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Wabag - Enga Province of Papua New Guinea
Wabag, often disparaged by other Papua New Guineans as being “way back”, is slowly but surely shedding off the tag.
The Enga capital, and the rest of the province for that matter, is now one of the most – progressive places in PNG.
It was exactly 30 years ago, in August 1973, that Enga Province was born.
A month after the birth, first Provincial Commissioner Robert Bell, could only Enga as “bare as a baby’s bottom”.
Wabag, the provincial headquarters, has over the last 30 years been transformed from an outpost to a town.
The six Enga districts of Wabag, Wapenamenda, Kompiam, Porgera, Laiagam and Kandep have a population of about 300, 000.
The three – storey Ipatas Centre, political and administrative headquarters of Enga, epitomises the new – look Enga.
The third and final stage of the Ipatas Centre – a project that commenced in 1997 and finally has been completed at a cost of K21 million – will be opened on a date to be set.
The third stage houses the provincial assembly, a restaurant, club and even a helipad on top.
“It’s more or less like a Parliament here,” Enga Governor Peter Ipatas said.
Bird's eye view of Wabag
“You’ve got a parliament and you’ve got a cafeteria here also.
“Of course, we’ve got the helipad on top.
“It’s probably the only helipad in the country.
“ Control is there.
“They’re all in one place - public servants, politicians - working from one central location.”
Mr Ipatas is putting much – needed emphasis on impact projects to do with communication, electricity, health, education, agriculture and tourism.
The outdated analogue telephone system was recently done away and replaced with digital, heralding in a new age of Internet communications.
“We’ve now got the digital system,” the Governor said.
“We’ve been having a lot of problems with the phones and now we’re happy.
“It’s almost 100 per cent complete now so we’re pretty happy.
“It’s now the digital system.
“We’ve had the analogue system for a long, long time.
“ It (digital) opens up the place for emails, the banking system also relies on that, so it’s very good for business.”
Fed up with constant power disruptions, the Enga Provincial Government has spent K400, 000 on buying a new generator, which will be managed by PNG Power in Wabag.
Outstations will be linked up with the main power supply from Yonki in the Eastern Highlands.
“ The standby generator cost us about K400, 000 to be installed,” Mr Ipatas said.
“It was under done under a memorandum of agreement with PNG Power.
“ Too many blackouts are costing business so much money so we are doing that.
“We are now looking at connecting all our districts with electricity.
“Wapenamenda and Wabag districts have got power.
“So now we’re got to get power to Laiagam, power to Porgera, power to Kandep and Kompiam.
“That’s our next major project that we want to undertake.”
Mr Ipatas also has major plans for:
Health: Bring in specialist doctors and the right equipment.
Education: Convert either Wabag or Kopen secondary schools into a secondary technical high school.
Agriculture: Allocation of K250, 000 to Rural Development Bank for credit scheme. Another K50, 000 to buy blight – resistant potatoes and chemicals to combat this insidious disease. Funds will also be expanded into the revival of the Enga Vegetable Marketing Company. More extension work will be carried out into pyrethrum.
Customers lining up for bananas:
Tourism: Lodges will be established in all districts each catering for a particular tourism product. Enga Cultural Show will be heavily promoted overseas and there will be no cancellation or deferral.
“Our biggest problem is communication, as we said,” Mr Ipatas said.
“ Some areas don’t have telephone lines.
“Electricity is a problem in the districts.
“The road network needs to be improved.
“These are the basic services that we need.
“Law and order, I have always maintained, is manageable if people, everybody, did what they were supposed to do.
“Public servants aren’t really trained to work hard.
“Most public servants, I think, should be trained, properly trained.
“It’s an obstacle to service delivery.
“We used to have a scheme before whereby public servants went and had a stint with Porgera mine.
“They woke up early.
“It was good exposure for them.
“Next year, we want to develop the rugby league field again.
“Hooligans destroyed it and we had to rebuild it all over again.
That’s a most popular sport.
“We continue to support such sports in Enga.”
Other projects are in the pipeline.
“Some provinces are sleeping and saying that there’s no money,” Mr Ipatas said.
“We’re still working at a snail’s pace but we’re moving ahead.
“We’ll be rebuilding the Bank South Pacific Building in Wabag.
“We hopefully will be starting early next year.
“The bank and us are now talking.
“The provincial government will own the building and will lease it to the bank.
“I just talked to the chief magistrate John Numapo.
“He’s sending up a provincial magistrate for whom the provincial government will be providing housing.
“We’ll be spending some money on that.
“We spent K1.2m on establishing the national court in Wabag three years ago.
“We’re also supposed to put in K2.5m for Paiam town development in Porgera.
“This is half a million every year.
“We’re fully committed to seeing that Paiam does become a town.
“Over the last three years we’ve given them K1.5m.
“As for provincial roads, we’ve given K3m already for the Asian Development Bank funded projects.
“We will continue to contribute until the projects start moving.
“It’s not moving at all and we’re fed up, but anyway, we continue to contribute.”
So, I put it to Mr Ipatas, is Wabag and Enga that “way back”?
“ We’ve got our share of problems,” he said.
“ Now, over the last eight weeks, we’ve had no tribal fights.
“That’s always been a big problem. “You have occasional hold – ups, whatever, but you must remember that you’re not in heaven.”
Another view of the Ipatas:
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