Rationalisation of mechanical and electrical equipment imports into Papua New Guinea

Johnston, S. F. (1979). Rationalisation of mechanical and electrical equipment imports into Papua New Guinea. ATG paper 8; Alternative Technology Group, The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00015b67


The Paper deals with the work of a Royal Commission sot up in 1974 by the Government of Papua New Guinea, to study the problems being experienced with imported mechanical and electrical equipment and to recommend and implement measures to improve the situation.

The central concern was with motor vehicles and outboard motors. The Commission found that there were fewer than 40,000 motor vehicles registered in the whole country, including at least 129 different makes and over 300 different make and size combinations. The 6,500 outboard motors sold in the six years 1969-1974 included at least 14 different makes and 57 different make and size combinations. The Commission found that this variety very much increased the problems caused by difficult operating conditions, limited transport infrastructure and a general shortage of experienced operators, mechanics and spare ports personnel.

The Report showed up strongly the inappropriateness for Papua Now Guinea of many aspects of the international motor industry, particularly the frequent model changes and huge variety of models. It also provided the basis for rejection of a proposal for a vehicle assembly plant in Papua New Guinea.

Poor availability and high cost of spare parts were considered to be central to the short working life of equipment. When parts were available, prices were high. Mark ups from landed cost to retail price were typically from 90% to 150%. Similar problems were found with heavy equipment, and the 4,000 items of heavy equipment in the country included at least 100 makes and 270 make, size, and type combinations. These difficulties are experienced on islands throughout the Pacific.

The work of the Commission wont on from September, 1974 to March, 1976. It presented its Report in throe parts over this period, two before Independence and one after. The Commission formally demonstrated the problems and made wide ranging suggestions for administrative and policy changes , in particular for alternative transport measures to reduce the demand for private motor cars.

Its most radical long term recommendation was that the Government should take over the industry, setting up a Government Controlled Corporation which was to have a monopoly on imports of the main ranges of motor vehicles and outboard motors.

The Paper discusses some of the reasons for the rejection of this proposal by the Government. It concludes by raising some of the ethical problems for expatriate professionals in this type of work.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Commission's existence was its challenge to the policies of both the international equipment manufacturers and the importers in Papua New Guinea.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions