ADB's Work in Papua New Guinea
ADB has been helping Papua New Guinea address some of its most difficult development challenges since 1971, and the partnership continues.
In the mid-2000s, the Pacific island country of Papua New Guinea (PNG) was facing an HIV epidemic. In 2004, the National AIDS Council and National Department of Health estimated that 47,000 people in PNG were infected with HIV, and infection patterns suggested that the HIV epidemic was at an advanced and critical stage.
To help the government deal with the crisis, ADB approved the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in Rural Development Enclaves Project in 2006. In collaboration with the governments of Australia and New Zealand, this project established partnerships between health authorities and rural mining and agriculture enterprises, and expanded their health services to the surrounding areas. It also introduced behavior change programs and implemented a national infection surveillance system.
The successful partnerships set up under the project contributed substantially not only to HIV prevention and care, but also to limiting the deterioration of the country’s primary health services.
An ongoing ADB health project, the Rural Primary Health Services Delivery Project, approved in 2011, is testing and refining the earlier project’s approach to improve the coverage and quality of primary health care for eventual rollout across the country by the Ministry of Health.
"Our 45-year development partnership with ADB has so far rehabilitated transport infrastructure, improved air safety, provided basic health services to rural populations, provided financial services to the unbanked, and removed barriers to jobs and business creation."
Supporting inclusive development
PNG’s economy is based on a rich endowment of natural resources, including gold, timber, fish, and natural gas. Booming exports of these commodities have underpinned a continuous period of economic growth since 2002.
Despite facing profound development challenges, PNG has made great strides in the last 5 decades. Per capita gross domestic product in the country has risen from $196 in 1967 to more than $2,268 in 2014, while life expectancy increased from 44 years to 63 years in the same period. Under-5 mortality has been cut by almost two-thirds from 160 in 1967 to 57 in 2015.
ADB is helping PNG build on these gains by supporting the country’s efforts to convert its resource wealth into inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth. This is being done through projects that remove infrastructure bottlenecks and reduce barriers to job and business creation.
“Our 45-year development partnership with ADB has rehabilitated transport infrastructure, improved air safety, provided basic health services to rural populations, provided financial services to the unbanked, and removed barriers to jobs and business creation,” says Patrick Pruaitch, former PNG Treasury Minister.
A key part of ADB’s work in PNG involves helping people, many of whom have lived traditional lifestyles outside the formal economy, to develop financial literacy and benefit from assistance such as microfinance. Much of this work is being done in the Highlands—the region with the highest levels of poverty.
In PNG, women have 25% less financial literacy than men, tend not to know their rights, and are less likely to complain about the quality of services they receive (and more likely to be rejected if they do).
To help address this, the ADB-supported Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative is assisting the government in studying the impact of competition and consumer laws on men and women, and how regulatory frameworks hinder women’s commercial activities. It is also reviewing laws and institutions with regard to the interests of men and women as consumers, and examining how laws that protect women consumers are being enforced.
Leap Elijah, a mother of four from the Tsak Valley in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea, received financial training about budgeting and savings under an ADB project and said it has changed her life. “I used to waste my money before I had the knowledge,” she said.
This article was originally published in a special edition of Together We Deliver, which tells 50 stories highlighting the importance of good partnerships in Asia and the Pacific in meeting the complex development challenges of this dynamic region.