Corruption is a huge problem in PNG. It is estimated up to half the government’s annual development budget is stolen and there are many examples of corrupt and unlawful land deals. The worst example was the SABL land grab in which fraudulent agriculture leases were used to unlawfully acquire rights to more than 50,000 square kilometres of customary land - more than 12% of the whole country.
Corruption plays two important roles in the land debate in Papua New Guinea.
Firstly corruption and political mismanagement means health, education and transport services are very poor and almost non-existent in many rural areas. Corporations use this failure of government to persuade people to give up their customary land in the hope the company will provide better services.
Secondly, the complete breakdown in governance and the rule of law means that once land is registered with government agencies it is very easy for outsiders to illegally acquire leases, licences or other land use rights without any consultation or consent from rural people.