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Issues of governance in Papua New Guinea: building roads and bridges

CollectionsANU Dept. of Pacifc Affairs (DPA) formerly State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program
Title: Issues of governance in Papua New Guinea: building roads and bridges
Author(s): Hughes, Philip
Keywords: road upgrading
road building
Papua New Guinea
road users
land acquisition
Date published: 2000
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) discussion paper series: 2000/4
This paper draws on the author’s recent experiences as Environmental and Social Specialist on an ADB road upgrading and maintenance project in four provinces along the Highlands Highway, as well as reports on numerous recent and ongoing road projects in several parts of the country. The emphasis is on the Highlands region, but all the evidence indicates that the issues canvassed here apply throughout Papua New Guinea. By and large villagers, townspeople, businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians throughout Papua New Guinea are keen to see new roads built and existing roads improved, or at least maintained properly. Despite this enthusiasm for roads, for a host of reasons broached in this paper it is becoming increasingly difficult to implement road and bridge construction and improvement works throughout the country. The issues are broadly those of governance, which, following UNDP (1997) I take to mean: ‘the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage a nation’s affairs. It is the complex mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights and obligations and mediate their differences’. In the case of roads, the current situation is far from one of ‘good governance’, as the ability of the state to exercise its functions of facilitating road development fairly and effectively has been severely compromised in recent years. At the same time, and partly as a response to the ‘power vacuum’ left by the state, the citizens (in this case the traditional owners of the lands on which the roads and bridges are built) are becoming evermore forceful in asserting their rights with respect to land acquisition and compensation. The result of the burgeoning problems associated with these land acquisition and compensation issues is that road and bridge projects are suffering longer delays and increased costs.
ISSN: 1328-7854


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