|Avengu village, picturesque and remote.|
The coffee trees are tall. They have not been pruned for a long while. But when harvest time comes, up to 20 people each carrying 50 kilogram bags make the two day journey to Pindiu to sell the coffee.
|Theo Zurenuoc – Service delivery eats up 70 percent of our budget|
|A two day walk to Pindiu|
“When we start walking at six in the morning, we arrive in Pindiu at six in the afternoon the next day.” The people have accepted that roads won’t be built in the next two years and that construction equipment won’t arrive even in the next four. This is one place where the cost of service delivery eats up about 70 percent of the district’s development budget.
“If we have a million kina to spend, K700,000 will be spent on transportation and other costs and we’d be left with just K300,000 for actual services,” says Finchafen MP, Theo Zurenuoc.
Zurenuoc walked the rugged mountains where the villages are located. He is one of a new breed of PNG politicians who have tried to stay connected to their place of origin. In one of his many trips during the wet season, the people reported up to five deaths. All of them were failed rescues or failed attempts to cross flooded rivers.
The Avengu people now have a foot bridge. This is where government funding is being channeled. But to build the bridge , the people made a five hour trek, through thick jungle, to carry the metal parts from Lembati airstrip, in the neighboring village, to the site. The bridge cost 30 thousand kina. But the cost of service delivery added up to nearly K70,000. It’s the same in most mountainous districts all over Papau New Guinea. As in many other rural locations, there is an ever present plague of high infant and maternal deaths.
Lisa Ivil, a primary school teacher has seen women and children die every year. “Every year, we see five deaths,” she tells me.
“It’s alarming. But what can we do?”
Speaking at a public gathering in the presence of her parliamentary representative, Theo Zurenuoc, she raised concerns over the cost of delivering services. Her salary of K500 a fortnight can’t cater for transportation costs for her family. A plane ticket costs K300 per passenger. She has no choice but to spend nearly half a week walking to the coast with her young family.