9 Dec 2013

PNG's image damaged by perceptions of corruption

6:26 pm on 9 December 2013

The chair of Transparency International Papua New Guinea says perceptions around the high level of corruption in PNG have the potential to damage the country on many fronts.

PNG has just ranked 144 out of a list of 175 countries on this year's Transparency International Corruption Perception index.

Lawrence Stephens told Bridget Tunnicliffe it's disappointing that PNG hasn't made a lot of ground in this area.

LAWRENCE STEPHENS: There are times when you do feel frustrated, but over all there are positive things happening and our preference is to focus on the positive. There's growing awareness and growing concern about corruption. There are statements being made by the prime minister and ministers discussing, talking about, taking about, taking firm positions, apparently, against corruption. And the cumulative effect of all this should be that we will start to see an improvement in our position.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Do you think in many ways this has to be driven by the people, that ultimately the only way the government will react is if the people start getting really angry about it?

LS: Yes, partly people getting angry, partly people simply being insistent on their rights. And a big part of it, of course, is people being educated as to what it means. There is still some confusion, particularly in some rural areas, as to the exact meaning of corruption. And there are places where people do not see any problem with enjoying the fruits of corruption, if you like. So there's a whole lot of education that's involved, as well. But, yes, bit by bit people are more uptight about what they're seeing. The social media here are very active. There are more comments being made all the time. And gradually we hope the leaders are seeing that corrupt behaviour is not acceptable.

BT: Why is perception of corruption so important? What kind of flow-on effect does it have? I imagine it also hurts things like tourism to a country.

LS: Absolutely. I was in Sydney a few days ago. I mentioned to somebody that I came from Papua New Guinea. The only thing that person seemed to know about Papua New Guinea were stories about violence. And she immediately said 'Is it safe?' The perceptions in the international business and banking, finance community are important when it comes to investments in or having confidence in the existing investments in places like Papua New Guinea. If the perception is that we're not a country which respects good governance then there's a good chance that good investors won't come and we'll be faced with the nasties of the investment world taking charge.

Fiji has not featured in the Index since the 2006 military coup because three independent assessments are needed to qualify.