by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
A documentary released in June by international media company Vice provides a brief background analysis on Papua New Guinea’s resource sector.
Titled ‘The Resource Curse’, it is part of a series hosted by television network HBO. The documentary is hosted by Vikram Gandhi, an investment banker and founder/CEO of VSG Capital Advisors on Wall Street.
After a visit to PNG, inclusive of a meet with Hela Governor Anderson Agiru, he provides a brief analysis on PNG’s resulting socio-economic standing in the midst of a rapidly developing economy and a rich resource sector, which he speculates may easily lead to civil war.
Mr Gandhi touches on Hela Province where Western influence had only reached in the last 50 years.
Before then, he explains, people traded with pigs and shells, meaning agreements and settlements over quantities of money in PNG may not be fully understood, namely in relation to gaining a sense of what is rightfully owed to them.
While on the ground, Mr Gandhi observed separate understandings on the concept of money which he explained has led to many people making profit from different work projects and ultimately spending money on alcohol and other indulgences in the nation’s capital, Port Moresby, until the money is gone before they know it.
“It’s irrational to imagine Exxon would be doing a deal with every single landowner/person, being that all the land is technically communally-owned by all the tribal regions,” he said.
He expressed doubt over whether landowners have any idea of the profits they should be getting and called it a responsibility of the government to figure out how the money will benefit the people in their agreement with ExxonMobil.
Overall, he cites a misunderstanding regarding how the money should be distributed.
Mr Gandhi described Governor Agiru as a visionary in his efforts of bringing development to the region. Although Governor Agiru did not guarantee the people wealth distribution, he did promise them infrastructural benefits.
What is lacking on the ground, however, is infrastructure that directly benefits the people.
The infrastructure, in the wake of the LNG project, has rather contributed more towards making PNG ‘a hub for corporations’.
The resource curse, as explained by Mr Gandhi, is the worst in corrupt countries that lack full transparency. The one way in avoiding this, he said, is to elect politicians who are genuinely trying to help the people.
He pointed out Norway as an example; Norway has many resources and is the strongest economy in the world, unaffected by the resource curse.
The documentary is 4 minutes and 20 seconds long; it can be viewed here.