What is the definition of service delivery?   Is it  the secret  and public  cash handouts to key members of a community, LLG presidents  so that political support is maintained?    Is it a road?   The “donation” of vehicles bought using government money?   Or a large investment project owned by a foreign  company where  “dozens of jobs are provided,” many of them smack bang on the minimum wage level?

 Service delivery, in my view, must empower people to make independent decisions both in their own lives and in political choices  that affect their lives.  More importantly, they must be given the ability to make their own money so that they are not prone to  the temptation of political handouts. They must be given the opportunities  for intellectual development  so that opinions are freely expressed without fear or favor.

But this is, precisely, what frightens politicians.   An educated, free thinking population, with independent incomes and the ability to choose  their political representatives,  acts like a sieve straining out the garbage at the polls  even  before they even reach  the Haus Tambaran in Waigani. In PNG politics, only the bravest of the lot have come to understand that taking risks by empowering people reaps huge political gains.  A  case in point is the Buang area of the Bulolo District of the Morobe province.   

The Buang area  is  beautiful and mountainous.  The roads are bad  but  the villages, still    accessible.   For now, the roads aren’t a priority at least for the next two years.    Using government funding, the district  has spent more than K2 million on two important  basic services – power and communications  – giving more than 20 thousand people mobile and  internet access.    For the newcomer, it seems the  district’s priorities  have  been mixed up.  Roads and bridges should have come first because of the  region’s transport difficulties.   But a closer look at Buang will quickly alter  perceptions.  

The  Buang are an industrious people and the arrival of power and communications have  added value to  their unfaltering industrious spirit.   The district spent up to K3000 on each household to  install electricity service lines and PNG Power’s  minimum supply kits that are   ideal for rural areas.    This has allowed for micro business to be created. These are business that understand and cater to the needs of the Buangs themselves.  It is direct income owned and controlled by the people without foreign interference.   They have access to real time information. Coffee and gold prices can be found online.  Information about national developments  and government budgets can be sourced through mobile internet access. An increasing number of teachers are staying in  remote schools for longer. Access to EFFTPOS machines,  SMS banking, television and radio broadcasts keep them up to date with the latest.   State of origin games can now be watched in the comfort of their own homes.    

In a previous blog article I wrote  about the  impacts the projects were having. In a small hut, Solomon Geame,  squats on the ground in a small  and  unimpressive workshop soldering damaged parts of  a DVD player. His generation is the first to have electricity  supplied by PNG power.    With the arrival of electricity, he has been able to start a small electronics business fixing mobile phones, DVD players and television screens. “I don’t think the young people will want to leave their villages because they have the conveniences of  urban life  in their  homes.”

It is,  as one commentator put it on Facebook: “a no brainer.”    It is not the job of the politician to provide services.  But  about 20 years ago, they realized that it was sexy  to be out there providing services than to be stuck in parliament  making laws as is their mandated duty. So to the politician (currently, the functional service provider), I say, provide services that add value in the lives of people.  The kind of services that empower and encourage people to remain in the villages and develop at their own pace.  Not the steroid infused large scale investments that   demand land from people and give them a minimum wage with slave like working  conditions. Empowerment was Sam Basil’s ticket to an absolute majority vote in 2012.  Learn from it.


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