Customary land is the foundation for a huge economy based around subsistence agriculture and the informal sector that is worth more than K40 billion a year. This economy is many times larger than the ‘formal’ export economy but it is largely ignored by the advocates of land alienation.
The proponents of ‘land reform’ use the language of ‘old school’ economics with an narrow focus on economic growth, formal economies and export earnings. By using this language, they argue the ‘national economy’ would benefit from land registration, more logging, more monoculture agriculture, and more mining - which would all drive greater exports.
But what they ignore is that under their agenda family livelihoods go backwards and local ecologies and social systems get destroyed. This is because they choose to ignore ‘new school’ economics which value family livelihoods, human development indicators and the cash flows from the informal sector.
Evidence shows families are better off economically if they are left to build better futures for themselves based on family and clan control of customary land. Indeed, research has shown neglected sectors like simple roadside markets, provide much more employment than all the monoculture plantations and mining projects in PNG put together and provide incomes that are higher than those of workers in the formal sector.
The informal sector which comprises cash crops, market sales, small businesses like transport and retail sales, and export cropping offers families better livelihood options than formal sector industries such as oil palm, logging, factories, shop employment and mining.