Friday, August 13, 2010

How it works in PNG

As I noted last month, the government of Papua New Guinea is currently teetering on the brink, after a host of defections undermined the government's majority. While the government has (unconstitutionally) adjourned Parliament, that has simply delayed the inevitable, and the government will almost certainly face a confidence vote when it resumes. But Prime Minister Michael Somare has a solution for his disloyal MPs: bribe them with public money:

About 50 MPs in Papua New Guinea have reportedly each been paid around 740,000 US dollars to ensure they continue to back the ruling coalition.

The newspaper, The National, reports its information comes from sources within the Finance Department.

It’s alleged that Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his son Arthur Somare, as former acting Finance Minister and Treasurer, instructed the release of the funds to the MPs soon after Parliament adjourned last month.

US$740,000 split fifty ways is about US$15,000 each - more than ten times the per capita GDP of PNG (and, more staggeringly, 0.1% of PNG's total GDP in total, given to 50 people). Meanwhile that's money that won't be spent for its intended (and legally appropriated) purpose: helping the people of PNG.

This is corruption on a massive scale. Its undemocratic, it robs from the poor to support a pseudo-aristocracy of cronies, it is immoral. But that, apparently, is just how it works in PNG.

Correction: Whoops, math-o. I was out by a factor of one hundred error - not even good enough for astrophysics.

Correction 2: Its really not my day, is it? A correspondent has pointed out that its not US$740,000 between all 50 MPs - its US$740,000 (or about 60 times per-capita GDP) each. Which works out to US$37 million, or (double check the figures this time) 0.47% of total GDP for this one bribe. The lower figure was obscene enough, but this is beyond obscenity. US$37 million is about 100 million kina - more than they spend on prisons, twice as much as they spend on judges, a third of the entire education budget [PDF]. And its going straight into the pockets of a handful of corrupt politicians so the government can retain power.