PNG Vision 2050: A Kuka Strategy – One Step Forward, Three Steps Sideways
Not since the formalising of our Constitution has there been as much public affectation or political hysteria concerned with the launching of a Government white paper than that we witnessed with the christening of Papua New Guinea Vision 2050.
Following its completion in late 2009, PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare declared:
“PNG Vision 2050 is a beacon of fresh hope for our people and future generations. The plan maps out the future direction our country should take, reflecting the hopes and aspirations of our people“.
I have cautiously harboured my own personal views on the topic over the past 11 months, but as PNG Vision 2050 (PNGV50) nears its first birthday, the Government’s self-proclaimed “gift to the people” deserves to be scrutinised – particularly as these teething years are absolutely critical to the success, or failure, of the PNG-born and bred national plan.
To state that PNGV50 is ambitious is an understatement. The cynic would claim that it is an overly prodigious attempt to capture the elusive PNG tradewinds that provide comfort to so many of our citizens on a hot day. Despite the rhetorical applause awarded to the document from central government and its learned authors, the document has come under severe criticism from a few pockets of resistant nonpartisans. Admittedly, I suspect my own personal opinion of the document, from an holistic perspective, would weigh the scales in favour of the ‘Nays’.
As I suggest in the title, PNGV50 is a kuka (crab) strategy, i.e, it sets the stage for moving forward to some extent, and then stalls and moves sideways instead. In other words, PNGV50 is largely an horizontal and qualitative approach to making PNG a “smart, wise, fair and happy society by 2050“.
Where is the quantitative framework that will provide tangible go-forward in a realistic and timely manner? One year on sees a below par performance from central government and line agencies supporting and proactively facilitating the development framework of PNGV50. In fact, to date, the National Health Plan 2011-2020 is the only sector plan to be aligned with the PNGV50 and the Development Strategy Plan (DSP) 2010-2030.
Technically, PNGV50 is not a strategic plan in any sense of the phrase. Of its 51 pages of text, only 10 are truly strategic and it is these 10 pages that should form the entirety of PNGV50. Consequently, these 10 pages should be dissected and extrapolated into a relevant medium term planning guide for all sector plans up until 2050.
In addition, its status as being visionary has been questioned. Kindi Dolle Mewa recently wrote an opinion piece to The National concerning PNGV50. He states:
“The Vision 2050 does not seem to be a visionary document that inspires creativity in development but rather attempts to do the opposite. The true visionary document has already been clearly written by the founding fathers of this nation in the Constitution.
There is no need for the Prime Minister to give another ‘gift’ to the nation because he has already given one that captured his wisdom. We only need strong commitment to make the five directive principles and goals of the Constitution a reality. The Vision 2050’s so-called Seven Pillars are perceived under static lens and have no consideration for the dynamic and evolving stages of development“.
Mewa makes a valid point. PNGV50 is not a visionionary document but a static planning document because it does not take into account the dynamic global and local political, economical, social and technological environments.
Indeed, the biggest issue I have with PNGV50 is the copius number of assumptions that have been weakly threaded together in an attempt to provide a logical and systematic approach in achieving the document’s objectives. These same assumptions are simultaneously utilised to confidently identify specific challenges that the country faces and consequently should address. In some cases, PNGV50 literally describes challenges within challenges!
One aspect of PNGV50 that really concerns me is the entrenchment of the document into legislation. In an interview with Radio Australia, Daniel Kapi, the deputy Chairman of PNGV50, stated:
“One of the things that we are doing now is this plan will now be anchored in law, so that it has a legal footing. So we are making amendments to the Prime Minister and N.E.C. acts which will legally be part of their program, which will empower them to push this plan forward.
So now under law, its ownership will be taken over by the Department of Prime Minister and N.E.C. so at least you know that the driver becomes the Prime Minister himself and the executing agency becomes the Department of Prime Minister. That is the first step.“.
PNGV50 openly acknowledges that in order for the documents’ objectives to be acheived, the driving force of success must be the full participation of our people and a complete change in their mind-sets. If one wants somebody to be inspired, empowered and to be truly creative, that individual must take voluntary ownership of being an agent of change and actually believe in the cause.
It is extremely ironic, and more appropriately hypocritical, that PNGV50 admirably and passionately seeks to create this change, and yet simultaneously, demonstrates a brutal vote of no confidence in the ability of our people to voluntarily become these very same agents of change by enacting legislation.
What a stinging slap to the face.
The National Strategic Plan Taskforce and PNGV50 have got this national plan backward. This kuka strategy describes ‘What’ it wants, ‘How’ it wants it and in last place, ‘Why’ it wants it. In order to be truly effective, PNGV50 needs to reverse its approach by first convincing Papua New Guineans ‘Why’ they should take up the mantle of change. The ‘How’ and ‘What’ will easily follow – for it is only when our people truly believe in the cause of changing PNG that we will become a “smart, wise, fair and happy society by 2050” – and no amount of new legislation will change that.