The curse of the ‘Tiger Economy’

PNG’s economy has been growing at an average 8% per year for a decade – supported mostly by increased demand for raw materials and their high market prices. The immediate future appears certain to experience further growth albeit at a predicted slightly lower growth level until 2014.

Of late some commentators have found it fitting to brand the PNG economy a ‘tiger economy’; once a brand that the PNG nation could only wish for. And many citizens might have smiled and of course bragged a bit about how we’ve grown and how good future prospects seem.

PNG has to a certain degree, succeeded in changing perceptions and now appears to be romancing (apart from traditional partners) new big players in the Asia-Pacific region. How long this continues on for is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for certain: there’s virtually almost nothing tangible on the ground to show for as evidence for a decade of economic growth. So the question that begs to be answered is: Is PNG really a tiger economy?

The phrase ‘tiger economy’ is used to define any economy that has continually experienced economic growth through its trade and industry sectors and as well as improvements in living standards of a country’s citizens.

PNG has experienced economic growth but has growth been experienced in other sectors such as education, health, infrastructure and manufacturing – the very sectors that enables her citizens to improve their living standards? Isn’t the elementary reason for a country seeking economic growth the ‘improvement of living standards and prosperity’ for its citizens? How could PNG be a tiger economy when its citizens are still living on the edges?

This branding (tiger economy) may invoke images of improving education and health services, a burgeoning manufacturing (downstream processing) sector, and etc. These aren’t happening in PNG and we have succeeded in fooling people outside and even ourselves. It is highly likely PNG citizens will have developed illusions as to true state of the economy thus allowing the government and its thinkers to take a bit more laidback approach towards fixing PNG’s many problems.

PNG hasn’t reached that stage yet, although it has achieved sustained economic growth for a decade, to be called a tiger economy. Some other name, maybe, ‘pussycat economy’ might fit well.

Remember the Asian economic meltdown; where the Asian tiger economies were brought to their knees. They however, were able to quickly bounce back, due partly to their solid manufacturing, education and health sectors which they’ve developed during happier days.

If PNG is to experience a meltdown or slowing down due to downturn in demand for our raw materials, huge dept-servicing expenses and an inequitable distribution of wealth; what sector is there to aid PNG’s speedy recovery?

PNG needs to first build, re-build and strengthen its appalling self.


Upheaval in a garden

Jesus in Gethsemane

Jesus in Gethsemane

In a distant barren garden,

Slight winds glide in straight lines,

Then in circles like in a circus.

Leaves curling; uncurl while sway,

Rustling and rustle in the wind.

Worms under burrow louder, and

Crickets rise and creep willy-nilly;

Bleep! Bleep! Then chirping a chirp.

Night’s sun rush to beam a gleam,

And a portrait rays form.

Thoughts flip through pages of a life:

Tallying all achievements in flashes.

No man who was human,

No mammal that’s an animal,

Bother to wander there.

A man, he and himself,

And worms, crickets and leaves.

Breaths burst into steam

And gleam in passing rays.

As perspiration disperses

And gather on the ground

A glittering puddle forms

In which a journey thence previews.

Winds stumble then leaves rumble

Like angry waves breaking pebbles,

Troubled thoughts did more breaking.

Emotions! Seep thru’ gentle eyes.

Blood bleeds!

Night’s eyes shut!

Wind’s hiss recedes!

Who’d have courage to watch?

But when t’was time,

A gentle calm settles over Peter

And presides at the Skull Mountain rituals.

By: Jeffrey Febi                    07 Apr 2010 edited 21 Sept 2012

Watching sunrise: Lake Kutubu experience

This is a piece I wrote back in 2010.
It was early dawn, just the kind of time dreams are ending and beds are sweeter. Something nudged me; once, twice, then more than twice. And I stepped out of the comfort of my bed; and once outside, I felt hard cold hastily creeping into my body as if to drain out all warmth. It was an unpleasantly cold mountain morning, not unusual in this part of Papua New Guinea (PNG) highlands.

There were still isolated patches of hovering grays; however the eastern skyline which meets this part of the earth in the east on a rather long and continuous wall of mountain ranges gradually came into view, exposing a dim fine line across; below which the dark wall of mountain ranges seem darkly evil.

I was on a rig, drilling on a ridge surrounded by taller rugged ridges. The highest point is to the north and is constantly covered by clouds. The frequency and timing at which it rains has been unchanged that it has become quite easy to predict accurately when it will rain next.

Rivers from the north flow south and empty their waters into the second largest lake in PNG called Lake Kutubu: a lake which has been under protection by PNG government laws due to its unique ecosystem.

The south opens up and presents a majestic view of Lake Kutubu where ever green forest that cloth the rugged terrains descends to the lake and opens up with a motherly-like curled arms and cuddles it protectively. This setting easily generates a mythical feeling and imparts an image the mind cannot easily forget. One could not but stare in awe at what nature in its pure self displays.

Incidentally, this part of the world is amongst the last wild frontiers that have caught world attention as recently as 2009 when a BBC crew filmed a scientific expedition into a nearby volcanic crater where new species of frogs, a giant rat the size of a house cat, birds and bats were discovered.

Though everywhere there were still clouds rising up lazily from the clutches of the dark, the east and especially the horizon had cleared up reasonably well. With my face already struggling to keep the cold out, I walked towards a clear spot where the view to the east is unblocked except for a little tree which stood directly in my eye line. There I would wait and watch the slow rise of the morning sun; a phenomena with promises of colourful displays of its unceasing glory and majesty.

I have watched sunrises before and some were spellbinding. Even sunsets were colourful however every place has its own unique setting that adds to the beauty of sunrise or sunset.

From stories I heard, sunrises here are quite beautifully spectacular; this is what I wanted to observe and experience whatever emotions it may generate in my soul.


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