In this review titled ‘A Way Forward: Review of Papua New Guinea’s Millennium Development Goals 2015 Dismal Performance’ I take a look at three recent articles that address the reasons Papua New Guinea (PNG) had not performed well in its national tailored Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets between 2000 and 2015. The reasons range from technical to geographical and cultural as well as political. In addition, I would discuss what PNG could do post-2015 to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.
2. ARTICLE 1: THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA: THE RESPONSE OF GOVERNMENT
The article ‘The Millennium Development Goals in Papua New Guinea: the response of government [pdf]’ was written by Marjorie Andrew, Deputy Director & Research Leader at the National Research Institute. On the 15th of March, 2015 she presented her research work at a three day conference on ‘Resource Development and Human Well-Being in Papua New Guinea: Issues in the measurement of progress’. She highlighted several reasons why PNG’s performance on locally tailored MDGs indicators were ‘off the mark’ (Andrew, 2015, p. 22).
In her remarks on pages 3 - 4, Andrew indicated that PNG national indicators we tailored twice; first in 2004 for the Medium Term Development Strategy 2005 – 2010 and re-tailored in 2010 for Medium Term Development Plan 2011 – 2015. Of the 91 PNG tailored national indicators, only 40 were the same as the United Nations’ MDGs 1 to 8. The others (51 tailored indicators) were either blurred or less complying with UNs’ requirements and therefore cannot be measured internationally. This was of the reasons why PNG was put in the area of ‘no data’.
On pages 5 - 7, Andrew distinctively pointed out that PNG government lacks internal technical expertise to collect and analyse important statistical data for 2015 MDG Progress Report. Though several departments produced report annually, overall technical expertise across public institutions is ‘weak’. She mentioned that PNG’s reliance on international donors to do reporting showed that without them, vital reports may remain undone.
3. ARTICLE 2: MDGS: WHERE DID WE END UP AND WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Dr. Genevieve Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of Kokoda Track Foundation, gave some insights on the eight MDGs and put forward several reasons why PNG had difficulty achieving the MDG indicators. In her introduction, she thought 2015 was ‘a time to reflect on that past decade’s [and-a-half] progress towards meeting the goals and setting a new framework for post-2015’ (Nelson, 2015). Furthermore, she highlighted that progress was made in area of poverty reduction worldwide. Quoting McCarter’s (2003) she said the estimate for people living under $1.25 per day had halved from 43 percent in 1990 down to 21 percent in 2010 – an indication of reduction in poverty. Nonetheless, Dr. Nelson said disparity emerged from individual countries. She clearly indicated that according to the ‘MDG Progress Index developed by the Centre for Global Development Think Tank’, PNG is awarded a dismal score of just 1 out of 8.
Dr. Nelson further put emphasis on several challenges why PNG is one of the few countries in the word that did not meet the MDGs. The two technical reasons she identified were that the PNG’s tailored development indicators change very little every few years; and PNG had capacity issues within government offices, including the government departments. Often there was ‘no data’ in tables due to their inability to produce reliable data on a regular basis. In addition to the technical reasons, others reasons that potentially contribute to PNG’s inability to meet the MDG indicators include Geography, Linguistic and Cultural diversity, and Governance and Corruption.
Dr. Nelson remarked that PNG was ranked low on the MDGs Progress Index (1 out of 8) should be a wake-up call for the government. She reiterated that ‘business-as-usual’ attitude has to change – there is no room for complacency going forward. PNG must improve on the technical, geographical, cultural and political challenges, by developing appropriate policy framework focused on human development and provision of services.
In summary, Dr Nelson said post 2015 era should see governments, donors, businesses and NGO working together to improve people’s lives. Though it may seem hard, the future of the nation depends on ‘innovation and new technology, collaborations and partnerships, and strong action focused on the delivery of basic services to remote communities, to improve outcomes for all Papua New Guineans’ (Nelson, 2015, para. 15).
4. ARTICLE 3: HOW SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs) CAN BENEFIT PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S SOCIETY AND ECONOMY
The article was written by Ann-Cathrin Joest for an NGO group called the Seed Theatre Incorporation. Her emphasis was on the how PNG could use its lessons learned on MDGs as a stepping stone for developing policy framework for the 17 SDGs, post-2015. Joest introduced her article by stating the obvious - PNG had difficulty achieving the MDGs. She also mentioned that according to the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), PNG is rated among the thirty ‘Low Human Development’ (UNDP, 2014) group of countries, ranked 165 out of 187 countries. She also mentioned that low life expectancies at birth, school retention, maternal health, high infant mortality and increase sexually transmitted infections were among the human development issues. Joest also mentioned that PNG is ranked ‘one of the lowest on the Gender Inequality Index’ (Joest, 2005. para. 2). In addition she mentioned that urban crimes and tribal fight were major challenges.
Joest reasoned that this poor performance was the result of poor education and food insecurity; inadequate access to sanitation, clean water and energy; and failure of past and previous governments on its MDG responsibilities. Joest said that the MDGs expired in 2015. Yet under those circumstances, SDGs2030 policy framework will not be successful post-2015 if government does not take action to address issues relating to education, food security, and institutional capacity among the others.