Interview: Powes Parkop
What policies are being pursued by the NCD regional government to reduce crime?
POWES PARKOP: Law and order not only has an impact on security in the NCD, but also on other important areas, including quality of life, health, investment and tourism. The population of the city has quadrupled and now stands at almost 1m; however, the number of police officers is only 800. While the government of the NCD has no direct control over police numbers we would like to see more cooperation between local government and the police force. We are not seeking to directly manage the police, but rather to coordinate strategies and planning, while also improving accountability.
In addition, we are currently reaching out to young people, especially young men. We have set up several programmes, such as technical scholarships, skills training and sports activities, and we are working together with NGOs to increase this offering. I can say with confidence that we have reduced crime by 70% since 2004, and while this is not yet enough, it is a major step forwards. However, our priority is not just to improve law and order but also to change the perception of security within the NCD. We have implemented several programmes to improve the capital’s image, the latest of which is the global brand “Amazing Port Moresby”.
In what ways can the NCD contribute to the government’s economic diversification efforts?
PARKOP: There are a number of ways we could support the national government, the most important of which is by developing the tourism sector. Port Moresby has a large stake in changing the perception of the country as a whole, since the negative image of the city reflects upon Papua New Guinea and its citizens. We would like to improve perceptions of Port Moresby by focusing on the city’s positive attributes. The changes we have undertaken since 2008 have convinced the PNG Tourism Promotion Agency to promote the capital as a tourism destination. Another important role for Port Moresby is to become a centre for business, investments, technology, innovation, sports and services. We have considerable potential in this regard; the city could become a one-stop shop for the Pacific if we can get businesses to invest in quality shopping facilities, high-level medical services, law and accounting firms, and the infrastructure to host sporting and other events. Indeed, we have already hosted several major events, from the 2015 South Pacific Games to the APEC conference in November 2018.
How can Port Moresby become a major global city?
PARKOP: In 2019 we will review the NCD master plan for the coming 20 years, with our priority being to make the city safe, healthy and peaceful. In 20 years we want Port Moresby to be a planned city without any informal settlements. Infrastructure, utilities and core services have to be improved and connected to all residences, including in the villages. In 20 years we might not be as developed as, for example, Singapore, but in terms of services we have to be close to that stage of development, with all the basic infrastructure in place by that time. In particular, we have to focus on improving health care and education. To achieve this, the NCD government wants to be more directly involved in the health sector. Moreover, Port Moresby’s progress will depend in large part on the availability of housing, so we must devise an affordable housing strategy.
We face similar challenges to Singapore, in that our citizens are part of tribes and speak different languages. Our communities are generally accustomed to living in detached houses, but we simply do not have enough space in light of our population growth. We are therefore looking to Singapore to learn how to utilise apartment blocks and successfully integrate different ethnic groups. In the long term we also want to make Port Moresby a high-tech smart city. It is our goal to use digital development to improve connectivity, promote e-commerce and establish e-governance services.