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Horses for courses: special purpose authorities and local-level governance in Papua New Guinea

CollectionsANU Dept. of Pacific Affairs (DPA) formerly State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program
Title: Horses for courses: special purpose authorities and local-level governance in Papua New Guinea
Author(s): Filer, Colin
Keywords: Special Purposes Authority
Progera Development Authority
lack of financial and human resources
Progera Gold Mine
local government
Date published: 2004
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program, The Australian National University
Citation: Filer, C. (2004). Horses for courses: special purpose authorities and local-level governance in Papua New Guinea. SSGM Discussion Paper 2004/6. Canberra, ACT: ANU Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program
Series/Report no.: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) discussion paper series: 2004/6
It is generally agreed that local government has been the weakest of the three main tiers of government in Papua New Guinea since it gained independence in 1975. The reasons for this have been documented in the literature on the decentralisation that was brought into effect by the Organic Law on Provincial Government 1977 (Ghai and Regan 1993; Peasah 1994; May and Regan 1997; May 1999). Although this law gave provincial governments the power to create forms of local government more appropriate to local social circumstances than the model previously advocated by the Australian colonial administration, few took advantage of this opportunity. Whatever the standing of individual councillors within their own communities, the councils themselves generally lacked the financial and human resources required for them to function effectively as organisations engaged in the delivery of public goods and services. This problem is still apparent in most parts of the country. I do not propose to discuss here what could have been done, or should now be done, to improve the performance of this third level of government. Instead, I wish to discuss an institutional arrangement, known as a Special Purposes Authority (SPA), which has been used to perform some of the functions of local government in specific local circumstances. My interest in this subject arose from my recent experience as a consultant engaged in the production of a sustainable development policy for the mining sector that would seek to improve the management of project benefits disbursed to local communities and mine-affected areas (PNG Department of Mining 2003). While one of my aims is to document the potential significance of SPAs for this particular policy framework, I also wish to consider the broader question of how such exceptional institutional arrangements might be an instrument of national policy outside of the mining sector.
ISSN: 1328-7854


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