in the Gulf and Southern Highlands Provinces in 1998.

U.S. companies have been active in the development of PNG's mining and petroleum sector. Chevron owns part of the Kutubu and Gobe Joint Ventures and operates those fields. The company also is spearheading a major natural gas development project. Battle Mountain Gold owns an interest in the Lihir Gold Mine. Other American companies are exploring for oil, gas, and minerals in PNG. U.S. firms also supply services and supplies to the mining and petroleum industries. U.S. financial institutions have been involved in financing for most major resource development projects in PNG. The Bank of Hawaii has been operating in PNG since 1997.



Port Moresby consists of several suburbs spread over a large area. This, combined with inadequate public transportation, makes a privately-owned vehicle a necessity. Vehicles can be imported, but all common Japanese models, Australian Ford, and Hyundai are sold and serviced in Port Moresby.

Traffic moves on the left, and right-hand drive cars are required by law. The 3-year Papua New Guinea driver's license is obtained by presenting a valid U.S. driver's license. Third-party liability insurance is mandatory. It currently costs K120.00 ($56.00) per year. Two insurance agencies in Port Moresby provide coverage at K1,050.00 ($494.00) per year plus 3% sales tax. Letters from former insurers indicating no insurance claims over the past 5 years can sharply reduce insurance fees.

Gasoline currently costs approximately $1.64 per gallon. Vehicle repairs and service are expensive, often slow, and the quality of work is uneven. All sales outlets service the brands they sell, but repairs on cars not sold in Port Moresby can be hard to obtain. Considerable delay and expense can be incurred if spare parts must be imported.

Four-wheel drive vehicles are not necessary for driving in Port Moresby. Bicycles are not practical due to the extremely hilly terrain and narrow roads.


Use of a private car is essential in Port Moresby. No adequate, reliable public transportation system exists. Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs-small buses or 15-passenger vans) offer unscheduled daytime service for 50 toea ($.24) to most parts of the city, but they are often unreliable and unsafe. Cars are available for hire, but cost more than they do in the U.S. Taxis are unsecure and not recommended.

Except for the Highland's Highway beginning in Lae, and roads around most major towns, no extensive road system exists in the country. Road networks between Port Moresby and the interior have been prevented so far by barriers of mountains, swamps and jungles. The longest road from Port Moresby extends just over 200 miles to the northwest. Another road extends 200 miles east, and a third stretches 45 miles north into the mountains past Sogeri. None of the roads reaches a town of over 1,000 inhabitants and highway banditry is common. Paved roads stop approximately 20 miles from city limits.

Papua New Guinea has no rail network. Intercoastal shipping exists but is not designed for passenger travel.


Most people travel between the main population centers by air. The national airline, Air Niugini, provides daily service to most major towns. Planes are usually full, even though domestic and international air fares are among the highest in the world. Third-level air carriers fly to more isolated towns and villages that have grass airstrips.

Air Niugini and Qantas offer several flights a week to Australia. Currently two flights a week also are available to Manila, Singapore and Honiara.


Telephone, Fax and Internet

The telephone system in Papua New Guinea is relatively efficient. Australia and most main areas of PNG can be dialed directly.


Local and international mail service is reliable. Within country, mail is delivered only to a post office box or counter, not to individual companies or residences. Mailing a letter within country costs K.25 ($.12) for up to 50 grams. Airmail letters to the U.S. cost K1.00] ($.47) per 20 gram. Airmail parcel rate to the U.S. is K30.50 ($14.341 per kilogram.

Radio and TV

Radio is the most accessible communications medium in PNG where rugged terrain prevents newspapers from reaching the more remote communities and television is beyond the reach of the vast majority of citizens. Most radio stations broadcast news several times a day and most programs are in English.

There are three radio broadcasters in Papua New Guinea: the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), NauFM and Radio Kalang. NBC manages the majority of the radio broadcasting operations in the country. It operates a national noncommercial AM network that, during the evening, also broadcasts in short-wave in local languages from 19 provincial stations located throughout the country. NauFM operates two stations. It broadcasts in English featuring popular music and is targeted at a young, professional audience. As Yumi FM, it also broadcasts in Tok Pisin, a service that targets an older and more traditional audience. Radio Kalang is a commercial FM station which offers music, news and commentary.

Radio Australia, BBC, and VOA signals can be picked up on a short-wave radio. Reception is usually good with an outdoor antenna. Short-wave sets purchased locally cost about 25% more than comparable sets sold in the U.S. The local cable company also makes four Australian radio stations available to cable TV subscribers for a regular monthly charge.

The national TV station, EM-TV, broadcasts news, old American and Australian programs and movies, as well as some local programming. It receives news via satellite from its parent network in Australia. Satellite TV can be rented at a fee of K56 ($25.00) per month. It currently offers 14 channels, including CNNI, Cinemax, ESPN, the Discovery Channel, four Australian channels, and a local movie channel.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Two English-language newspapers, the Post-Courier and The National, are published 5 days a week in Papua New Guinea. A few magazines, technical journals, and various weeklies are also published, including the Pidgin language Wantok and the English-language The Independent. Coverage is usually unbiased and accurate, although the international news is not extensive.

Australian newspapers and magazines, regionally oriented journals, and a few general interest American magazines are available at news stands. Paperback books are also available, but the selection is poor and prices are high.

The National Library in Waigani has a good collection of nonfiction, periodicals, and children's books. It also has research facilities and a lending service of some 6,000 films and 400 video cassettes, including documentaries about Papua New Guinea. The library at the University of Papua New Guinea has an extensive but outdated selection of books and audio materials. It, too, is open to the public.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Port Moresby General Hospital can handle most routine cases, however, service and hygiene are inadequate by U.S. standards. The hospital is chronically short on staff and overcrowded, while most of the employees are undertrained or untrained. Thus, personnel are advised to use the private medical clinics in Port Moresby that are staffed by Western-trained doctors. Local pharmacies stock a full range of medicines to meet most medical requirements. Some lab tests must be performed in Australia, causing delays which can be lengthy.

Specialized surgery and treatment for more unusual or difficult medical problems are not available in port Moresby. Cases requiring special treatment are normally evacuated to Cairns, Brisbane or Sydney, Australia. Psychiatric treatment is not available in Port Moresby.

Competent, private dentists practice in Port Moresby. General treatment is available, but costs are higher than in the U.S.

Community Health

Tap water should not be considered safe for drinking in Papua New Guinea. Garbage is collected at residences twice a week by the City Council Works Department. Sewage disposal facilities are adequate, though a fair amount is dumped into the Coral Sea 3 miles offshore from Port Moresby, so the area is not safe fox swimming. Local food container and beverage sterilization facilities are considered to be adequate. Milk is safe. Meat, fish and poultry do not require special handling, but should be thoroughly cooked. Local seafood should never be eaten raw. Local vegetables and fruits should be well scrubbed and soaked in a Clorox solution.

Preventive Measures

Many of the communicable diseases found in Papua New Guinea also occur in the United States, however, some conditions are found more frequently in PNG. Intestinal problems occur, but dysentery is not common. Chloroquine-resistant malaria is endemic at lower elevations in all areas outside Port Moresby. Port Moresby has a relatively low incidence of malaria, however cases do occur, and precautions such as antimalarial tablets (Mefloquin is most commonly used) should be taken beginning 2 weeks before coming to PNG, taken during the stay in country and for 6 weeks after leaving. Because of the nocturnal feeding habits of the Anopheles mosquito, malaria transmission occurs primarily between dusk and dawn. Personal protection measures are very important. Use of a repellent cream or spray when going out in the evenings is recommended, especially during the rainy season. Visitors should get current information from traveling into remote areas of PNG.

As in all tropical climates, sunburn, prickly heat, and various fungal infections are easy to contract. All cuts and scratches should be treated immediately with a good antiseptic to prevent infection. Snake bites can be a danger, so grass surrounding residences must be cut regularly to discourage their presence. Care should be taken when visiting uncultivated areas. Large spiders are seen occasionally, but are seldom dangerous.

For 8-9 months of the year, the climate in Port Moresby is warm and dry with some dirt and dust in the air. During the remaining 3-4 months of the year, it is hot, humid and rainy. Flu and colds can occur during the sudden change from dry to wet season and vice versa. Persons with a history of sinus allergies or asthma may find their symptoms exacerbated by the environment. Mold and mildew are a problem here, though somewhat less than in other equatorial posts due to the relatively dry weather. Air conditioned storage is recommended.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Travel to Papua New Guinea is by air. The most direct route from the United States is via Sydney, Australia. United Airlines is the only American carrier which flies to Australia. Transportation between Sydney and Port Moresby is available from Qantas four days a week and between Cairns and Port Moresby seven days a week. Air West also provides regular service from Cairns. In order to make these connections it is necessary to overnight in Australia. Connections to Port Moresby are also available twice a week by Air Niugini from Manila and Singapore.

Customs clearance usually requires a minimum of five working days. Unaccompanied baggage takes about two to three weeks to reach Port Moresby by air from the United States. Surface shipments average 4 months in transit. Most surface shipments are trans-shipped at either Hong Kong, Singapore or Sydney. Customs clearance for household effects usually requires a minimum of five working days.

A valid passport, onward/return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds for the intended visit are required. Tourist visas are required for stays up to 60 days. (Visas are issued upon arrival at Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby). Business visas require passport validity of at least one year from the date the visa is issued, two application forms, two photos, a company letter, biographical data, a recent annual report of the parent company and a fee for multiple entries. An AIDS test is required for work and residency permits (U.S. test accepted).

American citizens who remain in Papua New Guinea beyond the period authorized by immigration authorities may face fines and penalties. Papua New Guinea collects a departure tax. The departure tax is normally incorporated into airline fares at the time of ticket issuance.

For more information about entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Papua New Guinea, 1615 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20009, Tel. 202-745-3680, or visit the Embassy's website at

Travelers may also wish to obtain entry permission from the Government of Australia for transit or other purposes (see section on Medical Facilities) before traveling to Papua New Guinea. American citizens no longer need a visa to travel to Australia as tourists but must obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) through their travel agent. For further information about Australian visas or the ETA, contact the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C., at 1-800-242-2878 or at the Embassy of Australia's website at

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby and obtain updated information on travel and security within Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy is located at Douglas Street, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. This address should be used for courier service deliveries. The Embassy is located adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1492, Port Moresby, N.C.D. 121, Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy's telephone number is (675) 321-1455; fax (675) 321-1593. Americans may submit consular inquiries via e-mail to: [email protected].


All pets, except those originating in Australia or New Zealand, are prohibited entry into Papua New Guinea unless they have been quarantined for six months in either Australia or New Zealand. Pets originating in New Guinea, however, can be acquired in Port Moresby.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

Papua New Guinean and American currency may be exchanged freely through the banks. The Papua New Guinea kina and toea (100 toea = 1 kina) are the only legal currency in the country. No restrictions are placed on the amount of currency a person can bring into Papua New Guinea. Travelers may not export more than K5,000 kina without special permission.

The exchange rate floats freely. As of December 1999, the rate was US$1 = K2.85.

Jackson's International Airport at Port Moresby has banking and exchange facilities. Persons not traveling on a diplomatic passport are required to pay a departure tax of K30.00 ($14.00). Most hotels, restaurants and shops accept major U.S. credit cards. Papua New Guinea uses the metric system.

Disaster Preparedness

Papua New Guinea is located in an area of high seismic activity. Although the probability of a major earthquake occurring during an individual trip is remote, earthquakes can and will continue to happen. In addition, there are two active volcanoes near the town of Rabaul on New Britain. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page at


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter Saturday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

June Queen's Birthday Celebrated*

July 23 Remembrance Day (ANZAC)

Sept. 16 PNG Independence Day

Sept. 21 St. Michael's Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



The Department of State has issued the following public announcement concerning safety in Papua New Guinea:

Although reliable statistics are difficult or impossible to obtain, violent crime is a serious threat in many areas of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The visitor to PNG can minimize the potential to become a victim of crime by taking appropriate precautions, for example, by taking part in organized tours run by reliable and experienced operators. This primer provides basic guidance for those who will be visiting PNG for a short period. Persons who plan to stay in PNG for more than a week or two should get in touch with the Embassy or long-time residents for additional guidance.

There are several universal ways to stay out of trouble: do not increase your vulnerability by drinking heavily or staying out after midnight; do not patronize disreputable bars; do not proposition women; do not visit squatter settlements or other economically distressed areas; do not display money or valuables; and do not verbally abuse, cheat or tempt PNG citizens. Wear modest clothes, jewelry and watches so as not to draw attention to yourself. Limit your conversations with members of the opposite sex to chose persons you know or have business with.

Persons arriving at the Port Moresby Jackson's International Airport should arrange, if possible, to be met, particularly if their flight arrives at night. If no one meets you, it is possible to take a courtesy bus to the Gateway, Islander Travelodge or Port Moresby Travelodge Hotels and contact your sponsor from there. The terminal itself is not a danger zone, but thefts and assaults have occurred in the terminal parking lot. If picking up a rental vehicle, obtain a street map and review it in the office before leaving. Do not travel by car outside Port Moresby at night, even on major highways. If you encounter a roadblock which does not appear to be manned by uniformed police, or notice a disturbance on the road ahead, turn around immediately, if possible, and use an alternative route. Police vehicles are sky-blue with red insignia.

Do not leave cash or high-value belongings in hotel rooms. Do not leave room keys on hotel counters when going out; drop them in the slot, if provided, or hand them to a clerk. Lock sliding glass doors or windows when going out.

Up-scale restaurants and stores usually have their own security guards. It is still advisable, however, to remain watchful when entering or leaving. Ask the staff to assign someone to escort you to your car if you feel uncomfortable (particularly at night). Avoid carrying a purse or briefcase in public. Do not leave anything of even minor value in sight within a parked car.

Sexual assaults are primarily crimes of opportunity. PNG women rarely wear shorts, pants or mini-skirts; therefore, female visitors are advised not to wear revealing clothing in public such as swimsuits, sundresses, or similar apparel

Most expatriates avoid using public motor vehicles (PMVs) or taxis to get around, relying instead on their sponsor or a rental vehicle for transport. Visitors should inquire of colleagues or hotel employees before undertaking trips to unfamiliar neighborhoods.

Carjackings, rock-throwing and attempts to stop cars occur occasionally. Keep an eye on persons in the vicinity of your vehicle at all times, particularly when stopped at intersections or crosswalks.

Most hotels and private residences in Port Moresby have secure parking lots, i.e., fenced areas entered through gates opened by remote control or security guards. Try to avoid parking outside secure areas at night.

Individual travelers to the PNG highlands need to exercise substantially greater caution than those taking part in organized tours. The Highlands provinces--Enga, Chimbu, and Eastern, Southern and Western Highlands--can be volatile. Political disputes, inter-clan fights and sudden altercations (for example, at sporting events) occur frequently. Criminals have been known to set up roadblocks on segments of the Highlands highway, which runs from Lae to Mt. Hagen, Mendi and Tari. Visitors should inquire locally concerning security before driving between towns. An extensive secondary airline network provides frequent service within the Highlands.

Due to the risk of roadblocks, avoid traveling outside of Port Moresby, even on paved highways, at night.

Driving carefully is important because many PNG citizens respond emotionally and violently to a serious incident or an injury involving relatives or fellow villagers. Such reactions can endanger the life of the person perceived to have inflicted the loss, whether or not that person would be found legally responsible by a court. Drive defensively at all times, but particularly in the afternoons and evenings of "pay Fridays," when the likelihood of encountering inebriated drivers or pedestrians is greatest. Killing a dog or pig is almost certain to trigger a demand for monetary compensation, so exercise caution when driving through rural areas. Finally, it is unwise to provoke PNG drivers by cutting them off or gesturing rudely.

Short-term visitors who take the precautions outlined above are likely to find their stay in Papua New Guinea interesting, enjoyable and rewarding. The vast majority of PNG citizens are friendly, live peacefully and are eager to learn about life in other countries. Attention to personal security will enhance your confidence in undertaking personal and professional contacts, leading in turn, to a deeper understanding of Papua New Guinea and its people. Unfortunately, crime is a serious problem in Papua New Guinea, perhaps even more for Papua New Guineans than for visitors. The US Embassy emphasizes that there is no way to guarantee personal safety during a visit to PNG, only to minimize the chances of becoming a victim.


These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.


Beehler, Bruce M. A Naturalist in New Guinea. University of Texas Press: Austin, 1991.

Connolly, Bob and Robin Anderson. First Contact. Viking Penguin: New York, 1987.

Crocombe, Ron, Ed. Land Tenure in the Pacific. 3'd Ed. University of the South Pacific: Suva, 1987

Dorney, Sean. Papua New Guinea. Random House Australia: Sydney, 1991.

Dorney, Sean. The Sandline Affair. ABC Books: Sydney, 1998.

Dutton, Geoffrey. Queen Emma of the South Pacific. St. Martins Press: New York, 1977.

Howlett, Diana R. Papua New Guinea: Geography and Change. Thomas Nelson: Melbourne, 1973.

Kiki, Albert Maori. Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime. Cheshire Paperback: Melbourne, 1970

Lindstrom, Lamont and Geoffrey M. White. Island Encounters. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, 1990.

Matane, Paulias. My Childhood in New Guinea. Oxford University Press: London, 1972.

Mead, Margaret. Growing Up in New Guinea. Morrow: New York, 1976.

Somare, Michael. Sana, An Autobiography. Niugini Press Pty. Ltd: Port Moresby, 1975.

Thompson, Herb and Scott MacWilliam. The Political Economy of Papua New Guinea. Journal of Contemporary Asia: Manila, 1992.

Tree, Isabella. Island in the Clouds. Lonely Planet Publications: Hawthorn, Australia, 1996.

Waiko, John Dademo. A Short History of Papua New Guinea. Oxford University Press Australia: Melbourne, 1998.

Wheeler, Tony and Jon Murray. Papua New Guinea: A Travel Survival Kit. 5 Ed. Lonely Planet Publications: Hawthorn, Australia, 1993.

Video Tapes

Anderson, Robin and Bob Connolly. First Contact. Pacific Video Casette Series No. 1. Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies: Port Moresby

Anderson, Robin and Bob Connolly. Joe Leahy's Neighbours. Pacific Video Cassette Series No. 19. Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies: Port Moresby.

Anderson, Robin and Bob Connolly. Black Harvest. Pacific Video Cassette Series No. 25. Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies: Port Moresby.

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Papua New Guinea
Region: Oceania
Population: 4,926,984
Language(s): English, pidgin English, Motu
Literacy Rate: 72.2%
Number of Primary Schools: 2,790
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Foreign Students in National Universities: 281
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 516,797
  Secondary: 78,759
  Higher: 13,663
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 80%
  Secondary: 14%
  Higher: 3%
Teachers: Primary: 13,457
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 37:1
  Secondary: 24:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 74%
  Secondary: 11%
  Higher: 2%

History & Background

Papua New Guinea occupies 462,840 square kilometers of land and water off the coast of Southeast Asia. The island nation, roughly the size of California or Thailand, includes the eastern half of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, and about six hundred smaller islands between the Coral Sea and the south Pacific Ocean. Papua New Guinea's 4.9 million people (July 2000 estimate) speak more than 715 different languages. The government recognizes English as the nation's official language, but only between 1 percent and 2 percent of the population speak it. Pidgin, a mixture of English, German, and other languages, is spoken throughout the country.

Papua New Guinea remained fairly isolated from Western influences until the nineteenth century, although infrequent contacts were documented as early as the 1500s. The Dutch annexed the western half of New Guinea between 1828 and 1848. The British and Germans divided the eastern half in 1885; Great Britain took the south and Germany took the north. Great Britain transferred control of the southeastern portion of New Guinea to Australia in 1902, which renamed it Papua. Australia seized the northern region during World War I and assumed complete control of eastern New Guinea under a League of Nations mandate. The Japanese occupied most of the colonized areas of New Guinea during World War II. However, after the war, control of the island reverted to Australia as a United Nations trusteeship. Australia maintained control until Papua New Guinea claimed its independence in 1975. Australia remains one of Papua New Guinea's primary trading partners.

Since independence, Papua New Guinea has functioned as a parliamentary democracy, with a capital in Port Moresby and 19 other administrative provinces. About 15 percent of the population live in major urban areas. The country's national currency is the Kina (K1.00 equals about US$.31 as of February 2001.)

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Although Papua New Guinea's constitution does not address education directly, the document still provides the base for the nation's educational goals and philosophy. The constitution outlines five national goals and directive principles in its preamble, and the two most applicable to education focus on integral human development and equality and participation. These directives, according to the Department of Education, call for an education system "based on mutual respect and dialogue. . .to promote awareness of our human potential and motivation to achieve our National Goals through self-reliant efforts" (Department of Education 1991, 15). In addition, the constitution guarantees all citizens, regardless of their sex, color, creed, political opinion, or origin, equal access and participation in the country's development. Consequently, under its education philosophy, the government promises to educate all citizens.

Several education laws outline the structure and operation of the system. The Education Act of 1970 integrated the existing church and government education activities. Under the provision, the government assumed control for teacher salaries, staff employment, and curriculum development.

In 1977, the Organic Law on Provincial Government divided education responsibilities between the national and provincial governments. The national government controlled curriculum development, the minimum age for school entrance, the length of the school day and year, language of instruction, maximum pupil-teacher ratio, major exams, teacher conditions of service, teacher training, and the universities. Therefore, the provincial governments controlled preschool education, the location and number of primary and secondary schools, nonformal education, noncore primary curriculum, criteria used to select students for secondary school, and vocational schools.

The Education Act of 1983 established a national education plan and called on provincial governments to develop local plans. However, the government has had problems outlining the national components of the plan, while many provincial plans remain out of date.

Educational SystemOverview

Before the European colonization, the adults in each tribal society in Papua New Guinea educated their children on practical skills, social behavior, and spiritual beliefs. In 1873, the London Missionary Society established the first school to teach islanders to read scripture. After 1884, German and English missionaries established primary schools to teach Western concepts of morality, the German and English languages, arithmetic, and Christian doctrine. During the early 1900s, the British government encouraged missionaries to develop vocational education programs in Papua New Guinea to produce better farmers, crafts people, and skilled laborers. In 1914, Australia took control of the German colony in northeastern New Guinea. With Papua and New Guinea under its reign, Australia established English as the official language of instruction and laid the foundation for modern education in Papua New Guinea.

The Modern System: Papua New Guinea's education system has three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The academic year runs from January to December.

The primary schools, or community schools, provide six years of instruction for children 7-12, although attendance is not compulsory. Most instruction still occurs in English. However, in 1989, the National Department of Education adopted a language and literacy policy designed to encourage communities to start local language literacy preschools, convert first grade into a local language year or a bridging year from local language literacy to English literacy, or have noncore subjects (subjects other than language, math, science, and social studies) taught in the local languages. The 1989 Language and Literacy Policy also supported local language and cultural instruction at secondary and tertiary schools and local language literacy programs for adults.

Since 1993, many provinces have established village schools that focus on local language literacy. The village schools provide a preprimary level for children as young as five years of age that teaches the children in their native language. The schools also encourage the children to become literate in their local language before learning English.

About 70 percent of Papua New Guinea's school-age children receive some formal education, but only two-thirds of those who enter the first grade complete the sixth.

Students who reach the sixth grade must pass a national exam to continue their education. Papua New Guinea maintains two types of secondary schools: the four-year provincial high schools, for grades 7-10, and the two-year national high schools, for grades 11 and 12. Large towns generally have their own secondary schools, but students from rural areas often attend provincial boarding schools. English is the language of instruction at the secondary level.

About 35 percent of pupils who reach sixth grade ultimately transition to the seventh grade. The low transition rate does not reflect the number of students who achieve the level necessary to move to the provincial high schools; but rather, it reflects the limited number of places available to incoming seventh graders (Department of Education 1991). The provincial high schools base their acceptance on exam scores and provincial quotas and accept an equal number of sixth graders from each primary school. Students who do not attend secondary school can enter two-year vocational schools or continue their education by mail through the government-operated College of Distance Education.

Of those who continue to seventh grade, about 67 percent complete the tenth grade. In the tenth grade students must pass a second national exam to receive a Secondary School Leaving Certificate. Most end their education after tenth grade, but about 20 percent enter one of the four national high schools. The retention rate for the national high schools is about 95 percent. Students who complete twelfth grade face a third national exam that determines which higher educational opportunities go to which students. Regardless, most grade twelve graduates pursue some form of higher education. Students also can enter a two-year vocational or technical school after tenth grade. Those who complete the upper secondary level earn a Sixth Form Certificate or a High School Certificate, depending on the school they attend. A few of the best tenth graders enter a one-year university preparation program at the University of Papua New Guinea, but most students gain university acceptance by passing the National High School Examination at the end of twelfth grade.

As of 1996, a total of 500,000 children were enrolled in primary and secondary schools. About 70 percent of primary school-aged children attended school, but only 12 percent of secondary school-aged children were enrolled. Enrollment ratios vary widely between provinces and regions. In large cities and towns virtually all children attend school; but, in some remote highland areas, fewer than 7 percent of children receive any formal education. According to the 1990 census, 23 percent of the rural population completed sixth grade, 4 percent of the rural population completed tenth grade, and 24 percent of the rural population could read English. By contrast, the census showed that 56 percent of the urban population completed the sixth grade, 22 percent completed the tenth grade, and 58 percent could read English.

Many children, especially in poor, rural areas, never enroll because their families cannot afford the school fees, which can equal more than 50 percent of some families' earnings. Some primary and most provincial high schools charge fees, while the national high schools and most postsecondary institutions are free or subsidized with government scholarships. In 1993, the national government abolished some of the school fees traditionally paid by parents.

Female Education: Although schooling is open to all citizens, female enrollment lags behind male enrollment at most levels. In 1995, about 80 percent of children between seven and twelve years were enrolled in primary education. But 87 percent of boys in that age group were enrolled compared to 74 percent of girls. That same year, 14 percent of 13-18 year-olds enrolled in some form of secondary education. Enrollment included 17 percent of the boys and 11 percent of the girls in that age bracket. Girls account for about 38 percent of all high school students, but only 29 percent of the national high school students. In 1995, girls represented 32 percent of the students enrolled in all higher education institutions, but only 25 percent of the students in one of the nation's four universities. That same year, women made up 66 percent of the preprimary teaching staff and 36 percent of the primary-level teaching staff. Figures for the secondary and tertiary levels were not available. Literacy rates for women also fall short. About 62 percent of women age 15 and older could read and write in 1995, compared to 81 percent of men.

Private & Religious Schools: The International Education Agency is the largest independent education provider in Papua New Guinea. It was created in 1977 to manage the schools operated by the Australian and United Nations administrations before Papua New Guinea's independence.

The agency operates 24 independent schools and serves more than 5,000 students in preschool through the twelfth grade. All schools, except for one, offer preschool through grade six and most continue to grade eight. Only three schools, though, in Lae, Port Moresby, and Mount Hagen, offer ninth through twelfth grades. The schools do not have a religious affiliation, although, at the community's request, some offer nondenominational scripture classes on a voluntary basis.

More than 300 teachers from Papua New Guinea and other parts of the world work for the international schools. The International Education Agency also provides consultant services on school development and review, curriculum development, and professional development.

Tuition ranges from K 3,000 to K 20,000 per year. The amount depends on the training of the teachers at each school, and the general quality of resources. Between 75 and 80 percent of agency students are Papua New Guinea citizens, although percentages range from 50 to 100 percent within individual schools. The remaining students come primarily from Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Churches also play a significant role in Papua New Guinea's educational system. In 1995, churches operated 20 training schools for nurses and other community health workers. The Catholic Church was the leading provider of educational services, running one-quarter of the community schools and one-sixth of the provincial high schools. The Evangelical Alliance, the United Church, the Lutheran Church, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Anglicans also provide educational services.

The National Department of Education estimates that the government provides about 68 percent of lower secondary education services, churches provide 29 percent, and the international schools provide about 3 percent.

Educational Resources & Materials: The National Department of Education has provided textbooks to students since the 1990s. Before then, teachers relied on syllabi and teaching guides from the Department of Education's curriculum unit, which outlined what teachers should teach and how they should teach it. The production of education materials improved, though, during the last quarter of the twentieth century, as a result of two loans from the World Bank. The loans helped pay for primary textbooks in English, math, health, and community life; and secondary textbooks in English, math, science, and social studies. Most textbooks still are published in English; however, the Department of Education has explored producing resource materials that can be translated and adapted to the local languages. In addition, the curriculum unit provides curriculum statements, teachers' guides, in-service packages, radio broadcasts, videos, posters, science kits, practical skills and home economics kits, sports equipment, agricultural tools, and expressive arts equipment. As of the early 1990s, computers were not available to schools.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Early primary education was based on the Australian primary school curriculum. Missions operated village schools and boarding schools, usually for boys. After World War II, the Australian administration appointed a director of education and took control of the educational system. From 1946 to 1956 an average of 10 administration schools opened each year. All instruction was in English and, during the 1950s, most teachers were Australians or of other Caucasian ethnicities. During the 1960s Papua New Guinea pushed to localize its teaching service, and by 1970 most primary school teachers were Papua New Guineans. The number of primary schools increased after the country's independence in 1975, and the curriculum branch of the Department of Education took steps to make the school curriculum suit local needs.

Modern primary education, which includes grades one to six, focuses on basic skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Seven is the official entrance age, but older children enroll. Some provinces also offer preprimary programs to children as young as five years of age. Primary instruction occurs in English; however, the preprimary programs, and some first grade classes, provide lessons in the students' native languages.

Instructors also teach science, community life, agriculture, health, expressive arts, pastoral care, and physical education. Meanwhile, some education officials want more social, spiritual, ethical, moral, and vocational lessons in primary education. Attempts to integrate practical skills have been hampered by the strict certification and exam process students must complete. Students must pass the sixth grade exam to proceed to secondary school. As a result, teachers rate the importance of any subject taught based on the extent to which it appears on the exam. Consequently, practical skills, which do not appear on the highly academic exam, receive little instructional time.

Since the early 1990s, primary schools have received free textbooks at a rate of one textbook for every two students. However, many teachers do not incorporate them into their teaching styles or cannot access them because of distribution problems. Community schools also lack sufficient reading materials.

In 1995, Papua New Guinea had 2,790 public primary schools and 13,457 teachers serving 516,797 students. That same year, the nation had 29 preprimary schools with 53 teachers and 2,528 children. About 80 percent of primary school-aged children were enrolled.

Universal primary education remains a national goal, but the Department of Education has encountered several problems trying to achieve it. The primary school system suffers from a lack of teachers and funds (Department of Education 1991.) Moreover, not all provinces support the national goal or see the need to provide basic education to all citizens. Consequently, many provinces have focused on expanding their secondary schools and not their primary ones.

Secondary Education

During the 1940s and 1950s, the Australian administration in Papua New Guinea focused on developing the country's primary schools. In the 1960s, however, the policy changed under international pressure to expand the secondary school system, create an education elite, and prepare the country for independence. By 1972 the expansion movement had established lower secondary high schools in all of the provinces. Later, two national high schools, for grades 11 and 12, and two international high schools, mainly for expatriate children, were established. Between 1975 and 1985 Papua New Guinea had 32 provincial high schools and 3 national public high schools. The expansion efforts increased enrollment by 70 percent. Still, less than one-third of the pupils who completed primary school were offered places in a secondary school. In 1992, about 12 percent of children received secondary education, with about twice as many males as females enrolled. In 1995, some 68,818 students receivedgeneral secondary education.

Lower Secondary Education: The provincial high schools educate students in seventh through tenth grades on academic and practical skills. This prepares them for the national grade ten exam, which students must pass to earn a Secondary School Leaving Certificate. Students need a Secondary School Leaving Certificate to proceed to the national high schools, tertiary vocational and technical programs, teacher training colleges, and the preuniversity program at the University of Papua New Guinea.

About 35 percent of grade six students enroll in a provincial high school; provincial quotas limit the number of students accepted. Once they are enrolled, about 67 percent of students complete grade 10. Students are promoted automatically from seventh to eighth grade, but provincial high schools lose the greatest number of pupils between eighth and ninth grades. Female enrollment in the provincial high schools has increased since 1981; however, women still account for only 37 percent of the total enrollment. About 65 percent of girls complete tenth grade, compared to 72 percent of boys. Completion rates for women also vary by province and range from about 55 to 86 percent. Some provinces have seen a decrease in their percentage of women graduates. Papua New Guinea had about 130 provincial high schools in 1991, with 53,494 students. About 10,000 students graduate from tenth grade each year.

Upper Secondary Education: At the national high schools students in grades 11 and 12 receive a general, non-vocational education that prepares them to enter a university, a tertiary institution, or go directly to work. About 95 percent of students who enter the national high schools complete the twelfth grade. Students who reach twelfth grade must complete a national exam that determines which higher educational opportunities students receive. The exam also governs most curriculum decisions. Those who pass earn the National High School Certificate, and most pursue higher education.

The four national high schools enroll about 2,000 pupils and produce about 1,100 graduates each year. About 29 percent of the students enrolled are women. In 1990, the National Executive Council approved the Education Access and Expansion Act with the intent of doubling the number of national high school graduates by 1999. Meanwhile, the National Higher Education Plan of 1990 called for increasing the number of grade twelve graduates to five thousand during the same period. But the limited number of qualified teachers has hampered the expansion. In 1991, the four national high schools had 103 teachers; 58 of them were not Papua New Guineans. To produce 2,000-5,000 graduates each year, the national high schools needed an additional 100, up to 600, teachers. Many education officials believed the goal was unrealistic since the University of Papua New Guinea, the country's only training center for national high school teachers, did not produce enough teachers to meet the expansion demands of the early 1990s.

Alternate Forms of Secondary Education: Students who do not enroll in provincial high schools can continue their education in two-year vocational programs or through the College of Distance Education. Vocational centers provide basic vocational education to those who have left school and have not found employment or secured places in secondary school. In 1996, Papua New Guinea had 114 vocational centers that served more than 11,000 students who left grades six and eight. Many nongovernmental agencies, such as churches, the Young Women's Christian Association, and volunteer groups, also run vocational education programs without government aid. Some reports show that students prefer enrolling in the vocational centers to enrolling in the provincial high schools because they face more employment opportunities after graduation.

The Department of Education created the College of Distance Education in the 1980s to provide an alternate form of secondary education to students who could not attend the provincial high schools because of cost or lack of access. Students in the College of Distance Education complete their work by mail and through regional study centers. Students pay for lesson materials and grading, while the government maintains facilities and equipment. Most courses emphasize academics, although some officials want to include more vocational training. Students have encountered some problems though. Many complain that the material and courses are out of date and not relevant. In addition, they say the grading and processing of exams takes too long, and some papers get lost. Nonetheless, in 1992 the College of Distance Education had 10,469 students. It granted 876 certificates for grade 10 and 622 for lower grades.

Higher Education

Until 1963 the Australian colonial administration neglected higher education, but a visiting United Nations mission criticized the policy and urged the administration to establish institutions for higher education. So, in 1964, the administration created a college to train Papua New Guineans for administrative and clerical jobs. In 1966, the government established the country's first university, the University of Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby. The first class graduated in 1970. The government also established the Institute of Higher Technical Education in Port Moresby in 1966. However, the university later moved to Lae as a result of public objections to having both of the country's universities in the National Capital District. In 1967, the Institute of Higher Technical Education became the Papua New Guinea University of Technology. The university awarded its first diplomas in 1971 and its first degrees in 1975.

In addition to the two universities, the government also established smaller specialty colleges during the 1960s. By 1970, the country had about a dozen small teachers' colleges, with the most important ones located in Port Moresby, Madang, and Goroka.

The National Higher Education Plan of 1990 sought to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of higher education. The plan proposed merging institutions and transferring programs to reduce duplicate services. Education officials also have pushed for a uniform accreditation policy to require higher education programs to conform to national qualifications.

As of 1996, Papua New Guinea had two public universities: the University of Papua New Guinea and the Papua New Guinea University of Technology, and two private ones: the Divine Word Institute and the Pacific Adventist College. The government pays most higher education costs and provides stipends for books, supplies, equipment, and even travel home for students who attend public institutions. The government also provides scholarships to approved academic programs at the Divine Word Institute and the Pacific Adventist College. The Divine Word Institute offers course programs in business studies, journalism/communications, and Papua New Guinea concerns. The Pacific Adventist College offers courses in education, business, agriculture, and theology. Some university students also study abroad. In 1993, some 435 students studied in Australia, the most popular choice for Papua New Guinea university students. New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States also are popular destinations.

University of Papua New Guinea: At the University of Papua New Guinea students can study the liberal arts, sciences, commerce, journalism, social work, library and information services, education, health sciences, medicine, law, creative arts, agriculture, business, secretarial services, police studies, and psychology. The university enrolls 2,000 full-time students and 100 part-time students and provides extension services to another 3,000 islanders. Most of the faculty still consists of expatriates, mainly from Australia, Great Britain, and other commonwealth nations; however, they are slowly being replaced by Papua New Guineans.

The university has a main campus and a separate medical campus in Port Moresby. There also are branch campuses at Goroka and Waigani, primarily for teacher training, and 11 extension centers throughout the country. The government offers scholarship support to about twothirds of the students admitted.

Students can earn certificates, diplomas, bachelor's degrees, or postgraduate degrees. Certificate programs, available in the visual and performing arts, require two years of full-time study. Students can enroll in the fine arts program after completing tenth or twelfth grade and demonstrating artistic ability. Students who complete the certificate program can earn a diploma with two additional years of full-time study.

Admission to the bachelor's programs requires a passing score on the National High School Grade Twelve Examination, or the Adult Matriculation Examination. The University's Institute of Distance Learning and Continuing Education, operated through the External Studies Department, administers the Adult Matriculation Exam. The University established the extension studies program in 1976 to provide upper secondary and university-level education to geographically and economically disadvantaged people. Instruction occurs face to face during the university's summer session and by mail at other times. Tutorial sessions at local extension centers supplement the correspondence courses. The extension studies program qualifies a large segment of the population for university entrance and provides in-service students a way to upgrade their skills. A select group of students enroll in the University of Papua New Guinea's preparatory program after the tenth grade. The university also accepts students based on the Australian and New Zealand University Entrance Examination scores.

Students in most bachelor's programs complete one year of foundation studies followed by three years of full-time study in their major. An initial medical degree requires five years of study. In most degree programs, students can earn an honors degree with one additional year of study.

Diplomas and bachelor's degrees in education, as well as in library and information services, are available at the main campus in Port Moresby in cooperation with the Goroka Teachers' College.

The university also offers some master's and doctoral programs. A master's degree takes one to three years of full-time study after earning a bachelor's honors degree. Most master's degrees also require a thesis. Doctorates are available in most fields, and require three to four years of additional study after obtaining a master's degree, in addition to a research thesis. The university does not offer any external or correspondence degrees.

Papua New Guinea University of Technology: The Papua New Guinea University of Technology enrolls 1,500 full-time students and a few part-time students. The university offers a two-year diploma program and four-year bachelor's degrees. The diploma programs include computing, building technology, surveying, and applied sciences. The diploma programs require students to complete tenth or twelfth grade for admission. The bachelor's degree programs include agriculture, architecture, business, engineering, forestry, languages, math, and applied sciences. Admission to the degree programs requires a National High School Certificate. The university also offers some one- and two-year master's programs and three- to five-year doctoral programs. First semester begins in January and goes until June, while the second semester runs from July to November.

Other Higher Education Opportunities: In addition to the four universities, Papua New Guinea also has smaller, specialty colleges that cater to specific fields of study. Most technical colleges accept students after tenth grade. The government provides scholarships to these institutions. Technical colleges train about twenty-three hundred students each year in thirty different trade areas. Most students usually complete one to two years of academic work, followed by an apprenticeship. Higher level certificate and diploma courses also are available.

The Pre-Employment Technical Training program offers one year of training in eight vocational areas: mechanical, electrical, vehicular, building, catering, printing, clerical, and laboratory. Students who complete a Pre-Employment Training course can enroll in an apprenticeship training program offered by the technical colleges. Apprentices also must have a training contract with an employer. After two years students can earn a Certificate of Higher Technical Education in architecture, building, catering, hotel administration, civil engineering, commerce, electrical engineering, laboratory techniques, and mechanical engineering. In 1990, 325 students completed certificate courses. Non-university postsecondary institutions served more than 5,000 students in 1996.

Papua New Guinea has more than 60 single-purpose institutions that offer training in primary school teaching, nursing, paramedical training, primary industries, technical education, banking, police studies, agriculture, law, and public administration. Several theological schools and seminaries also are available. In 1995, about 14,000 tenth grade graduates and 2,000 twelfth grade graduates applied for places in higher education institutions. Of the applicants, about 2,500 tenth graders and 1,400 twelfth graders were admitted. A total of 13,663 students, 32 percent of whom were women, were enrolled in higher education or pursued it through distance-learning opportunities in 1995. Education was the most popular field of study among the non-distance learners.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Administration: The Ministry of Education oversees the universities, the Commission for Higher Education, the National Department of Education, and the Teaching Service Commission. Papua New Guinea has 20 ministers of education: one at the national level, who also oversees the National Capital District, and one in each of the 19 provinces.

The universities handle their own administration because, unlike other tertiary institutions, they were established by an act of Parliament. They receive funds directly from the national budget, not through the Department of Education, and report to the national government through the Minister for Education. The Commission for Higher Education oversees all other tertiary institutions.

The Department of Education manages education for the entire nation under the direction of the National Education Board. The Department has some responsibility for primary and secondary education, and full responsibility for higher education. Provincial divisions of education and their corresponding education boards manage education at the local level. The Teaching Service Commission oversees all matters related to the terms and conditions of teacher service. Teachers who work for the International Education Agency are not part of the Teaching Service.

Finance: Even though education has been a priority for the Papua New Guinea government, it has suffered historically from a lack of funds. Between 1978 and 1988 education received a 39 percent decrease in real public expenditures. Between 1983 and 1991 education received no increase in funds and the allocation hovered around K 100 million per year, despite increases in student enrollment.

At the end of the twentieth century things seemed to improve. In 1999, the National Charter on Reconstruction and Development outlined five development priorities and primary education topped the list. Meanwhile, the government promised to provide basic education to all citizens, to increase access to higher education, and to improve access for women. The 2001 national budget seemed to reflect these objectives. The Department of Finance and Treasury appropriated K 596.3 million (20 percent of the 2001 budget) to education, more than any other area excluding debt service. The allocation represented an almost 18 percent increase in funding from 1999. The 2001 education budget also included a 9 percent increase in teachers' salaries. The total 2001 budget for Papua New Guinea was K 2.96 billion.

Educational Research: Three institutions conduct most of the educational research in Papua New Guinea: the Research and Evaluation Unit of the National Department of Education, the University of Papua New Guinea, and the National Research Institute. To a lesser degree, research also takes place at the Goroka Teachers' College and other higher education institutions.

The Research and Evaluation Unit, established in 1981, originally evaluated World Bank projects in Papua New Guinea. It expanded in 1984 to include an existing research branch of the Department of Education. Today it provides research and evaluation activities requested by the Department of Education and the provincial divisions of education. Most educational research focuses on curriculum development; staff training and development; planning, management, and administration; literacy; higher education; and vocational and technical education.

Nonformal Education

Nonformal education in Papua New Guinea includes village-based literacy programs for adults and children, agriculture and health programs, provincial and community libraries, and some distance-learning opportunities. Government support for nonformal education has been sporadic and disorganized; however, nongovernmental organizations have supported the effort.

SIL International (formerly the Summer Institute of Linguistics) is the largest nongovernmental organization involved in literacy. Church groups, the Young Women's Christian Association, and the Peace Corps also provide literacy services. In 1990, there were 79 literacy programs with a total of 258 classes. Since the 1990s the number of literacy programs offered in local languages has increased and communities have expressed a greater interest in non-English literacy materials. In 1995, approximately 72 percent of the population age 15 and older could read and write.

Papua New Guinea also has two distance-learning programs. Students can complete their secondary studies for grades 7-10 through the College of Distance Education or pursue upper secondary and university-level courses through the University of Papua New Guinea's Institute of Distance Learning and Continuing Education. Both distance-learning programs operate by mail. The Institute of Distance Learning also offers face-to-face instruction during the University of Papua New Guinea's summer session.

Community schools use radio broadcasts to supplement instruction, but most broadcasts are out of date and unrelated to the modern curriculum. Many areas have poor reception as well, which makes the broadcasts unavailable to a number of schools. In 1998, Papua New Guinea had 8 AM stations, 19 FM stations, and 28 short-wave stations. The country had about 410,000 radios. Television is available, but on a limited basis. The country had three broadcast stations in 1997 and about 42,000 televisions. Schools with access to televisions and video players use educational videos to supplement instruction, but the videos are limited. Papua New Guinea had two Internet service providers in 1999.

Teaching Profession

The lack of qualified, local teachers has limited the expansion of Papua New Guinea's education system. While enrollments in teacher training programs continue to increase, the number of new teachers produced does not meet the number needed to increase student enrollment at the primary and secondary levels. The attrition rate for teachers in 1991 was about 9 percent.

Primary teachers train in community-based teachers' colleges. Students enter after tenth grade and enroll in a three-year training course. In 1991, some 1,419 students were enrolled in one of Papua New Guinea's eight community teachers' colleges. Church organizations operate seven of the colleges, and the government operates one.

Training for secondary education teachers occurs at the Goroka Teachers' College and on the University of Papua New Guinea's Waigani campus. The Goroka Teachers' College is the primary source for provincial high school teachers. Students enroll after tenth or twelfth grade. They complete a three-year training program of general subject knowledge integrated with lessons on teaching skills. The Teachers' College also requires all students to study at least one core discipline (English, social studies, science, or math.) However, many students are uncomfortable with the requirement and ultimately drop out of the program. Graduates earn a diploma in secondary school teaching. The Goroka Teachers' College also offers several university extension programs and in-service training for teachers.

The education program at Waigani prepares teachers for the provincial high schools through a four-year program. During the first three years students study the arts and sciences, working toward a specialization in two subjects. Students spend their fourth year learning educational techniques and reviewing the provincial high school curriculum, teaching methods, and teaching practice. The Teachers' College at Goroka tends to produce teachers with better teaching skills, while the program at Waigani produces teachers with stronger subject knowledge.

The University of Papua New Guinea's Waigani campus also prepares teachers for the national high schools through a one-year postgraduate diploma program. The prospective teachers specialize in one or two subjects of the National High School curriculum and learn about teaching methods. Pre-service teachers at this level also practice their teaching at a national high school.

Prospective secondary high school teachers can also pursue a bachelor of education to meet their training requirements. At the University of Papua New Guinea, a bachelor of education takes four years to complete. Graduates of the program also lecture at teachers' colleges and can serve as school administrators at the national and provincial levels.

The University of Papua New Guinea also offers a bachelor of education in-service and a two-year bachelor's program for experienced teachers who wish to upgrade their skills and subject knowledge. Students also can pursue postgraduate diplomas, master's degrees, and doctorate degrees in education at the university.

Technical and vocational education teachers need a combination of schooling and experience in their field. Teachers for the Pre-Employment Training courses must complete tenth grade and have five years of industrial or commercial experience before enrolling in a one-year teacher training program. Teachers for the technical colleges train at Goroka Teachers' College. Teachers of courses for the Certificate of Higher Technical Education have university degrees or a Certificate of Higher Technical Education and three years of field experience. Teachers at the secondary vocational centers generally are tradesmen with four years of trade experience. They also must complete a one-year pre-service course at the Port Moresby In-Service College. Vocational teachers also come from the secondary teacher education program at Goroka Teachers' College. But, according to the National Department of Education, about half of all vocational instructors are unqualified.

Since the 1970s, the National Department of Education has provided in-service training to teachers at the school level and through National In-Service Training Week. National In-Service Training Week is a compulsory event held at the end of the first school term. Activities address administrative and organizational procedures and professional and curriculum development. Practicing teachers can also pursue education degrees through the University of Papua New Guinea's Extension Department. Secondary teachers who have assumed library responsibilities can pursue an advanced diploma in education studies/teacher librarianship through a two-year part-time summer program offered by the University of Papua New Guinea.

The Papua New Guinea Teachers' Association is the largest "white-collar" union in the country. The association represents about 80 percent of the teachers employed by the Teaching Service Commission. The organization promotes professionalism among its members and assists with educational development in Papua New Guinea. By legislation, the association has representation and voting rights on all national, provincial, and school-level education boards.


The expansion of Papua New Guinea's education system will not continue until the country produces a greater number of qualified teachers. Still, the nation is working to improve student retention rates, especially in the community schools, and to increase the transition rates into the secondary schools. Providing instruction and literacy materials in the local languages will help the country achieve these goals.

Yet, Papua New Guinea will face several education dilemmas as long as most of its population remains tied to the agricultural economy. Education officials must find ways to provide a relevant education to the 85 percent of students who remain in their rural and semi-rural communities and prepare the remaining 15 percent who find paid employment in government, business, and service industries. In general, the education most children receive does not lead to formal employment; at the same time, it alienates them from the skills they need to contribute in their home communities (Department of Education 1991). But, if the government can maintain its financial commitment to education, then Papua New Guinea's educational system most likely will continue to progress.


Bray, Mark. "Papua New Guinea." Education's Role in National Development Plans: Ten Country Cases, ed. R. Murray Thomas, 197-214. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1992.

Carpenter, Kenneth D. Pacific Islands: Niue, Tonga, Kiribati, Fiji, Papua New Guinea. Country Guide Series. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, 1996.

Morauta, Mekere. "From Recovery to Reconstruction. The presentation of the 2001 budget to Parliament." Papua New Guinea: Department of Finance and Treasury (2000): journal online. Available from:

Papua New Guinea Department of Education. Education Sector Review. Vol. 2, Deliberations and Findings. Port Moresby: Department of Education, 1991.

Papua New Guinea Department of Finance and Treasury. The 2001 Budget. Port Moresby: Department of Finance and Treasury, 2001. Available from:

Rannells, Jackson. PNG: A Factbook on Modern Papua New Guinea. 2nd ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Turner, Ann. Historical Dictionary of Papua New Guinea. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, 1994.

UNESCO. 1998 Statistical Yearbook. Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 1998.

Waiko, John. State of Higher Education in Papua New Guinea. A statement to the National Parliament. Papua New Guinea: Ministry of Education, 1996.

. State of Technical and Vocational Education in Papua New Guinea. A Statement to the National Parliament. Papua New Guinea: Ministry of Education, 1996.

Kristen Loschert

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Papua New Guinea
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 5,049,055
Language(s): English, Pidgin English widespread, Motu spoken in Papua region
Literacy rate: 72.2%
Area: 462,840 sq km
GDP: 3,818 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 3
Number of Television Sets: 42,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 8.3
Number of Radio Stations: 55
Number of Radio Receivers: 410,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 81.2
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 135,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 26.7

Background & General Characteristics

The independent state of Papua New Guinea enjoys some of the Pacific region's liveliest media coverage. Though its two daily newspapers are foreign owned, the private press reports vigorously on corruption and political issues.

Comprising the eastern half of the Pacific's largest noncontinental island and over 600 smaller islands, Papua New Guinea is located some 93 miles north of Australia. Its citizens are predominantly Melanesians and Papuan with some Negrito, Micronesians, and Polynesians. Official languages are English, Tok Pisin (the widely spoken Melanesian Pidgin), and Hiri Motu, but 867 indigenous languages are spoken among 1,000 tribes throughout the country. Interaction between regions has been largely restricted due to the topography of the land and the diversity of the languages. Its government is a federal parliamentary system, with periodic free and fair elections, and an independent judiciary.

Europeans first sighted Papua New Guinea in 1512. The country was divided between the Dutch, Germans, and British towards the end of the nineteenth century. In 1905 Australia took over the British sector naming it "the territory of Papua" and then captured the German sector during World War I. A member of the British Commonwealth, the country became fully independent in 1975.

Since independence Papua New Guinea has enjoyed strong media growth. In 1975 Papua New Guinea's major media consisted of one daily newspaper and one radio network. There was no television, and universities did not offer journalism training. By 2002, the region boasted two competing daily newspapers, a weekly English language newspaper, a television station, multiple radio stations, cable and satellite service, two university journalism programs, and several independent Web sites devoted to news and media analysis.

The nation's two daily newspapers, the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier (circulation 33,500) and The National (circulation 23,500), are both in English, with 15 copies per 1,000 people. The two weeklies, Wantok Niuspepa (published in Tok Pisin) and The Independent (English-language), have an aggregate circulation of 24,000. Of these four papers, all but Wantok Niuspepa also publish on the Internet. They compete aggressively in Port Moresby, but have limited circulation in other urban areas. Another English-language newspaper, the biweekly Eastern Star, is published in the city of Alotau, while the monthly, Hiri Nius, prints government news in all three official languages, with a circulation of 5,000. Newspaper circulation has increased steadily. In 1982 aggregate daily newspaper circulation was 39,000; by 1997 it had increased by 53 percent to 60,000. But the number of major daily newspapers has not increased since 1980.

In addition to Christian and national radio networks, the National Broadcasting Corporation has three networks: the Karai Service (English), Kalang FM, and the Kundu Service, which includes 19 provincial stations. The latter broadcast in an array of languages spoken in their respective regions. Some 650 of these languages have been identified, yet only 200 are related, and all are grammatically complex. A few hundred to a few thousand people speak each language. One native language, Enga, is spoken by some 130,000 people, and Melanesian Pidgin serves as the lingua franca.

The PNG FM company includes two commercial stations Nau FM (English) and Yumi FM (Tok Pisin). In 2000 a Motu-language station, FM Central, was launched. Listeners also receive Radio Australia's Papua New Guinea service broadcasts in Tok Pisin. There are two cable services with access to overseas channels and one local television station. Satellite broadcasting had become available by 2000.

The nature of media coverage in Papua New Guinea is strongly linked to the isolation of many of its peoples. The country's population is divided; some 85 percent live in remote villages, retaining ancient cultures and tongues, with little contact with the modern world. Few publications or televisions signals reach its rugged interior, where a multiplicity of tribal languages fragments communication. In addition to the absence of a common language, Papua New Guinea's literacy rate complicates the country's publishing climate; some 50 percent of its citizens cannot read and own no books aside from a Bible or hymnal. At the same time a literate, cosmopolitan culture of Australian expatriates bustles in the capital city of Port Moresby, where nearly all major print media are published. In a nation of geographically disparate peoples the majority of New Guineans count on radio as their primary news source rather than television, print, or online media.

The limited influence of Papua New Guinea's print media as a tool of political discourse was demonstrated during the pre-independence 1964 elections. Although the Australian government donated thousands of pamphlets and hundreds of tape recorders, loudspeakers, drawings, projectors, filmstrips, and flipcharts to local candidates, these materials went largely unused. Political advertising of election coverage and controversial correspondence were absent; not one candidate accepted a newspaper's offer of free publicity.

Most print publications in Papua New Guinea represent expatriates and the military, rather than natives. In 1888 its first newspapers represented white settlers, with the four-page weekly Torres Straits Pilot and New Guinea Gazette, as well as papers launched in 1917 and 1925. When the nation's three commercial newspapers ceased publication during World War II, mimeographed weekly news sheets appeared. Two tabloids appeared after World War II: The South Pacific Post reported Australian and overseas news from its offices in Port Moresby from 1951, followed by the New Guinea Times in 1959, published in the city of Lae. The two papers merged into the Post-Courier in 1969.

Newspapers targeting natives have been published irregularly. In 1962 the South Pacific Post launched the free, weekly Nu Gini Toktok published in Pidgin English with a special writing style explaining every word longer than two syllables. The paper specialized in self-help, health, housing, market reports on current prices for copra (dried coconut meat from which coconut oil is derived) and cocoa, comics, and radio listings; stories and photos were solicited from readers.

Nu Gini Toktok carried little international news except for stories about the United Nations or the South Pacific Commission, both of which have responsibilities in Papua New Guinea. Many stories were translations of Australian news inappropriate for the target audience; inconsistencies between readership and management ultimately killed the paper. Nu Gini Toktok's circulation never exceeded 4,000, and it closed in 1970. The church-owned secularly oriented Wantok, whose circulation of 10,000 includes distribution to all primary schools, replaced it.

Since Papua New Guinea's independence in 1975, several provinces have started their own newspapers. Niugini News, now closed, was started in 1979 and provided national and Australian news in simple English. Produced in Lae and distributed nationwide, Niugini News filled a gap for print media in some remote areas. Wantok Publications branched out to a more urban, educated audience with its 1980 acquisition of The Times of Papua New Guinea. This, plus the launch of the regional Arawa Bulletin, signaled a trend toward more local reporting.

In the twenty-first century Papua New Guinea's Post-Courier targets both native and expatriate populations. It features short articles, large sensational headlines, and an abundance of images to compensate for factors of illiteracy and lack of a common language. In 2002 front page news included Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, palm oil pricing, and a measles outbreak, while letters to the editor included an open letter to politically active clergy, a thank-you note to an honest newspaper salesman, and subjects ranging from local food banks to vote-counting debates.

As political parties evolved in Papua New Guinea, so did party newspapers. Pangu Nius was launched in 1970 as a monthly in English and Pidgin; the United Party also published a trilingual paper. Both had little success attracting advertisers. In addition to political papers nine church missions publish newspapers, some in three languages.

With the country's largest circulation, the Post-Courier is Papua New Guinea's most influential publication, followed by The Independent, which is distributed to a remote audience the urban Post Courier does not reach. The third most influential newspaper is Wantok, which serves the populace who speak Pidgin.

Australian media chains, religious organizations, cultural groups, or the government's Office of Information operate print publications in Papua New Guinea. For example, an Australian media conglomerate owns the Post-Courier. Papua New Guinea's Summer Institute of Linguistics publishes education materials in local languages, often developing a periodical geared toward interests of each individual region. In addition, religious denominations in Papua New Guinea operate their own publishing houses.

Economic Framework

Since indigenous peoples settled Papua New Guinea some 50,000 years ago, its population has relied on agriculture for subsistence. In the twenty-first century agriculture accounts for 25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and supports more than 80 percent of the population. Generating a GDP of US $10.7 billion in 1996, Papua New Guinea's workforce numbers 1.941 million. Cash crops include coffee, oil, cocoa, copra, tea, rubber, and sugar. The timber industry was not active in 1998, due to low world prices, but rebounded in 1999. About 40 percent of the country is covered with trees, and a domestic woodworking industry has been slow to develop. Top industries are coconut oil, plywood, wood chips, gold, and silver the country is rich in copper, gold, silver, and natural gas. Its annual $2.7 billion exports include gold, copper, coffee, palm oil, copra, timber, lobster, while the country imports $1.3 billion in food, machinery, transport equipment, fuels, chemicals, and consumer goods. Papua New Guinea's major trading partners are Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, the United States, South Korea, and Germany.

Manufacturing is limited, making up 9 percent of the GDP. Small industries produce beer, soap, concrete products, clothing, paper products, matches, ice cream, canned meat, fruit juices, furniture, plywood, and paint. U.S. companies are developing Papua New Guinea's mining and petroleum sectors; an American-financed oil refinery project estimated to produce 30,000-40,000 barrels-per-day is under development in Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea joined the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in 1993 and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1996. Australia is the largest aid donor to Papua New Guinea, offering about $200 million per year in assistance. It is followed by Japan, the European Union, the People's Republic of China, the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. International volunteers provide education, health, and development assistance throughout the country.

By 1999 Papua New Guinea's economy was troubled, as its foreign currency earnings suffered from low world mineral and petroleum prices. The resulting foreign exchange earningsin tandem with government mismanagementcaused the currency (the kina) to plummet. Economic activity decreased in most sectors; imports of all kinds shrank, and inflation, which had been over 21 percent in 1998, slowed to an estimated annual rate of 8 percent in 1999. Papua New Guinea received emergency assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Nearly all major media outlets in Papua New Guinea are foreign owned. Although the country enjoys a free press, critics fear the media could become a tool to influence popular support in favor of foreign investment.

The largest-circulation South Pacific daily, the Australian-owned Post-Courier, lists Rupert Murdoch's News, Ltd. as its majority shareholder, though private Papua New Guinea investors own one-third. Its coverage of Papua New Guinea and international news, sports, and business is published Monday through Friday and uses Australian Associated Press (AAP) news feed. The Post-Courier's circulation reached a peak of 41,000 in 1994, but it dropped after a rival daily newspaper, the Malaysian-owned National, was launched. Since 1998 the Post-Courier began publishing two magazines targeting the high-income sector; the weekly, general-interest Papua New Guinea (PNG) Magazine and Newagewoman, a monthly women's magazine mixing fashion with serious issues of domestic violence and sexual health. The Post-Courier also publishes the region's first Braille newspaper, The South Pacific Braille News, with an initial circulation of 400 upon its 2002 launch.

The Post-Courier's competing daily, The National, is owned by a Malaysian logging concern. It publishes little on the controversial subjects of logging and forestry, but is generally independent and unbiased on other issues. The first Pacific region daily to publish an online edition (1996), The National uses wire from Agence France-Presse. Both newspapers have shied away from using a six-day week publishing formula because of doubt that there is sufficient weekend market.

The weekly Independent is a product of the church-owned Word Publishing Co., which also prints the monthly PNG Business and the weekly, Tok-Pisin-language Wantok Niuspepa, with a circulation of 15,000.The Independent replaced The Times of Papua New Guinea in 1995. The government-owned monthly newspaper Hiri Nius had suspended publication in 2002.

Signals from the independently owned television broadcasting company, EM-TV, do not reach far outside Port Moresby. The government-owned National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) owns two radio networks that potentially could reach the entire country, but the networks are limited by poor funding and outdated equipment. A privately owned radio network in Port Moresby, NAU-FM, is expanding into other areas of the country.

Press Laws

The Papua New Guinean Constitution provides for free speech, including freedom of the media, and the government generally respects this freedom in practice. Specific acts of Parliament regarding defamation, commercial advertising, court evidence, and personal correspondence narrow the constitutional press freedom somewhat, while the Printers and Newspapers Act requires printer's and publisher's names to appear in the newspaper. The law neither authorizes nor restricts press freedom, but it does support circulation of the news. This is achieved through directives regarding all citizens' rights to participate in national development and the inclusion of native culture in this process.

The media provides independent coverage and analysis of major controversies, including the legal problems of government and opposition politicians. Since freedom of expression includes citizens and non-citizens relaying ideas, opinions, and information and refuting false statements through the press, an act of Parliament may enable access to mass media.

In 1994 Parliament approved the National Policy on Information and Communication of Papua New Guinea (NPIC). The comprehensive document regulates traditional media and new technology, including satellite broadcasting, information technology, cable television, print media, audiovisual media, advertising, and a code of ethics.


Papua New Guinea's Customs Act prohibits the importation of printed matter, film, or slides considered blasphemous, obscene, depraved, or containing contents including sex, violence, or crime. The courts occasionally tried citizens and foreigners under provisions of the Censorship Act banning the import, broadcast, or publication of materials deemed pornographic according to Papua New Guinea's Censorship Code. The usual sentence for violations is confiscation and destruction of restricted goods, although the courts can legally impose a fine of US $17 or more, or a prison sentence of up to 2 years. Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines were banned in 1995 for indecency in several of their issues.

Radio broadcast operators are required to maintain a high standard of programming. In this regard, radio programs that are morally acceptable to Papua New Guinean audiences are approved, with special attention paid to children's programs. Additionally, all programs must conform to the standards laid down and specified in the 1989 Censorship Act and administered by the Censorship Board of Papua New Guinea.

State-Press Relations

The government has been acutely sensitive to media criticism on several occasions. In 1997 the prime minister attacked as "totally unfounded" and "damaging to the country" a media reportlater confirmedrelating to strained meetings between a World Bank team and the government. The prime minister has tried to block journalists from reporting on Parliament. The forestry minister admitted to an unsuccessful attempt in September to convince EM-TV management to stop showing a documentary while it was being broadcast, saying the program was not in the people's interest. Such government sensitivities have apparently affected reporting. The editor of a Port Moresby newspaper has stated publicly that the media have deliberately chosen not to report on certain areas that would be open subjects in Western societies, such as the private lives of political leaders and allegations of corruption.

Foreign-owned news media rather than government are the greater threat to content diversity in the Papua New Guinea press. Both daily newspapers are foreign owned, as is the only television channel. There are three government-owned radio stations and one private locally owned radio outlet. The private press, including weeklies and monthlies, vigorously reports on corruption and other sensitive matters. The state-run radio news is generally balanced.

According to the Information Services Review Committee, a developing country's communications should be given top priority. In Papua New Guinea the Office of Information operates under the prime minister's department but is responsible to the minister of the media. The Office of Information has five divisions. The Information Division provides national and provincial government news, national and overseas publicity, government public relations, and technical assistance to departments using mass media. The Government Liaison Division implements and evaluates national communication projects. The Policy Secretariat Division formulates national communication policy. There is also a Division of Management Services Staff Development and Training. The Production Division is the largest of the five divisions. It designs artwork for publications and has the capacity to translate materials into two native languages. The division produces films and video, and publishes print materials including a free trilingual national government newspaper.

Government intervention with the commercial media started in 1942, when the Australian army closed one newspaper on censorship grounds. After World War II, native riots and other events underscored the need for improved communications between the government and people.

In 1997 the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), a parliamentary body, began a review of ways to make the media "more accountable" and to ensure that persons "aggrieved by media abuses have accessible redress." However, media and general public representatives reacted strongly, viewing the CRC effort as an attempt to control the media. The CRC initially reported that no new restrictions needed to be enacted and recommended instead that an independent media commission be established charged with self-regulation, an approach that the media representatives supported. However, media representatives again became concerned when the CRC chairman stated in October that the CRC had been directed to draft legislation to make the media more accountable and to establish an independent body, in addition to the media commission, that would look into complaints against the media.

The resulting Media Council is composed of representatives from most of Port Moresby's media outlets. One of its tasks is to regulate the media practice, and receive complaints and concerns raised by the public including the government and any person concerned with the media. Its mission is to develop media professionalism and to ensure Papuan New Guineans are protected by a responsible, active, free media.

Papua New Guinea's Media Council has created a Code of Ethics constructed to maintain public trust, retain their freedom of speech, freedom of press, and do nothing that will erode the credibility of their news media. It covers such issues as accuracy and balance, conflict of interest, privacy, children and juveniles, taste and decency, victims of sexual offenses, purchase of information, subterfuge and misinformation. The British High Commission in Port Moresby also funded a complaints tribunal.

Still, clashes between government and press occur. In 2001 students at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby conducted a sit-in outside government offices to protest the privatization of public utilities and foreign influence over the country's economic policies. After five days, police broke up the peaceful demonstrations by opening fire and killing four protesters. An EM-TV film crew was threatened during the violence, and their car was set on fire. Two Post-Courier reporters were also punched and kicked by protesters while reporting at a hospital. The same year the director of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was fired soon after the prime minister accused NBC of acting irresponsibly in airing "incorrect and inflammatory statements" about the military standoff. Despite his termination, the director told the daily National that "The government does not control [NBC's] program and editorial output despite its 100 percent ownership. It is the people's radio and it must remain that way." Later that year NBC suspended a news director over his coverage of the military and student protests, saying his broadcasts "threatened national security."

At the end of 2001, the government granted autonomy to the island of Bougainville, ending the province's 10-year struggle for independence, which killed some 20,000 people and has been called the bloodiest conflict in the Pacific since World War II. As part of the peace deal Bougainville is receiving funding to establish and develop local media, currently limited to one radio station broadcasting from Radio Australia.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Business travel to Papua New Guinea requires a passport valid for one year past entry, a business visa, and proof of an AIDS test to enter the country; and a journalist's visa for the members of the media.

Travel outside of Port Moresby and other major towns at night can be hazardous, as criminals set up roadblocks. In addition, travel to isolated places in Papua New Guinea is possible primarily by small passenger-aircraft to the many small airstrips scattered throughout the country, as roads are scarce.

Once in Papua New Guinea, foreign journalists have access to telephone, Internet, and telegraph services. These improved communications networks have dramatically increased the ease of foreign press operations and consequently international press coverage of Papua New Guinea. For example, only 21 articles appeared on Papua New Guinea in the New York Times from 1974 to 1978. But in another four-year period, from 1997 to 2001, the New York Times printed 165 stories on the country. In addition, international access to newspaper and other media Web sites located in Papua New Guinea has increased worldwide understanding and knowledge of the region.

Foreign correspondents in Papua New Guinea enjoy a fairly privileged position, with access to key governmental players. Journalism in the Pacific region operates under many pressures, and governments can very effectively limit the scope of local media organizations. Pressure can be applied, funding can be restricted, and individuals can be made to feel threatened. The resident foreign correspondent usually operates beyond the reach of those limits. In addition, local media often lack funding and resources; the work involved in delivering a major story is too much of a drain on the resources of a small broadcaster or newspaper. The foreign correspondent may be able to draw on the abundant resources of an international press service, using the already well established infrastructure of his or her media organization to deliver that story. From that point, local media often pick up the story, passing the blame to the foreign press organization.

Reports from foreign journalists indicate that multiple visas are difficult to obtain. In 2001 the Papua New Guinea government denied foreign journalists visas to avoid scrutiny of an asylum-seeker detention center on Manus Island, according to Reporters Without Borders, an international service organization. Some 360 refugees, largely Iraqi citizens, were reported to have been subjected to substandard living quarters and human rights abuses.

News Agencies

Getting up-to-date reliable information from the Pacific region has always been very difficult, according to David Robie, lecturer in journalism at the University of Papua New Guinea. The combination of orally based societies, limited technology, and unreliable telephone lines has meant the news from Papua New Guinea makes its way slowly to the outside world, if at all.

No government news agency exists in Papua New Guinea, but several private agencies operate. Among them are Tifa Papua, Jubi, and Info Papua. Pactok was set up in 1991 as a low-cost electronic mail network, carrying a Papua New Guinea news service or "niuswire" since 1996. Initiated by Pacific region journalist and educator David Robie, the service was created in response to requests from Papua New Guinea expatriates wanting to stay in touch with area news. The Niuswire carries stories from a variety of local sources, including the Post-Courier, as well as reports from the Association of Progressive Communication and InterPress Manila sources. Stories carried by the news service usually cover socioeconomic, political, environmental, and media issues.

The Australian Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, and Reuters are the main foreign news-wire agencies with an interest in the Pacific. Others include Kyodo, the Deutsche Press Association, and Knight-Ridder. Financial wire services also run stories touching on issues affecting trade or stock markets.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) continues to distinguish itself in the Pacific with a team of local contributors and stringers around the region who feed copy via Auckland into AFP's worldwide network. This combination of local knowledge, regional experiences, and an ability to translate the Pacific for Western audiences is unparalleled. Most world newspapers and even the Pacific media receive their news via AFP copy.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) maintains a resident correspondent in Papua New Guinea, providing radio and television coverage. It also retains a full-time correspondent covering the rest of the Pacific region from Australia. The correspondent coordinates a group of local stringers traveling regularly in the region. The ABC's international service, Radio Australia, provides specific programming about and for the Pacific region via short-wave radio, the Internet, and broadcasts on Pacific radio stations. These programs are in English and Tok Pisin. The ABC coverage of the Pacific, other than Papua New Guinea, has primarily been on radio, as television has not infiltrated the region.

Within the region, Pacnews plays an increasingly important media role. Media organizations around the Pacific send their top stories each day to the Pacnews office in Suva, where it is compiled into three daily dispatches and e-mailed and faxed to the growing number of subscribing news organizations. Pacnews provides access to firsthand reports, written by journalists on the spotPacific journalists writing about their own place and events, so they can explain with insight into the culture shaping those events. Though many of its subscribers are broadcast media, Pacnews is a text-only service.

The Internet has become a useful tool for media, primarily as another outlet for already established services. Most Western media organizations now operate Web sites that provide another outlet for their core services, allowing people in Papua New Guinea to read American newspapers within minutes of publication, and vice versa. E-mail has become an inexpensive and effective way of communicating, helping journalists to make contact across the vast distances of the Pacific region. The ABC now routinely uses the web and e-mail to file its stories. Foreign correspondents can load their voice report for radio into a laptop computer, compress it using new technologies, attach it to an e-mail, and send it home for broadcast, at the cost of a telephone call.

Several journalism networks and online media criticism organizations serving Papua New Guinea have sprouted since 1995. The Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) was formed in October 2001 to provide a formal network for Pacific Islands media. Although PIMA is headquartered in New Zealand, it represents Papua New Guinea media.

Pacific Media Watch is an independent, nonprofit, non-government organization of journalists. It supports media freedom, examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom, and media ownership in the Pacific region through its news articles and archives. The Asia-Pacific Network provides independent journalism on social, political, environmental, media, and development issues in the Asia-Pacific region and maintains an archive of Pacific media analysis and news.

Electronic News Media

Broadcasting in Papua New Guinea began in 1934 with the radio performance of a native missionary choir. By 1946 the country's Department of Education began creating programming for the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) station of news, talk shows, sports, information, and entertainment; 40 percent for natives, 30 percent for expatriates, and 30 percent for both populations.

By 1961 the government had begun its own broadcasting system, whose programming included music, agricultural features, international news, and local government council meetings. In 1973 the government radio merged with ABC to create the Papua New Guinea Broadcasting Commission. Its educational programming is significant in a country where schooling is not compulsory, and fewer than one-third of its citizens attend school at all. The educational broadcasts decrease isolation, upgrade educational standards, and supplement correspondence school programs. Though the station is government supported, it began broadcasting advertisements in 1977 to cover operating costs.

Papua New Guinea's only television station, EMTV, was launched in 1987. By 2002 the station operated two transmitters in Port Moresby and six others around the country, reaching just under two million people. Its programming includes local shows in English and Tok Pisin as well as Australian programming.

Papua New Guinea entered the information age in 1997, when Telikom PNG launched Tiare, the national Internet gateway service. In 2002 there were five commercial suppliers. Papua New Guinea's electronic media has entered the modern age, with improved communication, Internet publishing capability, a new television station, and burgeoning print press distribution. Although the Internet is regarded as a far-reaching method of conveying grassroots, independent information over great distances, it is ineffective within Papua New Guinea. Internet connections rely on a reliable phone system, rare in Papua New Guinea's interior. Not only are the web servers necessary to establish a Web site inaccessible to most Papua New Guineans, less than one percent of the population has Internet access at all, and few villagers have financial resources to obtain and power computer equipment. Barriers of illiteracy and diverse languages make Web news ineffective. Outside of the urban middle classes, television is a tentative and marginal media source, as barriers to owning televisions hinder access for a large part of the region' population. Radio remains the primary means of receiving news; a sociologist studying one native village discovered radios in half the homes.

Education and Training

Some 68 percent of New Guinean journalists have attended college, and the country is home to two university journalism programs. At the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), a journalism program has been in place since 1974. Over 170 UPNG alumni work in key media positions throughout the South Pacific. Its award-winning student newspaper, Uni Tavua, is partially funded by the Post-Courier, the Dutch Communication Assistance Foundation, and the New Zealand High Commission. UPNG's journalism program was closed briefly in 1999.

Among resources published by journalism students are the fortnightly newspaper Uni Tavur ; a media and communications journal, Pacific Journalism Review ; a daily Web site and e-mail news service, Niuswire ; a quarterly communications newsletter e-mailed to more than 80 subscribers, Media Nius; ; and a comprehensive new textbook on mass media in the region: Nius Bilong Pasifik: Mass Media in the Pacific. The University of Papua New Guinea was the first Pacific region university to launch a full online newspaper in 1995.

In the city of Madang, the Divine Word University offers a two-year journalism diploma and a bachelor's degree in journalism. The program was established in 1989. The department operates as a news agency covering the Madang area, and all students are required to undertake coverage of news events and feature writing assignments for national and international media organizations. Students regularly provide the Post-Courier, The National, and The Independent with news stories and features. Reports are provided for radio news bulletins and for EM-TV. Students also wrote an in-depth feature on polygamy that was published in an international magazine, and other articles were syndicated by the international agency Inter Press Service (IPS) Asia-Pacific.


Since declaring independence in 1975, Papua New Guinea has made enormous progress in media development. It has added television and online publishing to its list of media resources, and expanded circulation and distribution of print publications. With its burgeoning journalism education programs and free-flowing media discourse, Papua New Guinea can expect increased improvement in press objectivity, freedom, and methodology. Most major media is still in foreign hands, but the inclusion of Internet publishing may increase grassroots, independent media. With the continued cooperation of government agencies in maintaining press freedom and developing new ways to reach indigenous peoples, Papua New Guinea's press looks upon a bright future.

Significant Dates

  • 1987: EM-TV, Papua New Guinea's first and only television station, is launched.
  • 1994: Parliament approves the National Policy on Information and Communication of Papua New Guinea.
  • 1995: The National replaces Niugini News ; in 1996 it is the region's first online paper.


Asia Pacific Network. 2002. Available from .

Central Intelligence Agency. "Papua New Guinea." In CIA World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: 2002.

International Press Institute. "Papua New Guinea." 2000 World Press Freedom Review 2000.

Nash, Sorariba. "UPNG Lecturer Critical Over Lack of Hel,." Pacific Media Watch, 26 Aug. 1999.

Paraide, Daniel. "Papua New Guinea Report: Universal Access to Publications." Office of Libraries and Archives, Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Sept. 2001.

Programme in Comparative Law and Media, Wolfson University, Oxford University, and Yeshiva University. "Papua New Guinea." Communications Law in Transition Newsletter (Sept. 4, 2000).

Reporters Sans Frontiers. "Journalists Prevented From Reporting About Refugee Camp in Papua New Guinea." 15 March 2002.

. "Papua New Guinea Annual Report 2002."

Robertson, Robbie. "Challenges Over Pacific Free Media." Pacific Journalism Review (November 1995).

Robie, David. "On the Line: Papua New Guinea's Media Independence." Reportage Media Bulletin (Aug. 1996).

. "Post-Courier Shrugs off Buy-Out Claims." Asia-Pacific Network (April 11, 1999).

. "Press Freedom Ethics and the Constitution." Pacific Journalism Review (Nov. 1996).

U.S. Department of State. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices." Washington, D.C.: 1996.

. "Papua New Guinea." Background Notes. Washington, D.C.: 2000.

Blair Tindall

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Papua New Guinea


Independent State of Papua New Guinea



Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (the western half, called Irian Jaya or West Papua, is part of Indonesia), as well as some nearby islands. New Guinea is part of the Pacific island region known as Melanesia. Papua New Guinea lies at the southeastern edge of Southeast Asia, to the east of Indonesia, and north of Australia. The total area of Papua New Guinea is 459,854 square kilometers (285,753 square miles). Papua New Guinea's only land border is with Indonesia, and it is 820 kilometers (509 miles) long. The country's coastline is 5,152 kilometers (3,201 miles) long. Papua New Guinea is about the same size as California. The capital, Port Moresby, is located on the southern side of the mainland, on the Coral Sea.


Papua New Guinea has perhaps the world's most diverse population, with at least 846 indigenous languages spoken. The population is almost entirely indigenous Melanesian, with small numbers of European and Asian immigrants. The population was estimated at 4.7 million in 2000. The growth rate of the population was estimated at 2.3 percent in the same year. Although the overall population density of Papua New Guinea remains low, there are great differences between regions. In general, the low-lying, coastal parts of the country have fairly low population densities, while the mountain valleys, or "highlands," have much greater population densities. For example, the Western Province averages only 1 person per square kilometer (2.6 per square mile), while parts of the highlands average up to 100 people per square kilometer (260 per square mile).

Papua New Guinea has few large cities. The largest is the capital, Port Moresby, with a population over 400,000. The most serious population issue facing the country is the migration of rural residents to the cities, especially to Port Moresby and to the second largest city, Lae. Many of these migrants are unable to find jobs, leading to crime and other social problems. The Papua New Guinea government has sought ways to control population growth but faces an uphill battle.

The population of Papua New Guinea is generally quite young, with 39 percent between the ages of 0-14, 58 percent between the ages of 15-64, and only 3 percent over the age of 64.


The extraction of Papua New Guinea's rich mineral and petroleum resource base dominates the national economy, accounting for 72 percent of export earnings. Gold, copper, and petroleum are the most important of these resources. Mining, however, is concentrated in only a few areas, employs only a small percentage of the country's population, and is dominated by international corporations. Most Papua New Guineans (85 percent) depend on subsistence agriculture , in which crops are grown for family and local use and not exported. Papua New Guinea's tropical climate and rich soil allow both subsistence and commercial agriculture to flourish. The commercial agricultural sector, which once dominated the economy, has greatly decreased in size relative to the growing mining sector. Coffee, palm oil, cocoa, and coconut products (a dried form called copra and coconut oil) are the most important agricultural exports. Forestry is also a growing economic sector. Despite its rich mineral and agricultural resource base, Papua New Guinea has limited manufacturing and service sectors, and must import most manufactured products such as machinery, motor vehicles, and many foods.

The diversity of the population, political disputes, and the ruggedness of Papua New Guinea's landscape have been the key factors limiting economic development in the country. Changing political leadership and policies since independence in 1975 have hampered long-term planning. Additionally, the rugged terrain of much of the country, with extensive swamps, mountains, and scattered islands, requires expensive communications and extraction infrastructure with high maintenance costs. Conflicts between the national and provincial governments reflect the country's diversity and add to the difficulties of formulating economic policy. A revolutionary movement on the island of Bougainville, the location of one of Papua New Guinea's largest mines, led to sabotage and closure of the mine in 1989. The mine has not reopened but recent peace talks are putting an end to the conflict.

Papua New Guinea's total external debt is estimated at US$2.4 billion (1999). In 1998, the country's debt service stood at US$178 million. Australia is by far the largest donor of foreign aid, giving about US$150 million each year. Much of this aid is used for the development of health services, infrastructure, education, and the maintenance of law and order. Papua New Guinea also receives aid from other donors such as the Asian Development Bank. Donors have also provided additional aid in times of crisis, such as during the devastating 1997 drought.


The territory comprising today's Papua New Guinea was colonized in the 19th century by both Germany and Great Britain. The British territory was transferred to Australia in 1906. During World War I, Great Britain acquired the German territory and in 1920 transferred control of this territory to Australia as well. Australian policy and culture shaped much of modern Papua New Guinea, and the country remains a constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth II as the ceremonial head of state. The parliament is unicameral (it has only 1 chamber) and the prime minister is a member of parliament. Mekere Morauta became prime minister in 1999 at the head of a coalition government. Papua New Guinea's parliamentary, political, and judicial institutions are similar to those in Australia and Great Britain.

The cultural and regional diversity of Papua New Guinea's population means that there are many political parties. The main ones are the Black Action Party, Bougainville Unity Alliance, Christian Democratic Party, Hausman Party, League for National Advancement, Liberal Party, Melanesian Alliance, Melanesian Labour Party, Milne Bay Party, Movement for Greater Autonomy, National Alliance, National Party, Papua New Guinea First Party, Christian Country Party, Papua New Guinea United Party, Peoples Action Party, and Peoples Democratic Movement. In the 1997 elections the People's Progress Party won the most votes, with just 15 percent, and led the coalition government. Because of the high number of parties, governments are composed of coalitions between several parties.

Papua New Guinea is divided into 19 provinces plus the national capital district. Legally, the national government retains most political power, and the provinces are therefore politically quite weak. In practice, however, the national government is often unable to exert its authority in provincial matters. The weakness of the national government in practice is demonstrated in the continuing difficulties on the island of Bougainville. In 1989, a rebel movement called the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) seized control of the Panguna mine on the island and demanded full independence for the province. The mine was closed and is not likely to reopen. Peace negotiations have been taking place over the past 3 years and are close to being resolved.

Papua New Guinea's government has in general encouraged foreign investment, especially in the mining industry. This is done by offering favorable tax rates for mining companies. The national government often takes a part interest in large mining projects by owning a portion of the stock in these projects, which provides revenue for the government. The national government also gathers revenue from personal taxes (on property and vehicles), a value-added tax (VAT), corporate income taxes , and mining taxes.


Papua New Guinea currently has a limited infrastructure, largely due to the country's rugged terrain. Extreme weather, such as storms and floods, means that roads and other infrastructure deteriorate quickly. Political disputes and corruption, leading to unnecessary infrastructure and the diversion of money away from useful projects, also contributes to the problem. Papua New Guinea has 19,600 kilometers (12,179 miles) of roads, of which only 686 kilometers (426 miles) are paved (approximately 3.5 percent of the total). The main ports are at Port Moresby, Lae, Madang, and Rabaul. There are 492 airports, but only 19 have paved runways. The national air carrier is Air Niugini, which flies domestically as well as to Australia, several Asian countries, and the Solomon Islands. There is no rail system in the country.

About 70 percent of Papua New Guinea's electricity comes from fossil fuels, with hydroelectric power providing the remaining 30 percent. The total electricity consumption in 1998 was 1.618 billion kilowatt hours (kWh).

Telecommunication systems in the country are generally adequate. Papua New Guinea had 44,000 telephone mainlines in use in 1995, and has recently established a cellular telephone network in several areas. By 1997,

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Papua New Guinea 15 97 24 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.49 2
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Australia 293 1,376 639 43.6 286 48.6 411.6 477.85 6,000
Indonesia 24 156 136 N/A 5 0.9 8.2 0.76 900
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

there were 3,053 mobile cellular subscribers. In 1999, the country had 2 Internet service providers.


Papua New Guinea is heavily dependent on the development of its natural resources. Its rich mineral deposits make the country a leading world supplier of gold and copper. Mining began on a large scale in the 1970s and rapidly surpassed agriculture as the largest source of export earnings. However, the mining industry is concentrated in a few areas and does not employ many people. Most of the population still depends on subsistence agriculture for its livelihood. The manufacturing and service sectors remain extremely small in comparison. In 1999, agriculture represented 25 percent of GDP, industry represented 35 percent, and services 40 percent. Papua New Guinea's mineral-based economy is subject to world market fluctuations in commodity demand and prices.


Agriculture is important to Papua New Guinea for both income and as a source of food. In total, the agricultural sector contributes 25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), not including subsistence agriculture. This contribution comes primarily from the production of crops such as coffee, oil palms, cocoa, and coconuts, all of which grow well in the country's tropical climate. Coffee, palm oil, cocoa, and coconut products (copra and oil) are the main agricultural export revenue earners, with US$240.3 million total value in 1998, and their production employs an estimated 77 percent of labor in the country. The bulk of Papua New Guinea's export agricultural products are produced by villagers. Australia, Japan, and South Korea have consistently been the major buyers of the country's agricultural exports since 1970.

Most Papua New Guineans own the land on which they grow their own food crops, of which sweet potatoes, sago, bananas, coconuts, taro, and yams are the most important.

Forestry is an emerging part of the agricultural sector, and about one-third of forest lands have been opened to commercial exploitation. Much of the timber industry is dominated by Malaysian companies. Papua New Guinea is now the world's second-largest exporter of round tropical logs, most of these going to Japan and Korea.



Since the 1970s the mining of rich mineral deposits has dominated the Papua New Guinea economy. In contrast to the agricultural sector, mining in Papua New Guinea is characterized by large and highly mechanized operations. Copper, gold, and crude oil are the key income earners for the country.

In 1970 mineral exports were a mere 1 percent of total exports. Within 2 years, this figure had risen to 55 percent. By the start of the 1990s the contribution of the mining sector to total exports had continued to rise, reaching 70 percent. The large Panguna mine on the island of Bougainville opened in 1972, and until its closure in 1989 was one of the largest copper mines in the world. The shutdown of the mine was due to what many people have charged was environmental havoc created by the mine. It also became a flashpoint for resentment against the Papua New Guinean government by the indigenous people on Bougainville.

Since the closure of the Panguna mine, gold has been the main mineral export earner for the country, with a peak contribution to export value of 50.9 percent in 1991. In 1994, gold was contributing 26.4 percent of the value of total exports, equal to crude oil as the dominant export earner. Gold is mined at Porgera in the highlands and at several other locations, and in 1997 a new gold mine on Lihir Island opened. The Lihir mine reserves are estimated to be 103.4 million tons of ore, with a mine life of approximately 37 years, making it one of the world's largest gold reserves.

The Ok Tedi copper mine near the border with Indonesia has in some respects replaced production from the closed Panguna mine. Ok Tedi is expected to operate for about 10 more years, though because of a lawsuit resulting from environmental damage caused by mining, the main operating company, Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP), would like to close the mine earlier, against the wishes of the Papua New Guinea government.


The manufacturing sector in Papua New Guinea is small. In the 15 years between 1977 and 1992, the manufacturing sector's contribution to GDP varied between 15-18 percent. Food processing, beverage production, and tobacco processing are the main products manufactured in the country.

The Papua New Guinea government uses tariffs and subsidies , as well as direct industry support, to keep this sector afloat. While the industry has become dependent upon such measures, the government sees the manufacturing sector as providing employment for the increasing number of urban migrants. Most manufacturing is for domestic consumption only, and does not generate any export earnings.


The services sector in Papua New Guinea is small and almost entirely in the public sector . This sector employs an estimated 17.2 percent of the labor force , consisting mainly of government employees such as administrators, teachers, and health care workers. Approximately 66,000 tourist visas were issued in 1997, though under 10,000 of these are "real" tourists, with the others being people visiting relatives and other temporary visitors. Tourism generated US$72 million in 1997, but the high cost of travel to and within the country limits tourism development at present. Financial services are likewise a limited sector.


Papua New Guinea's traditional trading partners have been consistent for both exports and imports since the

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Papua New Guinea
Exports Imports
1975 .441 .592
1980 1.031 1.176
1985 .912 1.008
1990 1.144 1.193
1995 2.644 1.452
1998 1.677 1.189
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

early 1970s. Prior to independence in 1975, Australia was the main buyer of Papua New Guinean exports, and while this relationship has continued, Japan, South Korea, Germany, and New Zealand have since played major roles as importers of Papua New Guinean goods. In 1998 20 percent of Papua New Guinea's goods went to Australia, 13 percent to Japan, 7 percent to Germany, 5 percent to South Korea, 4 percent to the Philippines, and 3 percent to the United Kingdom. Traditionally, the major exports to these countries have been cash crops such as copra, cocoa, and coffee. Australia has been a major buyer of Papua New Guinea's gold. Minerals are also exported to such countries as Japan and Germany. Papua New Guinea purchases most of its imports (machinery, foods, and technology) from these same countries, and especially from Australia. In 1998 Australia accounted for 51 percent of the country's imports, Singapore 10 percent, Japan 8 percent, the United States and New Zealand 5 percent, and Malaysia 3 percent. In 1999 the country enjoyed a positive trade balance of nearly a billion dollars on exports of US$1.9 billion and imports of US$1.0 billion.


Since 1994 the kina has fallen dramatically relative to the U.S. dollar. The depreciation of the kina means that imports into the country become more expensive, limiting Papua New Guinea's ability to purchase technology and manufactured goods. In general, the country's

Exchange rates: Papua New Guinea
kina (K) per US$1
Oct 2000 2.810
2000 2.696
1999 2.539
1998 2.058
1997 1.434
1996 1.318
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

finances have been characterized by relatively low inflation since independence, except for a period of higher inflation in the 1990s. The inflation rate was 16.5 percent in 1999.

Papua New Guinea's first stock exchange, in Port Moresby, opened in 1999. The first 4 companies listed were Oil Search, Orogen Minerals, Lihir Gold, and Steamships Trading.


Papua New Guinea has a complex distribution of wealth. The extremely varied and rugged terrain kept some indigenous people of the country isolated from any connection with the "modern world" until as late as 1970. This factor, combined with the belated and rapid economic development from the 1970s, has produced a highly variable distribution of income and wealth. While much of the wealth from economic development has been concentrated in urban centers, cultural factors also feature in the distribution of poverty and wealth. Much of Papua New Guinean society is still very traditional, and differs from European-based societies in several important ways. Papua New Guinean society is centered around agriculture and attachment to the land. Land is rarely sold, but instead is inherited by children. Papua New Guinean society has a complex structure, with many bonds among family members, distant relatives, and neighbors. These bonds include obligations to share wealth, and to give and receive gifts. Papua New Guinean society did not and does not have a tradition of chiefs or leaders who gain their status through inheritance. Instead, in traditional Papua New Guinea society men become leaders through their own efforts, especially through the gaining and sharing of wealth. All of these factors are important in the way that wealth is distributed in the country.

Despite these cultural factors, the Papua New Guinea government has made some efforts to decentralize servicesespecially health and educationand to provide equal access to them throughout the country. These efforts, begun in the 1970s, have made little difference, if any, in greatly varying levels of income and wealth between

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Papua New Guinea 1,048 975 936 888 1,085
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Australia 14,317 15,721 17,078 18,023 21,881
Indonesia 385 504 603 778 972
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Papua New Guinea
Lowest 10% 1.7
Lowest 20% 4.5
Second 20% 7.9
Third 20% 11.9
Fourth 20% 19.2
Highest 20% 56.5
Highest 10% 40.5
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

urban and remote areas. About 85 percent of the population still depends on subsistence agriculture, and 37 percent of these people are below the poverty line.


Papua New Guinea has a total workforce of 1.941 million, and the unemployment rate has fluctuated between 3 and 10 percent since the 1980s. The development of new sectors in the Papua New Guinea economy has shaped the characteristics of employment. Before 1950, plantations provided almost the sole source of employment for both women and men, with only a fraction of the workforce employed formally. Little changed until after World War II, when both a legal minimum wage was set and the transition to a formal cash wage system was under way. By the 1950s Papua New Guineans were extensively employed in all areas of the country's economy. Women's participation in the formal employment sector has remained very small, with an estimated 14 percent of wage employment in 1980. Women and unskilled men are still subject to difficulties in job advancement. Regional differences in employment are extreme. Most formal employment is in the urban centers, especially Port Moresby.

Working conditions vary accordingly. The plantations have traditionally required a young workforce, owing to the early retirement of plantation employees, whose work is hard and largely unregulated. In contrast, those sectors such as mining, which have been driven by the infrastructure created by international corporations, provide considerable salaries (and benefits to land owners). However, the value of mineral exports in relation to agricultural subsistence or commodity exports means that the proportion of those involved in the mining sector remains very small in comparison. Papua New Guinea also has a substantial informal sector , consisting of small businesses that do not typically pay taxes or keep accounting records. Such businesses receive little support from the government, even though they may be in great need of loans to help start and expand their activities. Life for these small businesses is made even more difficult by laws that require them to, for example, obtain licenses or record their profits.


1526. First European exploration by Spaniard Don Jorge de Meneses, naming the principal island "Papua."

1545. Spaniard Ynigo Ortis de Retez names the island "New Guinea."

1828. The Dutch East India company, which controls the western part of the island, declares the island to be a colonial possession attached to the Dutch East Indies.

1884. Germany takes possession of the northeast part of the main island and the nearby smaller islands, while Great Britain establishes a protectorate on the southern coast of Papua.

1920. Britain, which took control of German possessions on the island during World War I (1914-1918), grants control of the entire territory to Australia.

1942. Japan takes possession of the Australian territories of New Guinea and Papua early in World War II. Following the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Territory of Papua is joined in administrative union with the Territory of New Guinea.

1964. The first House of Assembly opens, replacing the Legislative Council.

1972. The name of the territory is changed to Papua New Guinea; the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville island opens.

1973. Papua New Guinea receives self-government.

1975. Papua New Guinea achieves independence.

1984. The Ok Tedi copper and gold mine opens near the Indonesian border.

1990. The environmental consequences of mining come under scrutiny following natural disasters at Wau and Bulolo from disposal of tailings into Bulolo River.

1997. Lihir gold mine opens on Lihir Island.

1999. Port Moresby Stock Exchange opens; Sir Mekere Morauta becomes prime minister following the resignation of Bill Skate.


Papua New Guinea will continue to depend heavily on mineral exports for the bulk of its foreign currency earnings, while simultaneously remaining a largely agricultural country in terms of employment and food production. Exploration for new mineral deposits continues on a large scale, and several projects, such as a nickel mine in Ramu, are likely to open within the next few years. The Lihir gold mine, one of the world's largest, has recently started operating and production is expected to increase. As always, the mining sector is subject to international market conditions, especially demand for minerals and changing prices.

The country's mining sector is coming under increased international scrutiny for its environmental practices. For example, villagers downstream from the Ok Tedi mine have accused the mining company of negligence in releasing toxic materials into local rivers and other water sources.

Papua New Guinea is also likely to see a continuation of political tension, especially with respect to tensions between the national and provincial governments. The independence movement on Bougainville island still simmers, although there is hope that peace talks will finally resolve the dispute. Other provincial governments are demanding greater powers and the national government will have to come to terms with these demands.


Papua New Guinea has no territories or colonies.


Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). Papua New Guinea: Improving the Investment Climate. Canberra, Australia: ANUTECH, 1995.

Connell, John. Papua New Guinea: The Struggle for Development. London: Routledge, 1997.

Economic Insights Pty Ltd. The Economy of Papua New Guinea .Canberra: Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Papua New Guinea. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Lal, Brij V., and Kate Fortune, eds. The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Papua New Guinea. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Michael Pretes

Rory Eames


Port Moresby.


Kina (K). One kina equals 100 toea. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 toea, and 1 kina. There are notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 kina.


Oil, gold, copper ore, timber, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, coconut products.


Machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, fuels, chemicals.


US$11.6 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$1.9 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$1 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.).

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Official name: Independent State of Papua New Guinea

Area: 462,840 square kilometers (178,704 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Wilhelm (4,509 meters/14,793 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern

Time zone: 10 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 2,082 kilometers (1,294 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest, 1,156 kilometers (718 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest

Land boundaries: 820 kilometers (510 miles) total boundary length, all with Indonesia

Coastline: 5,152 kilometers (3,201 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The territory of Papua New Guinea includes the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and a group of offshore islands, all located in the southwest Pacific between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean. The country shares a land border with Indonesia. With a total area of about 462,840 square kilometers (178,704 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of California. Papua New Guinea is divided into twenty provinces.


Papua New Guinea has no outside territories or dependencies.


Papua New Guinea is a tropical country, but it has two main seasons and two transition periods: December through March brings the northwest monsoon, April is a transition month, May through October brings the southeast monsoon, and November is a transition month. Average lowland temperatures range from 21°C to 32°C (70°F to 90°F) while the Highlands have temperatures as cold as 3°C (37°F). Lowland humidity averages 75 percent to 90 percent, and Highland humidity averages 65 percent to 80 percent.

Most of Papua New Guinea gets its rain from the northwest monsoon from December through March, but some areas, such as Lae and the Trobriand Islands, get their main rainfall from May through October. The Solomon Islands and the Louisiade Archipelago are out of the monsoon pattern, so rainfall occurs there year-round.

Port Moresby receives less than 127 centimeters (50 inches) of rain per year. Rainfall is heaviest in the island of New Guinea's western river basin region, averaging up to 584 centimeters (230 inches) a year. The average annual rainfall for all of Papua New Guinea is 203 to 254 centimeters (80 to 100 inches). Snow and ice cover the highest mountain peaks.


The island of New Guinea, the second-largest in the world (820,003 square kilometers/ 316,605 square miles), is divided in half between Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian province of Papua (formerly Irian Jaya.) The border between the two is a nearly straight north-south line. The island of New Guinea was formed by the colliding Australian and Pacific Tectonic Plates. New Guinea's mountains have isolated the surrounding regions from one another, producing diversity in languages, customs, and wildlife. The mountains form chains crossing the island, with riverine plains interspersed. Hundreds of smaller volcanic and coral islands lie off the eastern shore to complete the nation of Papua New Guinea, but 85 percent of the total land area is on the island of New Guinea itself.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The seas surrounding New Guinea all belong to the Pacific Ocean. The Bismarck Sea is to the north of the main island of New Guinea and is encircled by the Bismarck Archipelago. To the east of New Guinea is the Solomon Sea, which is enclosed by New Britain, Bougainville, and the Solomon and Trobriand Islands. The Coral Sea is south of New Guinea and north of Australia.

About 40,000 square kilometers (15,444 square miles) of coral reefs, rich in marine life, lie close to the shore of New Guinea. The Ontong Java Plateau, one of the world's largest ocean lava platforms, is to the northeast of New Guinea. The Eastern and Papuan Plateaus lie beneath the Coral Sea.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The D'Entrecasteaux Islands enclose Milne Bay at the southeastern end of New Guinea. The Gulf of Papua is an inlet of the Coral Sea on Papua New Guinea's southern coast. The coast indents at Astrolabe Bay near the town of Madang. The Torres Strait separates New Guinea from the northern tip of Australia and leads to the Arafura Sea of Indonesia. The Vitiaz Strait flows between the Huon Peninsula and New Britain. The natural harbor of Port Moresby, the nation's capital, is situated on the south side of the arm of southeast New Guinea.

Islands and Archipelagos

Papua New Guinea includes more than fourteen hundred islands besides New Guinea itself. Off the north coast of New Guinea are the volcanic Manam, Karkar, Long, and Umboi Islands. To the east of New Guinea are the islands of the Bismarck Sea and Solomon Sea. A chain of volcanoes formed New Britain Island, in the western Bismarck Archipelago. New Ireland, also in the western Bismarck Archipelago, contains limestone mountains. New Hanover and Mussau are smaller islands in the same area. Further west in the Bismarck Archipelago is Manus. Manus and the surrounding coral atolls form the Admiralty Islands.

The two largest islands in Papua New Guinea are the mountainous, mineral-rich Bougainville, which is 204 kilometers (127 miles) long and 80 kilometers (50 miles) wide; and Buka, which is 56 kilometers (35 miles) long and 14 kilometers (9 miles) wide. These two land masses are part of the chain of islands known as the Solomon Islands (not to be confused with the country of that same name). There are also many small atolls near these islands.

Many of the twenty-two small islands comprising the Trobriand Group in the Solomon Sea are low coral types. They include Kaileuna, Kiriwina, Kitava, and Vakuta. Other island groups in the Solomon Sea include the D'Entrecasteaux Group, the Louisiade Archipelago, and the Woodlark Group.

Coastal Features

The northern coast of Papua New Guinea slopes to the southeast from the Indonesian border along Cape Moem and the outlets of the Sepik and Ramu Rivers. In the southeast, the Huon Peninsula protrudes above the Huon Gulf, an indentation of the Solomon Sea. Cape Ward Hunt extends southeast from the Huon Gulf, leading into the long arm of southeast New Guinea, formed by the Owen Stanley Range.


The largest lake in the country is Lake Murray. It is a 647-square-kilometer (250-square-mile) freshwater lake that connects with the Strickland River in western New Guinea. The lake and river both are badly polluted with chemicals from nearby mining operations. Lake Kutubu, in the southern Highlands, has been designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The 49-square-kilometer (19-square-mile) site includes the pristine lake and adjacent swamp forest. The lake contains ten unique fish species.

The Muruk Lakes are a group of freshwater lakes and saltwater lagoons in the Sepik River region with mangrove forests around them. Also in the Sepik region are the Blackwater Lakes and the Chambri Lakes, a 216-square-kilometer (83-square-mile) system of linked shallow lakes and swamps.


The Fly, Purari, and Kikori Rivers all flow southward into the Gulf of Papua. The Sepik, Markham, and Ramu Rivers flow northward into the Pacific. The Fly River and Sepik River are crucial transportation routes. Rising in the Star Mountains, the twisting Fly River is navigable for 805 kilometers (500 miles). It is 80 kilometers (50 miles) wide at its entry to the Gulf of Papua. The Fly forms a 1,200-kilometer-long (746-mile-long) river system with the Ok Tedi and Strickland Rivers, creating the largest river network in the country. The Sepik River, which is 1,126 kilometers (698 miles) long, has its source in the Victor Emmanuel Mountains. It is wide and navigable throughout its entire length and has no real delta.

Savannahs, mixed with scrub woods and swamps, stretch from the Fly and Sepik Rivers into Indonesian Papua. These coastal grasslands flood during the rainy season.


There are no desert regions in Papua New Guinea.


Tonda Wildlife Management Area is also a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. It is located near the Indonesian Papua border and covers an area of about 5,900 square kilometers (2,278 square miles). The site includes coastal plains that flood seasonally as well as grasslands and mangroves, all of which are waterbird habitat.

Tropical rainforest covers as much as 77 percent of Papua New Guinea. These forests are a wealth of biodiversity. Papua New Guinea has an estimated 11,000 plant species, 250 mammal species, and 700 bird species.

The steep mountains of the Highlands have very few foothills. Hill areas of the island of New Guinea include the upper Sepik region and the countryside surrounding Port Moresby.

The valleys in the central Highlands have grasslands that were produced by burning forests to clear land for agriculture. Alpine grasslands exist at elevations above 3,353 meters (11,000 feet), where there is a moist, cool climate.


The island of New Guinea is rugged, with many high peaks. At the center of the island are the Highlands, which include the Bismarck Range. Papua New Guinea's highest peak, Mount Wilhelm (4,509 meters/14,793 feet), is in the Bismarck Range. The second-highest summit, also in the central mountain complex, is Mount Giluwe, an extinct volcano at an elevation of 4,367 meters (14,327 feet). Another major mountain range, the Owen Stanley, is found in the southeast. The highest peak there is Mount Victoria (4,073 meters/13,363 feet). The Finisterre, Sarawat, and Rawlinson ranges line the northeast coast. They are made of coral limestone and extend into New Guinea from the sea. In the west of New Guinea, near the Indonesian Papua border, the Star, Hindenburg, and Victor Emmanuel ranges also are made of limestone.

Many of the islands in Papua New Guinea are volcanic in origin, with rugged terrain and peaks above 1,524 meters (5,000 feet). The Father, on New Britain, rises to 2,300 meters (7,546 feet), but the tallest peak on the outer islands is Balbi (2,743 meters/8,999 feet), located on Bougainville.

Most of the active volcanoes are on the southeastern arm of New Guinea, the large island of New Britain, and other islands.


Numerous canyons, gorges, and ravines slice through the rugged mountain terrain of New Guinea. The upper Fly River has many deep gorges. The region between the northeastern coastal mountains and the central Highlands, where the Sepik and Markham Rivers and their tributaries flow, is known as the Central Depression.

In the west of New Guinea, the Star, Hindenburg, and Victor Emmanuel ranges contain many deep limestone caves.


The Great Papuan Plateau is in the central mountains, rising 1,500 to 2,000 meters (4,921 to 6,562 feet) above sea level. It is a limestone formation, with many caves and petroleum deposits. The Oriomo Plateau rises in the west. Nine rivers run through it from east to west into Indonesian Papua. Tabubil Plateau, also in the west, is the site of the enormous Ok Tedi copper and gold mine. Sogeri Plateau, on the outskirts of Port Moresby, is 800 meters (2,625 feet) in elevation and is home to many bird species.


There are no significant man-made structures affecting the geography of Papua New Guinea.


The Ok Tedi mine is a major producer of copper concentrate for the world smelting market. It is located on Mount Fubilan in the Star Mountains of western New Guinea. An average of 80,000 metric tons of material are mined each day. In 2001, Ok Tedi Mining Limited exported 694,900 dry metric tons of copper concentrate. This mixture contained 203,762 tons of copper, 455,222 ounces of gold, and 1,150,031 ounces of silver. At this rate of production, the mine will be depleted of its resources by 2010.


Books and Periodicals

Fox, Mary. Papua New Guinea. Chicago: Children's Press, 1994.

Salak, Kira. Four Corners: Into the Heart of New Guinea. New York: Counterpoint Press, 2001.

Sillitoe, Paul. A Place Against Time: Land and Environment in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Theroux, Paul. "The Spell of the Trobriand Islands." National Geographic, July 1992, 117-136.

Web Sites

Papua New Guinea Eco-Forestry Forum. (accessed April 10, 2003).

Wantoks Communications, Limited: Papua New Guinea. (accessed April 10, 2003).

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (păp´ōōə, –yōōə, gĬn´ē), officially Independent State of Papua New Guinea, independent Commonwealth nation (2005 est. pop. 5,545,000), 183,540 sq mi (475,369 sq km), SW Pacific. It encompasses the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, as well as the Bismarck Archipelago, the Trobriand Islands, Samarai Island, Woodlark Island, D'Entrecasteaux Islands, the Louisiade Archipelago, and the northernmost Solomon Islands of Buka and Bougainville (which form an autonomous region). The capital is Port Moresby; other important cities include Rabaul, Lae, Madang, Mt. Hagen, and Goroka.

Land and People

Papua New Guinea is a wild, rugged region, with limited communications. The climate is tropical, and the largely mountainous country is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The highest point is Mt. Wilhelm (14,793 ft/4,509 m), in the Bismarck Mts. in central Papua New Guinea. The native population is largely Melanesian and Papuan but is divided into many distinct cultures. Some 800 different languages are spoken in the country. Melanesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin) is the lingua franca, and it and the much less widely spoken English and Hiri Motu (a Malayo-Polynesian language that was a lingua franca in the southeast) are official languages. About two thirds of the population is Christian, with Roman Catholics and Lutherans the largest churches; the rest follow traditional beliefs.


Subsistence agriculture supports most of the population; sweet potatoes constitute the main food crop. Agricultural exports (notably palm oil, coffee, cocoa, coconut products, rubber, and tea) are increasing, but mineral and oil deposits account for the majority of export earnings. Copper, gold, and silver are mined, oil production began in 1992, and natural gas began to exported in 2014. Timber is another import source of revenue, but logging, largely by foreign companies, is often done without regard for laws designed to promote sustainable yields from the country's rain forests. Pearl-shell and tortoise fisheries dot the coast, and crayfish and prawns are exported. Most industry involves the processing of agricultural and wood products; there is also petroleum refining, construction, and some tourism. Machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, fuels, and chemicals are imported. Australia is by far the largest trading partner, followed by Singapore and Japan.


Papua New Guinea is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1975 as amended. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the head of state and is represented by the governor-general. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the governor-general. The unicameral National Parliament consists of 109 members who are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 20 provinces, the autonomous region of Bougainville, and the National Capital District.


Papua, the southern section of the country, was annexed by Queensland in 1883 and the following year became a British protectorate called British New Guinea. It passed to Australia in 1905 as the Territory of Papua. The northern section of the country formed part of German New Guinea from 1884 to 1914 and was called Kaiser-Wilhelmsland. Occupied by Australian forces during World War I, it was mandated to Australia by the League of Nations in 1920 and became known as the Territory of New Guinea. Australian rule was reconfirmed by the United Nations in 1947.

In 1949 the territories of Papua and New Guinea were merged administratively, but they remained constitutionally distinct. They were combined in 1973 as the self-governing country of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Full independence was gained in 1975. In the late 1980s a violent secessionist movement broke out on Bougainville. A cease-fire, monitored by Australian troops, went into effect in 1998, and a peace accord that granted the island broad autonomy was signed three years later.

Proposed cuts in defense forces as result of economic reforms demanded by Australia and international organizations sparked a weeklong mutiny in 2001; the government rescinded the cuts and promised to review the mutineers' concerns over foreign economic influences. Sir Michael Somare, of the National Alliance party, became prime minister in 2002. In 2004, Australian police officers were deployed in PNG as part of an aid package designed to help end gang violence and restore law and order in the country, but after the supreme court ruled the following year that the officers' immunity from prosecution and other aspects of the deployment were unconstitutional Australia withdrew the contingent.

In late 2006 PNG's government and its relations with Australia were roiled by the Moti affair. Julian Moti, an Australian lawyer of Fijian descent had been appointed attorney general in the Solomon Islands, was wanted in Australia on child sex charges, and Australia sought Moti's extradition from PNG, where Moti was arrested (Sept., 2006) while in transit. Moti managed to flee with apparent help from PNG officials. An investigation into the incident implicated the prime minister in Moti's flight from PNG, a charge Somare denied; Somare subsequently disbanded the board of inquiry, which issued its report to Somare in Mar., 2007. Elections in June–July, 2007, returned Somare to office, leading a reorganized coalition. The defense minister rejected the board of inquiry report in Oct., 2007, on the grounds that the board had not been legally constituted.

Somare's government subsequently suffered from a number of scandals, including some involving the prime minister's finances. Although he survived a number of no-confidence votes, in Dec., 2010, he faced an investigation by a leadership tribunal over financial allegations. Somare stepped aside as prime minister, and his deputy, Sam Abal, became acting prime minister (and again in April); Somare returned to office in Jan., 2011.

In March, Somare was found guilty of failing to file his financial information properly and was suspended from office for two weeks in April; in June, his son announced his retirement for health reasons (following an April heart operation), but constitutionally it was not an official resignation. In August, an alliance of opposition members and disgruntled government coalition members voted in Peter O'Neill, the works and transport minister and former finance minister, as prime minister; the supreme court ruled that the move was unconstitutional in Dec., 2011. The ruling created a constitutional crisis and a contest for power, with O'Neill's government backed by parliament and generally maintaining control while Somare's continued to be backed by the supreme court.

Elections in June, 2012, resulted in a plurality for O'Neill's People's National Congress, and he became prime minister in August with the support of Somare. In 2014 O'Neill was implicated in a corruption investigation, and in June an arrest warrant was issued in order to question him. The prime minister fought the warrant in court, and subsequently dismissed high-ranking police officers and the anticorruption task force, sparking a political crisis. The attorney general was also dismissed, but for opposing constitutional changes proposed by the government.

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA, also Papua Niugini. A state in the south-west Pacific, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and some 600 islands, the largest of which are New Britain, New Ireland, and Bougainville. Prior to independence in 1975, the southern half (Papua) was an Australian colony and the northern part (New Guinea) was administered by Australia under a mandate from the United Nations given after the First World War, when it ceased to be a German colony. The island of New Guinea was peopled by different waves of migrants, whose history is largely unknown. The terrain is rugged. Travel by air is more important than by road. Port Moresby, the capital, is not connected by road to any other urban area. The coastal population is thinly clustered in villages, but over one-third of the total population live in highland valleys. While settlement by Europeans has extended over a century, contact with many internal regions is fairly recent. Most of these communities were not known before 1930. Even in the 1950s, Australian administrative patrols were still establishing contact with people in remoter areas. These conditions have fostered cultural and linguistic diversity; there are some 700–750 languages belonging to two families, Papuan and Austronesian, as well as an indigenous PIDGIN, Hiri Motu, and an English-based pidgin, TOK PISIN. Both serve as LINGUA FRANCAS and share official status with English. See MELANESIAN PIDGIN ENGLISH.

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea


462,840sq km (178,073 sq mi)



capital (population):

Port Moresby (252,000)


Constitutional monarchy

ethnic groups:

Papuan 84%, Melanesian 1%


English (official)


Christianity (Protestant 58%, Roman Catholic 33%, Anglican 5%), traditional beliefs 3%


Kina = 100 toea

Independent Commonwealth island group in Melanesia, sw Pacific, 160km (100mi) ne of Australia; the capital is Port Moresby.

Land and climate

Papua New Guinea includes the e part of New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, the n Solomon Islands, the Trobriand and D'Entrecasteaux Islands and the Louisiade Archipelago. The land is largely mountainous, rising to Mount Wilhelm, at 4508m (14,790ft), e New Guinea. In 1995, two volcanoes erupted in Esstern New Britain. East New Guinea also has extensive coastal lowlands. Papua New Guinea has a tropical climate. The monsoon season runs from December to April. Forests cover more than 70% of the land. The dominant vegetation is rainforest. Mangrove swamps line the coast. ‘Cloud’ forest and tussock grass are found on the higher peaks.

Political map

Physical map


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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is an independent monarchy within the Commonwealth with the queen as head of state. It is formed by the eastern half of the large island of New Guinea together with a number of adjacent islands to the east and north. The western part of the island was claimed by the Dutch and is now part of Indonesia. In the 19th cent. the Germans and British took increasing interest in eastern New Guinea. In 1906 British sovereignty was transferred to Australia and in 1914 Australian troops occupied the German settlement. It was handed to Australia as a mandate in 1921. During the Second World War there was heavy fighting after the Japanese invaded. Its economy depends upon coffee, tea, bananas, and the mining of gold and copper.

J. A. Cannon

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Culture Name

Papua New Guinean

Alternative Names

Niugini (Pidgin English)


Identification. Papua is probably derived from the Malay word papuwah ("fuzzy hair"). In 1545, a Spanish explorer called the island Nueva Guinea.In 1884, the western half of New Guinea was officially recognized as Dutch New Guinea, the northeastern section became German New Guinea, and the southeastern quarter became British New Guinea. In 1905, Australia took over the territory, renaming it the Territory of Papua. After World War II, the British and German territories were combined and jointly administered by Australia as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In 1975, the country became Papua New Guinea or, officially, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

Location and Geography. Papua New Guinea consists of eastern New Guinea along with New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, and six hundred small islands and archipelagoes. The land area is over 178,000 square miles (462,000 square kilometer), with the mainland accounting for 80 percent. The western half of the island is the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya. To the south is Australia, and to the east and southeast are the Solomon Islands and other Melanesian countries. To the north and northwest are the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan.

The central mountain chain extends the length of the island and is covered in tropical rain forest. Upland valleys and the headwaters of fast-flowing rivers descend to the coast through some of the world's largest swamps.

Papua New Guinea has a tropical monsoon climate and is generally hot and humid, although the climate varies from one area to another.

Over 75 percent of the nation is covered in rain forest. Swamp forest is found in the poorly drained lowlands, and sago palm is a staple food of the people living there. Around Port Moresby and in drier areas to the west are grassy plains and savanna woodlands.

Demography. The 1990 census showed a population of 3,761,954. Over half the population was under age 20. With an annual growth rate of 2.3 percent, the population topped four million by 1992 and is expected to grow to more than five million by the year 2000. Around 85 percent of the population lives in small villages and rural outposts; the other 15 percent is concentrated in ten major urban areas where most of the non-Melanesian population of about 25,000 resides. The largest cities are Port Moresby with a population over 220,000, Lae (90,000), Madang (30,000), Mt Hagen (45,000), Wewak (23,000), and Goroka (25,000).

Linguistic Affiliation. Well over one thousand languages are spoken throughout New Guinea. After Colonization, Papua New Guineans needed to communicate with one another and with outsiders. On German (and later Australian) plantations and wherever individuals speaking different languages met, a pidgin language referred to as Neo-Melanesian or Melanesian Pidgin developed. Now known as Tok Pisin ("talk pidgin"), Melanesian Pidgin is spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. While English is taught in school and is the official language of business and government, Tok Pisin is a symbol of national identity and a preferred means of communication. Hiri Motu, a trade language that originated on the south coast in Papua among participants in a traditional trade network, is spoken only in that area.

Symbolism. While preparing for independence and attempting to promote national identity, leaders and artists drew on symbols reflecting the nation's unique cultural and natural diversity and continuing traditions. The national flag is a rectangle divided diagonally from the top left corner to the bottom right. The upper triangle is red with a yellow bird of paradise; the lower triangle is black with five white stars representing the Southern Cross. Black, red, and yellow are traditional colors in many Papua New Guinean societies. Items of traditional exchange (kina shells, pigs) are prominent on the currency. The Southern Cross symbolizes the country's close relations with other South Pacific nations. The national song, "O Arise All You Sons," reflects a commitment to Christianity in its references to God and the "Lord".

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Before colonization, an individual's identity was grounded in his or her kin group and rarely extended beyond the kin groups of close relatives and in-laws. While an individual may have shared a language and culture with tens of thousands of persons, only leaders and other unusual individuals spent time outside the villages nearest to his or her "place." After colonization, Papua New Guineans experienced political, social, and economic integration. Missionaries and administrators suppressed "tribal" warfare to allow freedom of movement and integrated villagers into the colonial economy as plantation workers and mission helpers. Missionary activities also led to the spread of Christianity and Western education; the building of roads, airstrips, and radio stations; and the shared experience of racial prejudice directed at local peoples by many whites.

Colonization and change were uneven, with island and coastal areas colonized before the interior and some groups resisting change for decades. Outsiders did not visit the highlands until the 1930s, and some areas were first contacted as late as the 1970s. Differences in education and economic development contributed to ethnic and class differences.

National Identity. In the 1960s, Australia moved toward liberating Papua New Guinea by establishing self-government and a House of Assembly and building institutions of higher learning to train an educated elite to serve the country.

The focus on higher education was matched by efforts to foster closeness and national pride among the students that would cut across ties with wantoks (those in the same language group) and flow outward to the rest of the country. Students were taught to express their experiences in poetry, music, stories, and art that dealt with the "beauty of village life," the opposite sex, pride in their cultures, and the question of how they could lead the country into the modern world without becoming selfish. Regardless of this soul-searching, class differences are emerging as educated parents with good jobs provide for their children's future, and there is increasing intermarriage between persons of different cultural background who mingle in school and at work. Communicating in English or Tok Pisin, many couples fail to pass on their mother tongues to their children, alienating their village kin.

Ethnic Relations. Before independence on 16 September 1975, a number of micronationalist movements threatened secession from a nation that many felt was a colonial invention. Papua Besena emerged in 1973 under the leadership of Josephine Abaijah. Its objective was to free Papua from Australian colonial rule and unification with the more heavily populated New Guinea. In March 1975, Papua Besena declared Papuan independence but did not go beyond that symbolic act.

In 1964, the discovery of copper in Bougainville resulted in the construction of a giant copper mine. It was argued that the profits from the mine would benefit all of Papua New Guinea. Bougainvilleans were suspicious of the motives of the Australians and the expatriate company and resentful of the mainland Papua New Guineans who were brought in to build the mine. In November 1988, a guerilla operation began that became the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). The conflict continued throughout the 1990s and has been difficult for the police and defense forces that have been pitted against fellow citizens.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Before European settlement, there were no towns. Thousands of villages and hamlets were connected by narrow paths, customs, and networks of marriage and trade partners. Bush material houses were temporary as people moved with their new gardens and as alliances dissolved and re-formed. Men spent their nights with other men and boys in elaborate men's houses, while their wives and female relatives slept and ate in smaller women's houses. Most villages were home to more than one kin group. With colonization, dispersed settlements were combined into larger villages for easier administration and the provision of education and health care. The first towns grew up around mission and administrative centers, near airstrips, or on hillsides overlooking good harbors. Towns were small, and homes and nonresidential structures were simple one-story buildings. The first Papua New Guineans to live in towns were men. Many workers were chosen from nearby villages to which they were expected to return at night, but some lived in servants' quarters (boi haus ) or company barracks. The exclusion of New Guineans from areas of European settlement was maintained almost up until independence. After World War II, there was an expansion of economic opportunities for both colonizers and local peoples, resulting in a rapid growth of towns and an increase in urban migration as men, and later their wives and children, came to town seeking employment, education, and excitement. The Australians tried to control the influx by building company housing for workers and their families and denying residency rights to other migrants, but that policy was only partly successful. "Squatter" settlements became stepping-stones for migrants who came to test the waters in town and migrants who wanted to save money to invest in their villages. They have become islands of safety in crime-filled towns as wantoks band together, apart from other groups.

In preparing for independence, colonial and Papua New Guinean officials built institutions such as the National Arts School, where students and other artists and architects used traditional and modern elements in designs for buildings in the capital and elsewhere.

Papua New Guineans continue to be ambivalent about the expense and violence of town life. Markets, parks, and shopping centers draw thousands of visitors every day, most of whom are interested in observing the spectacle and meeting up with wantoks to gossip or plan group events. Airports are crowded with travelers' friends and families, onlookers, and unemployed youths observing the movements of people from around the world.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Staples include starchy vegetables (wild sago, breadfruit, yams, taro, sweet potatoes, and rice) complemented by wild greens, several varieties of bananas, and coconuts, mango, and other fruits. Domestication of animals and hunting provide fowl, pork, and meat from birds, marsupials, turtles, and cassowaries. In riverine and coastal areas, fish and shellfish may form a significant part of the diet. Villagers cook two meals a day, boiling or roasting the food. Earth ovens are dug on ceremonial grounds for special occasions. Leftovers, sugarcane, and coconut milk are consumed while people work in their gardens. Tea is drunk at all times. Urban restaurants provide international cuisine to those who can afford it. Kai bars (fast-food stands) are popular. Food taboos vary and are often temporary, as with restrictions on pregnant women and initiates. Others are totemic, involving plants or animals that are symbolic of kin groups. Still others are relational; for example, a son-in-law may not consume food in the presence of his mother-in-law.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Papua New Guinea is renowned for ceremonial occasions at which hundreds of pigs or other valuables are distributed to guests. Competitive feasting ("fighting with food") between big men and chiefs features oratory, dancing, singing, drumming, and feasting that go on for days, along with the payment of bride-prices and other exchanges. Special drinks were rarely part of such ceremonies in the past, but now beer and alcohol are often part of major exchanges. Papua New Guineans celebrate nontraditional holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but rarely with the exuberance or expense involved in a traditional feast.

Basic Economy. Villagers produce most of their own food, and many townspeople plant gardens and rely on open-air markets for fruits and vegetables sold by village women using kina for currency. Urban supermarkets import an array of expensive foods and other items. Most residents rely on small trade stores for rice, sugar, tea, and tinned fish, as well as soap, clothing, blankets, kerosene lanterns, and matches.

Land Tenure and Property. Most land is vested in kin groups and allocated according to need. Individual land ownership is not common; individuals may own a grove of banana trees but not the land they grow on. While land normally passes from father or mother's brother to children or nieces and nephews, the intended recipients provide much assistance and gifts to the "owners" before the land passes to their care. Migrants who fail to participate in village exchanges risk being "dispossessed" in favor of people who have supported local landowners.

Commercial Activities. Commerce is centered in the towns. Papua New Guinea developed its own television station in the late 1980s, and radio news and entertainment shows reach most villages. Tourism brings forty thousand visitors a year, mostly to the Sepik River and Trobriands. The road system is limited. Port Moresby is cut off from the rest of the country except by air and ship. With most places being difficult to reach, there are many undeveloped areas and labor migration is high.

Major Industries. The major industries are extractive. In addition to gold mining and oil drilling, major industries include coffee, copra, cocoa, cattle, oil palm, timber and wood-chip mills, and tuna canneries.

Trade. Traditional artifacts and carvings are sold throughout the world but provide only a small income. Important exports are copper, gold, coffee, cocoa, copra, coconut oil, and timber. Imports include machinery and transport equipment, food and live animals, manufactured goods, and pharmaceuticals.

Division of Labor. Outside the cities there is little specialization. The village division of labor is by age and gender, with men and women cooperating to feed their families from gardening and other subsistence activities and children and older persons assisting in a variety of ways. Cash crops generally are owned by men, but men and women tend and harvest them. Urban specialization is served by local schools, and few residents are educated abroad.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There are no castes and only recent evidence of the slow emergence of classes. Economic inequality, however, cuts across ethnic and cultural boundaries. The common perception is of a country divided into "elites" and "grassroots," with the grassroots including most villagers and low-income earners in town and the elites being educated, higher-income persons, "coffee millionaires," and other entrepreneurs. Social interaction is intense as elites attend clan affairs and are expected to open their homes to wantoks at any hour.

There is evidence of growing disparities in the lifestyles and opportunities of elites versus grassroots and of the emergence of a middle class. Most villagers are not poor. Daily life is simple with few of the expenses of urban life. Villagers invest their cash income and traditional wealth in the social and political relations that maintain their place in village society. The elites and the middle class, however, must balance the expenses of living in town with investments in larger kin groups. While the demands of wantoks can act as a powerful leveling force, higher-income families are investing in productive businesses and ensuring that their children have the same class privileges they do.

Symbols of Social Stratification. There are many expensive restaurants and night spots in Port Moresby and other big cities, and the highways are jammed with imported cars. While some elites dress down for work and social occasions in clothes bought at secondhand stores or wear the grassroots fashion for women, the laplap and the meri blouse, many buy their clothes from fashionable boutiques and department stores or overseas. Wealthy citizens have invested in properties outside the country in anticipation of retirement or a people's revolution.

Political Life

Government. Papua New Guinea is an independent Commonwealth nation that achieved independence on 16 September 1975 from the Australian-administered United Nations trusteeship. It is a parliamentary democracy with a governor general representing the British Crown, a prime minister and cabinet, and a 109-member unicameral, popularly elected parliament. The legal system is based on English common law. There is a Supreme Court in which the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the National Executive Council. Other judges are appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. There is universal suffrage, and the voting age is 18 years. In 1977, the Organic Law on Provincial Government resulted in decentralization. There are nineteen provinces (former colonial districts), each with an elected assembly, premier, and cabinet. There is also a National Capital District. At the local level there are local government councils that lost power as provincial governments gained government resources and funds. Corruption and other difficulties led to the abolition of provincial governments in 1995 and their replacement with a local government structure headed by governors in each province.

Leadership and Political Officials. Most traditional leaders achieved influence by building extensive networks of exchange partners and supporters. The characteristic "big man" was hardworking, skilled in oratory, personable, intelligent, generous, and the husband of more than one wife. Big men still exist, but their influence has lessened because they cannot control the global forces affecting their communities. Candidates for higher office must build multiple local power bases, an expensive and delicate political operation that often results in questionable campaign practices and eventual electoral disappointment and single terms of office. There are many political parties, and prime ministers must forge coalitions. Parties are unstable and hard to distinguish on the basis of substantive issues. Prime ministers rarely stay in office for the full five years, and parliament members switch parties frequently.

Social Problems and Control. There are both village and national court systems. Village courts use custom rather than English law, a situation that sometimes results in injustice from the point of view of the larger society. A chief ombudsman can resolve some conflicts between the two systems, but his reach rarely extends beyond Port Moresby. Policing a large and thinly populated country is difficult, and many citizens fear the police. Rural police sometimes compensate for inadequate manpower by using excessive force with lawbreakers; and urban police can be equally brutal. Crimes go unreported because citizens fear police brutality or prefer to handle the offenders, who are often kin, themselves. The police have been known to take the law into their own hands, as has the Papua New Guinea Defense Force. The nation's "law and order" problem is multifaceted, but the depredations of youthful gangs, outbreaks of rioting and looting, and the resurgence of tribal warfare are major sources of disorder and misery.

Military Activity. The nation's only major military action has been the ongoing conflict with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army. In the late 1970s and 1980s, there were fears of an Indonesian invasion across the border with Irian Jaya. A small guerilla freedom movement of no more than four hundred men used the sparsely populated border area to stage attacks against the Indonesian army and then flee to the Papua New Guinea side. Unwilling to contemplate war with the much larger Indonesia, Papua New Guinea used its armed forces to send refugees back across the border and capture rebels.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

There is little support for social welfare and change programs. There is no social security system, few institutions to help the mentally ill or handicapped, and no welfare programs or food stamps. Part of the problem is the government's need to spend money on roads, schools, and basic infrastructure for a population thinly spread over a rugged countryside. Another problem is the belief that the extended family or village will always care for its own. Nonetheless, Papua New Guinea has supported offensives against several social problems, including wife beating and the rise in AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Nongovernmental organizations and voluntary associations help residents confront rapid social and economic changes. Organizations with multiple aid programs include the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Red Cross. AIDAB's Women in Development Fund targets women as beneficiaries of financial and educational support, teaching business and management training, giving women start-up funds, and encouraging family planning and women's political involvement. The UNDP office in Port Moresby officially opened in 1975.

Voluntary organizations include Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the U.S. Peace Corps, and British Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). Community Aid Abroad (Australia) and Ecological Enterprises support or enhance the work of the Papua New Guinea Integral Human Development Trust, a literacy and awareness resource group with twenty-three member organization that is involved in programs for progressive social change. It has trained over two thousand young men and women as village literacy teachers and runs an AIDS awareness program and the Cross-Cultural Awareness Program for immigrant workers and volunteers.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Village subsistence centers on horticulture, with men clearing forests and bush so that their wives can plant gardens and tend pigs. Some crops, such as bananas, sugarcane, and cash crops (such as coffee and cocoa) are planted and tended by men. While women often help pick cash crops, most of the income goes to men. Men build houses and fences, while women make grass skirts and net bags (bilums ). Women do the daily cooking, while men butcher pigs for feasts. Both men and women look after small children, with a father tending his infant while the mother weeds her gardens. In town, most women do domestic chores and child care while their husbands are at work. Women with jobs employ extended kin to do chores. In both towns and villages, men who do women's work are stigmatized as "rubbish men." Working women do not experience the same stigma, although they suffer prejudice and sexual harassment if they appear too independent and assertive.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Trobriand chiefs and others who go on open seas Kula (exchange) expeditions and give away yam harvests at the annual yam festival gain authority and privilege, and a chief may have many wives and expect commoners to bow in his presence. However, without female relatives to participate in female exchange events and redeem matrilineage lands and honor, those men's power would evaporate. Among the Gende and many other societies, big men achieve their positions by investing in feasts, bride-prices, and other exchange needs of their partners and followers. To do this, big men need many wives and female helpers to raise food and pigs to give away. Hardworking women are a man's most valuable asset, and husbands who do not consider their wives' interests risk losing them to other men. Women's procreative power induces men to go to great lengths in initiation and other rituals to strengthen themselves for contact with women and achieve a balance or edge in gender relations. In the towns, men and women are redefining their relations. With less education and fewer job opportunities, women do not contribute much income to urban households and as a consequence suffer the infidelities and physical abuses of men who feel burdened by the demands of family and the high expectations extended kin place on employed men, especially those who earn high salaries. Village women help pay back their own bride-prices and assist men in raising cash crops. Some rural women earn money by selling vegetables in urban markets.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. The choice of a marriage partner is rarely left to the individual. After initiation into adult society, young men and women spend time with the opposite sex in supervised courtship sessions. Ideal marriage partners are hardworking and attractive. Clan exogamy is a must, and parents hope their daughters will marry prosperous suitors whose kin pay large bride-prices and who will be good allies in exchange and war. Women pressed into incompatible marriages can return home or threaten suicide. If those strategies fail, young women may run away with lovers or commit suicide.

Men are more likely to be unmarried, as polygyny is practiced and big men attract a greater share of wives. In Gende society, as many as 10 percent of adult males are polygynous at some time. Divorce occurs even in areas where Catholicism is practiced. Often it is the women who initiate it, as men are loath to lose a female worker. After divorce, most adults remarry unless they are very old and living with children or grandchildren.

As Papua New Guineans become more involved in the cash economy and urbanization, marriage patterns are being transformed. Bride-price inflation is one response to economic inequality. The practice of women competing for men rather than men trying to attract women is having an impact on marital politics throughout the nation. Women are in an insecure position, especially urban women who must tolerate domestic abuse and infidelity to hold on to their husbands.

Domestic Unit. The basic village household consists of a husband, a wife, their unmarried children, and perhaps the husband's parents. Extended families live in adjacent houses, gathering frequently for meals, companionship, work parties, and ceremonies. Men's houses are no longer common, although young men may live with other bachelors. Household decisions involve consensus between able-bodied adults, although young wives defer to older members. Residence is usually patrilocal. Less common is matrilocality and avunculocality. Neolocality occurs only in towns. Even then, a couple may be joined by their parents and other kin.

Inheritance. Land and property rights generally pass from parents to children or from uncles to nieces and nephews. These kin relations are extended to other members in an individual's kin group. All these persons have an interest in the prosperity of the kin group, and those of the younger generation who contribute the most to that prosperity are likely to receive the most. Reciprocity is a key element, and nonkin can become "sons" and "daughters" of a group if they contribute generously to group affairs. While women generally do not use clan or lineage lands, they retain the option to do so by contributing to group exchanges.

Kin Groups. The important kin groups are patrilineal and matrilineal lineages and clans, Clan members do not necessarily live on clan land. Women marry out, and migrants move far from their ancestral territories to find wage employment and other benefits in town. All the members of a kin group, however, must participate in clan affairs, contributing to bride-prices and other exchanges and helping with initiation and mortuary ceremonies. Clans and lineages can shrink and disappear through deaths and indifference. Persons join other clans, allying themselves with their wives' clans or being adopted as children. An important asset is the land a clan's members hold in common. Land is valuable and a way of life for 85 percent of the population. It is also a form of social security for persons living in towns, most of whom actively engage in kin group affairs to maintain their rural option.


Infant Care. Most babies are born outside the village in a birth hut or garden house, where mother and child spend the first few days or weeks after the birth in relative isolation, gathering strength and hiding from malevolent forces. For the next several years, mothers nurse their babies, and the babies are carried everywhere and played with by adoring relatives. In many societies, there is a small feast when the baby, especially a first child, is around a year old to celebrate its existence and let the parents show their appreciation to all those who made its birth possible, including the mother's family and the bride-price supporters.

Child Rearing and Education. Child rearing is indulgent until age five or six for girls and a few years older for boys. Children explore their environment and run free most of the day. Corporal punishment is rare as people believe a child's spirit may leave its body if the child is hit or frightened. A troublesome child is left alone or ignored. If necessary, such children may be taken to the bush or a garden house to act out or sulk. Children are taught by example. Little girls follow in their mothers' and older sisters' footsteps, at first doing child minding or running errands, and later helping in the gardens. Boys spend a longer time playing with other boys but eventually collect firewood and carry water and, later, clear bush and hunt or fish with their fathers. Older boys and girls may go through separate initiation or puberty ceremonies to prepare them for marriage and adulthood. Rituals and taboos are elaborate, arduous, and sometimes terrifying. Young men and women are taught the meanings and responsibilities of their genders to prepare them for social responsibilities and marriage, including sexuality. Badness in children is not something parents blame themselves for; evil spirits may cause a child to be selfish and cruel, in which case, the parents hire a medium.

Higher Education. Higher education is a goal of many parents, especially for their sons. Many parents worry about the physical dangers urban life holds for women. The urban job market is competitive, and some parents are not impressed with the value of a high school or college education, knowing that education does not guarantee a job. Many school leavers and unemployed graduates cause trouble in towns and villages. Parents spend their education dollars on only the brightest, most socially responsible children.


In village society, etiquette centers on reciprocity and being hospitable to guests and unexpected visitors, Feasting exchange partners has an urban equivalent in parties where workmates and wantoks are welcome along with their spouses and children. Reciprocity is expected but is not always possible, putting barriers between individuals of different income levels. One custom that everyone can participate in is sharing betel nut (buai ). Relations between older and younger and male and female are relaxed. On meeting, men and women of different ages clasp hands or clasp one another around the waist. Couples do not openly express affection in public, but friends of the same sex may hold hands while walking. It is not rude to stare or for persons to crowd one another at counters or stand very close. In chiefly societies, commoners must bow before chiefs and are prohibited from eating foods reserved for the chief and his family.


Religious Beliefs. The first mission in eastern New Guinea was the London Missionary Society, which in 1871 set up mission teachers from the Loyalty Islands on islands adjacent to and on the Papuan mainland. Some New Guineans resisted the changes missionaries represented, while others accepted opportunities for new forms of wealth, power, and age and gender relations. Working for the mission sometimes provided young men with an income that allowed them to support and choose brides. Schooled in Christian ethics, young women often refused to have bride-prices paid for them. More often, Papua New Guineans have sought to blend old and new religions. Cargo cults aimed at acquiring the wealth and power of outsiders through blends of Christian and local rituals have been common. Today, indigenized forms of Christianity seek to control the human condition in a period of insistent and significant change.

Most societies have stories telling how superhuman beings created the natural world and society, inventing food plants, pigs and pig exchanges, male and female cults, sorcery, and other aspects of culture. In some societies, such deities are important in male and female cults; in others, they have little to do with present fortunes. Instead, sorcerers and witches, the spirits of deceased ancestors, nonhuman forest spirits, and monsters command the attention of the living. Another common belief is that the physical and nonphysical worlds are intertwined and that the well-being of living humans is directly related to the maintenance of proper social ties, adherence to taboos, and the propitiation of spirits. Except in the case of infants and the very old, death is not natural but results from wrongdoing or oversights on the part of the living.

Religious Practitioners. The pragmatic focus of their religions and the absence of a hierarchy is reflected in the intense involvement of Papua New Guineans in the ritual maintenance of their own spiritual and physical well-being. Only in a few chiefly societies do hereditary chiefs and their henchmen act as religious specialists. More generally, it is expected that all adults will acquire magic spells used in gardening, healing or preventing minor illnesses, and love magic. Many people possess a knowledge of sorcery or witchcraft. Big men often purport to be powerful spirit mediums and to possess both healing powers and deadly war sorcery. Witches are deviant or marginalized individuals who are suspected of using their relations with spirits and other cosmic forces to harm members of their own groups.

Rituals and Holy Places. Many rituals focus on health and fertility, such as male and female initiation rituals. Aimed at bringing about the maturation and future success of the initiates, initiation involves seclusion in the forest or a menstrual hut, fasting and food taboos, and body mutilation. Initiates seek contact with spirit guides who will help them throughout their lives and even marry spirit women on occasion. Initiation and other ceremonies focus on eliciting the help of ancestors and the living and are accompanied by the exchange of valuables and food. In preparation for war or in compensation for war deaths, a group may sacrifice hundreds of pigs to call forth the aid of the ancestors. Cannibalism and head-huntingnot universally practicedwere often aimed at rejuvenation or acquiring the bravery and good characteristics of the deceased, with wives eating a portion of their husbands' dead bodies to incorporate their virility and young warriors displaying enemies' heads as symbols of their own magic and efficacy.

Death and the Afterlife. When a person is near death or has died suddenly, mediums are called in to discover the causes and the identity of the sorcerer or witch who may have been involved. Appropriate rituals and sacrifices are performed to prevent death or free the deceased's spirit. Once death has occurred, relatives gather to express their sorrow, wailing and sometimes chopping off fingers, pulling teeth, shaving hair, or pulling out facial hairs. Burial is now common. In the past a corpse might be cremated, thrown in a river or buried at sea, or left in a tree to rot. The dry bones might be buried under a house floor to provide protection to the living with the jawbone worn around the neck of a relative or leader. Rituals believed to help the deceased accommodate to their new state occur at the funeral and at later mortuary ceremonies. Spirits may be encouraged to stay near the living. Some are sent off to a "place of spirits" not far from the living, on mountaintops or in the forest. Funerals and mortuary ceremonies are times to pay off the deceased's debts, recognize his or her accomplishments, and restore friendly relations among the living by exchanging wealth.

Medicine and Health Care

Along with plant medicines and traditional therapies for treating physical symptoms, patients and caregivers use rituals designed to overcome or ascertain the causes of sickness and mental illness, such as ruptured social relations, sorcerers, and ghost attacks. People make use of both Western and traditional treatments in dealing with symptoms while turning to traditional medicine to cure the underlying social and cultural causes of illness. Urban areas have adequate medical staffing in hospitals and clinics. Rural areas are serviced by a thinly spread system of aid posts and small health centers. Aid post workers have only the barest knowledge of first aid. Some village women are trained in midwifery and community-based family-planning services. Trained nurses and paramedics are rare, and doctors even more so. In 1992, there was one doctor for every six thousand persons. In rural areas, health care focuses on first aid and treating chronic diseases such as malaria and pneumonia. Attempts are made to deal with the special health concerns of women and children, including family planning, pregnancy and childbirth, and nutrition and growth. Infant and child mortality rates have dropped, with the most recent figures showing sixty-seven of every one thousand infants dying before the age of twelve months, but women's nutritional needs are not as well met. In many areas, women and girls are fed significantly less than men and boys, resulting in weight loss, anemia, osteoporosis, and greater susceptibility to illness. AIDS, gonorrhea, and syphilis are spreading. Urban use of alcohol, tobacco, sugar, and fatty foods has resulted in increased rates of disease. Medical, sports, and nutrition services and exercise classes are springing up in towns.

Secular Celebrations

There are many local and provincial celebrations, including New Year's Day (1 January), Easter, the Port Moresby Show in mid-June, Remembrance Day (23 July) to commemorate World War II, the Highlands Show in August or September, Independence Day (16 September), and Christmas.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. In 1972, the government established the Creative Arts Centre (CAC) to train and support individuals, stage exhibitions, and commission work for national and private projects. In 1976, the CAC became the National Arts School. After Independence, the government supported the arts to promote a national culture. The completion of the parliament building in 1984 marked the apex of national artistic culture.

Literature. After the 1960s, historians and others took a greater interest in oral history and folklore. Oral traditions relating to clan genealogies, initiation and mortuary chants, magic and sorcery, and the teaching of children about their cultures were collected and analyzed, and some were published. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was also an interest in modern Papua New Guinea writing in English. Publishing outlets include the journals Bikmaus, Ondobondo, and The PNG Writer. Autobiographies have been published by overseas companies and by the National Research Institute.

Graphic Arts. The National Arts School offers courses in graphic design, textile design, fine arts, and music. Students are encouraged to generate contacts and income for themselves and the school. In addition to helping with large-scale projects such as the National Parliament, the National Museum, and the Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation building in Port Moresby, students have been involved in designing publicity for the Port Moresby Show, and making murals, carved screens, and sculptures for shopping centers. Pottery is enjoying a renaissance as potters combine modern techniques with traditional designs. Tourists buy replicas or actual artifacts in local markets and several shops in Port Moresby. Tourism and the international art market fuel cottage industry production of wood carvings. Colorful string bags are produced and sold by women.

Performance Arts. In 1975, the National Cultural Council funded the Raun Raun Theatre, a popular theater movement that attempts to transpose traditional cultural forms into contemporary theater and address the concerns of rural society.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

With the development of institutions such as the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), the National Research Institute (formerly the Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research), and the PNG Institute of Medical Research in the 1960s and 1970s, Papua New Guinea has become a place where local and foreign scientists and academics engage in long-term interdisciplinary research. Perhaps the social science that has gained the most has been anthropology. Other subjects taught at UPNG include biology, business and economics, education, law, and medicine. In recent years, the UPNG's law faculty, the Law Reform Commission, NRI, and other national bodies and visiting researchers have focused on a number of pressing law and order issues, including violence against women, rioting and political corruption, the resurgence of tribal fighting, gangs, and conflicts over compensation for resource development. The Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research in Goroka and Madang sponsors research on a range of topics, including sexuality, STDs, nutrition, growth and development, infant mortality, and the epidemiology of health and disease.


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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea


The people of Papua New Guinea are called Melanesians. They are usually classified by language group. Of the non-native population, the largest group is Australian, followed by others of European and Chinese origin.

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