Decentralization Without Disintegration: Provincial Government in Papua New Guinea, 1972-1985
Focus: Decentralization, Balancing the Central and Local
Type: Case Studies
Author: Matthew Devlin
Keywords: Papua New Guinea, decentralization, Bougainville
Papua New Guinea decentralized power to newly formed provincial governments shortly after declaring independence from Australia in 1975. The process was driven largely by demands for increased autonomy for Bougainville, the most distant of PNG's island provinces and home to what was then one of the world's most lucrative copper mines. The central government sought to keep the island part of PNG by satisfying Bougainvilleans' desire for a greater degree of self-rule without devolving so much power that outright secession seemed feasible. The resulting system of decentralization grew out of this political compromise. Implementation proved difficult, especially when an unforeseen competition developed between the national Parliament and provincial governments. Nevertheless, the highly problematic process of decentralization allowed PNG to preserve its territorial integrity over the crucial first decade of its existence-no small feat for one of the world's most ethnically diverse countries.