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Keywords:

  • Corruption;
  • deforestation;
  • forest management;
  • logging;
  • multinational corporations;
  • REDD;
  • tropical timber

Abstract

Papua New Guinea (PNG) sustains some of the world's most biologically and culturally rich forests. Like many tropical nations, PNG is changing rapidly as it attempts to develop economically, but corporate misdealing and weak governance are undermining its capacity to do so sustainably. Overexploitation of forests is rampant, with most accessible forests likely to be logged or disappear in 1–2 decades. The timber industry has long been plagued by endemic corruption, with Rimbunan Hijau, a Malaysian corporation controlling much of the country's timber supplies, considered a chronic offender by many. Most timber is exported as raw logs, mainly to China, providing only limited income and employment for local communities. Because of corruption and weak enforcement capacity, proceeds from logging are often concentrated in the hands of political elites or the wealthy and logging operations often violate mandated standards. Moreover, traditional communal groups in PNG have recently been stripped of their legal rights to impede development projects that are deemed environmentally risky. Human welfare in the country has actually worsened, with mean incomes, adult literacy, and the Human Development Index all falling in recent years. We propose a slate of immediate measures to reduce environmental damage and the exhaustion of timber supplies while increasing societal benefits in PNG.