Sharp Talk uses PNG Indpependence Day to highlight needs of youth | Pacific Beat

Sharp Talk uses PNG Indpependence Day to highlight needs of youth

Sharp Talk uses PNG Indpependence Day to highlight needs of youth

Updated 12 September 2013, 17:11 AEST

Today is Papua New Guinea's 38th anniversary of independence and to celebrate the popular facebook group Sharp Talk has been holding a talkfest tackling some of PNG's most pressing issues.

In just over two years more than 13,000 people have joined Sharp Talk.

Today they are getting their first chance to take their feisty discussions on the way forward for their country out of the online environment.

Sharp Talk's founder, Douveri Henao, told Jemima Garrett plenty of young and not so young people have turned out to have their say.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker:Douveri Henao, Sharp Talk founder, researcher with the Institute of National Affairs, and Executive Director of the Business Council of PNG

HENAO: There is a lot of passion. There is no shortage of thinking and ideals so yeah, it is certainly what we expected and a whole lot more.

GARRETT: Your discussion topics are asking some hard questions. One session is called 'PNG at 38: Date with Destiny of Disintegration'. What sort of things are coming out on that?

HENAO: It is largely looking back at what the founding fathers envisaged was a prototype Papua New Guinea in 1975 and whether their ideals and their vision of that Papua New Guinea is still the same in 2013. And, as you know Jemima, the date with destiny was a coined phrase by former Prime Minister Sir Mekere (Morauta) when he had a very tough time to come into office and resolve those challenging economic and governance issues and it is the same question we posed to the speakers today. What was interesting was that (inaudible) highlighted that the single largest challenge for Papua New Guinea is in the bulging youth population and that will determine destiny or disintegration. If we don't have the time and energy to invest the resources in them then we are walking down a dangerous path. And that was further expanded by Lydia (inaudible) who has a fascinating and very important program which she runs on youth and young children in the settlement areas in Port Moresby. She again highlighted practical examples of those challenges and definitely the feeling and the thought in the room is we really need to look at the population generally, but more specifically how do we empower the youth. And quite right, half of this population will be under 30 very soon and how do we actually get them to be productive, to be safer and to contribute into the progression of the country.

GARRETT: Prime Minister Peter O'Neill is trying to make his mark on the date with destiny, particularly this year by boosting spending on vital services like education, health, law and order and infrastructure by an amazing 50 per cent. What was the thinking on that. How important is it and will it actually work?

HENAO: There were great interventions that came about. One of the first ones is a major redirection needs to be taken in the next couple of years on whether infrastructure spending is accompanied by human resource development spending. Some of the analysis that was discussed today looked at ..a significant proportion of his education and health spending is not so much in building a larger workforce and doctors and teachers but rather on the physical infrastructure itself in hospitals and in schools. So there is still a major disparity in matching the infrastructure with human capital development. And the message, again, was coming out that if you don't take that initiative in taking your eyes away from the physical infrastructure and putting them on human resource development you are going to run into tremendous amounts of problems.

GARRETT: Sharp Talk has grown enormously since it was started up. How much influence do you think it has, and these sorts of debates have, on government?

HENAO: I think it has a lot. There is a very charismatic and enthusiastic state minister which I think for the first time, came on Sharp Talk this morning defending a particular comment that was made on the employment of one of his staff. So if the honourable Charles Able (Minister for Planning) has a couple of minutes to see Facebook and Sharp Talk, undoubtedly he is also looking at the other materials and conversations that is coming out from the different areas. There is certainly no shortage of men and women, which are Sharp Talk contributors which are also advisors in various arms of the government and I think that is the strength in what we are doing. We are ripping down barriers that have been there for a while and information gaps. I think at the end of the day it is coming into the next stage of its evolution and that is taking it out of Facebook and putting it into another medium and that is the sort of evolution that has happened today. This seminar is perhaps the first of many attempts by a couple of us to look at how inclusive and interactive we can get the conversations out.

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