Affordable Family Formation in New Guinea
October 26, 2010, 05:25 PM
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The conclusion of a New York Times article "Riches May Not Help Papua New Guinea" on the influx of money into the New Guinea highlands from an Exxon natural gas pipeline:
Earlier, he had held up a warning: a local village chief who had squandered a $120,000 windfall.

A short drive away, Hamon Matipe, the septuagenarian chief of Kili, confirmed that he had received that sum four months earlier. In details corroborated by the local authorities, Mr. Matipe explained that the provincial government had paid him for village land alongside the Southern Highlands’ one major road, where the government planned to build a police barracks.

His face adorned with red and white paint, a pair of industrial safety glasses perched incongruously on a head ornament from which large leaves stuck out, Mr. Matipe said he had given most of the money to his 10 wives. But he had used about $20,000 to buy 48 pigs, which he used as a dowry to obtain a 15-year-old bride from a faraway village, paying well above the going rate of 30 pigs. He and some 30 village men then celebrated by buying 15 cases of beer, costing about $800.

�All the money is now gone,� Mr. Matipe said. �But I’m very happy about the company, ExxonMobil. Before, I had nothing. But because of the money, I was able to buy pigs and get married again.�

Here's a video of part of the amazing 1983 documentary First Contact with footage of the arrival of Australian explorers in the highlands of New Guinea around 1930. When the first airplane flew over the central spine of New Guinea, the pilot was amazed to discover that there wasn't just one mountain range, but two parallel ones with a fertile valley between them, home to about a million agriculturalists, previously unknown to the rest of the world.