SDG Goals: Government – Directly Fund Churches and Department Not Private Company.

The article is a discussion on the Government-Church Partnership as a powerful vehicle for meeting people’s Education and Health needs in Papua New Guinea (PNG) – and measure up to the Global SDG Goals in Education and Health.

The discussion highlights the key facts about the SDG Goals and Human Development Index (HDI) rating. The historical trends suggest Government-Church Partnership (rather than Government-Private Partnership) is sustainable, long term.

The key points further show that PNG’s past performances in the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) were disappointing.

The government must actively reconsider the role of churches in the delivery of Education and Health services to the rural population. In fact, this partnership can place PNG strategically within the reach of the new Global SDG Goals.

The PNG government must include the Churches in developing this nation.

Key points

  • The government-church partnership is a powerful vehicle for development.
  • Global SDG Goals and HDI ranks are strong indicators for in-country education performance.
  • PNG’s HDI rank fluctuates at 153/187 (2011, published), 154/188 (2016, published) and 153/189 (2018, published) countries. PNG is classified as a Low Human Development Country.
  • PNG had NOT shown significant improvement in HDI.
  • Government-Private Partnership in Education (SDG 4) and Health (SDG 3) is Short-term.
  • The Government-Church Partnership – Sustainable long-term
  • Government to fund churches to deliver basic goods and services to the people.
  • The government must strengthen the Education and Health departments

Government-Churches SDG Goals Partnership

The churches (and their development agencies) are the force for changing PNG’s dismal performance in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The churches have been doing fantastic work in challenging situations and needing the government’s assistance if PNG was to fare well in the SDG Goals.

Evidently, PNG’s performance in the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) was described as ‘dismal’, disappointing. This is reflected in the 2016 HDI rank when PNG dropped from 153 to 154 out of 188 countries. The latest HDI rank (2018) puts PNG back at 153, but still within the Low Human Development country.

sdg goals

The number of education and health services churches indicated by ADRA Australia, 2015 shows that churches are EQUAL development partners. Undoubtedly, the churches network around the country must be both acknowledge and effectively funded.

Before we discuss the main idea of this post (churches the frontline in fostering real development), let’s analyse the human development rank of Fiji, Vanuatu and PNG. And, relate the Human Development Index (HDI) measures to the points in the discussion. Even more, it is absolutely clear that the churches and the Education and Health departments are a powerful ACTOR in the development of our country.

HDI Rank (2015) MDGs in Perspective

Fiji a High Human Development Country

It has an HDI value of 0.736 out of a possible 1.0,

Life Expectancy at Birth of 70.2 years,

Expected Years of Schooling of 15.3 years,

Mean Years of Schooling of 10.5 years,

GNI per capita of $8,245 (International Currency) and

GNI per capita minus HDI rank of 20.

Fiji was ranked 91 in 2014 and remained at 91 in 2015 and fell to 92 in 2016 among the 188 countries.

Key takeaway: Fiji’s education indicators showed that children remain longer in school.

Vanuatu a Medium Human Development country

It has an HDI value of 0.597 out of a high of 1.0,

Life Expectancy at Birth of 72.1 years,

Expected Years of Schooling 10.8 years,

Mean School Years of 6.8 years,

GNI per capita of $2,805 (International Dollar) and

GNI per capita minus HDI rank value of 23.

Vanuatu ranked 134 in 2014 and remained unchanged at 134 in 2015 and fell to 138 out of the 188 countries on the HDI rank.

Key takeaway: The people of Vanuatu live relatively longer

Papua New Guinea a Low Human Development Country

PNG has an HDI value of 0.516 out of a high of 1.0,

Life Expectancy at Birth of 62.8 years,

Expected Years of Schooling at 9.9 years,

Mean Years of Schooling at 4.3 years,

GNI per capita of $2,712 (International Currency) and

GNI per capita minus HDI rank value of 4.

PNG HDI rank was 153 in 2014 but fell 1 place to 154 in 2015 and increased to 153 (latest) out of the 188 countries ranked.

Key takeaway: PNG is at the top of the Low Human Development Countries for a long time. It has NOT moved up the HDI rank and into the Medium Human Development group of countries, yet.

The global human development measures for Fiji, Vanuatu and PNG showed a significant disparity in Education and Health.

Though the countries have different challenges, there should be no excuse for PNG to be at the lower end of global development measures compared to its Pacific neighbours.

PNG’s History Puts PNG High on HDI rank

PNG would be wrong if it thinks political, social, geographical, economic and technological challenges are barriers to meeting the Global SDG Goals. The fact is that PNG had, ominously, NOT done the right thing (after 1995) to move into the Medium Human Development group of countries.

An earlier study (LINK) showed conclusively that PNG’s development after 1975 trended well. The country would now be at the top end of the HDI rank had the earlier progress was consistently maintained.

The trendline (on the featured image below) showed that things were done right after the country’s independence.

However, development has lost its momentum after 1995. Perhaps it is important to note that there is no need to blame a particular government or political party or prime minister. But, to identify the exact point in PNG’s history when development took a downward spiral and remained under the Low Human Development class.

The reasonable way to address the disappointing performances after 1995 is to ask what can be done to add momentum to PNG’s development between 2020 and 2050.

2030 Education Goal PNG trend

Explanation of the trendline:

The development in Education and Health gain 4 points every 10 years, 0.45/1.00 HDI value in 1975 to ~0.49/1.00 in 1985. The development trend was promising until 1995.

Had the governments elected after the 1992 elections maintained the 4 points development trend, Papua New Guinea would now be in the Medium Development Countries at around 0.65 – 0.7 HDI value out of 1.00.

But, the successive governments have failed miserably to maintain the earlier progress made in HDI rank.

The challenge now is to ensure the government puts PNG back on its rightfull PATH to meeting the needs of its people.

What Went Wrong – Churches Underfunded

Church leaders identified the government’s funding as a major constraint (Aupong 2016). The report also showed that the government’s budgetary allocation to churches was reduced by more than half in 2016. And continues to be that way.

Churches cannot shoulder any additional responsibility when they work in challenging conditions, and underfunded. The PNG government can learn from the past and correct its recent mistakes by tapping into churches and their establishments.

Retrospectively, the government had shown recognition of the churches by acknowledging their participation in the county’s development (RNZ October 7 2013). However, the ACT of funding the churches’ work can be described as absent or non-existent.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Bougainville, Bernard Unabali, said a cordial partnership between the government and church must be built on Christian moral (JOSEPH, 2016).

When discussing a working partnership, Bishop Unabali reiterated that both parties must honour their commitments to each other and to the people: government honours its funding commitment and churches bring the Education and Health services to the people.

Churches are the Powerful Development Partners

The PNG government must ignite its partnership with churches. The PNG CPP case study identified government lack of consistent engagement with churches as one of the main constraints (ADRA Australia, 2015) for meeting the MDGs.

The importance of the mainstream churches partnership with the government was mentioned by Volker Hauck, Angela Mandie-Filer and Joe Bolger (2005). And further discussed by ADRA, Australia 2015 in A Case Study of Sustained Investment in Church Development Capacity.

Both research work, though 10 years apart, had reiterated the significance of reaching the rural population through a Church-State partnership.

Furthermore, the PNG Churches Partnership Program (PNGCPP) established in 2004 by Australia government sought to involve churches in the delivery of education, health and others social services to the people in rural areas (ADRA, 2015).

The facts revealed that over ninety percent (Volker Hauck et al., 2005) of PNG’s population are Christians, eighty-seven percent belong to the seven churches participating in the PNG CPP scheme.

In fact, the churches are the MISSING LINK between the rural population and the PNG government’s inability to effectively reach the rural population.

Churches development ‘vehicle’

For development to trickle down to the people, churches’ network must be utilised as ‘vehicle’ for goods and services delivery.

Volker Hauck et al., (2005) research acknowledged that churches are the main ACTORS in development.

A case study by ADRA reiterated that ‘PNG society is largely religious and as such Christian churches are important social actors that play a significant role in the country’ (ADRA, Australia, 2015).

Furthermore, the then minister for National Planning and Monitoring Charles Abel said

‘churches are a major provider of basic social services in PNG and the government recognises their role in improving the lives of Papua New Guineans’ (RNZ October 7 2013).

Indicatively, churches prominence within the community is a vital link between the people and the government. A clever government will use this relationship effectively.

Australia-PNG Church Partnership Program

The Australian Government recognised the 7 mainline churches’ roles in service delivery. Since 2014, the Church Partnership program tapped into the relationship churches had established in the rural areas to deliver education and health services.

From 2017 to 2020, the Australian government pledged Aus$23 million to continue the Church Partnership program.

The PNG Government must put the money where it matters the most – fund the churches and their establishments in the Education and Health sectors.

Money meant for children, women and men should NOT be placed in private hands.

Churches ignored in SDG Goals 3 and 4

The power of engagement among development partners and churches cannot be underestimated, either.

The development partners like the PNG Department of National Planning and Monitoring, Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) may have to, ALSO, reassess the way they participate in development.

A policy framework, the Partnership Policy Framework between the PNG government and Christian Churches in PNG was written to include churches in formulation and execution of future development agendas.

The purpose of the partnership framework is two-fold:

  1. work together to achieve integral human development and
  2. create an ongoing partnership to advance development in the country (Department of National Planning and Monitoring, 2016).

Unfortunately, the PNG government has more to prove when it comes to including churches in education (SDG 4) and health (SDG 3) sustainable development agendas.

Meanwhile, the years 2020, 2030, 2040 and 2050 are going to be periods of self-assessment and realisation. What is there to show for in 2020?

Yes, PNG HDI improved in the latest rank from 154 to 153 out of 188 countries. That is great. But, PNG is still in the Low Human Development Country – the lower end of development classification.

What PNG needs to do is to leap out and into the Medium Human Development Country which it can if the government prioritise building Churches and Department capacities, rather than pumping money into private hands.

Government-Private Partnership in Education – SDG 4

Here is an example of the government-private partnership needing reviewing.

Since the inception of Tuition Fee Free Education policy (2012), the procurement of supplies and distribution of education materials are done by Borneo Pharmaceutical’s subsidiary HM Supplies Limited.

The research here work on the TFF policy has shown that the best way to coordinate the Learning and Teaching grant is through the Education Department.

The government should avoid using private intermediaries or subsidiaries to do what the department can do.

It is no rocket science. A government-private partnership is a political decision. That means that a change of government can affect the private company’s financial ability to further deliver the services to the schools. Hence, such contract is unsustainable in the long term.

The two sustainable partnerships in the delivery of education and health service are to deal directly the departments (health and education departments); or the Churches rather than dealing with a private company.


The ministerial statements and partnership policy guides without ACTION is nothing.

The reports since 2014 have indicated that the PNG government has cut funding, and is inconsistent in engaging with churches.

PNG’s performances in MDGs for Education and Health were disappointing. The government cannot be complacent after 2020.

The government MUST leverage the network established by churches, education department and health department to deliver education and health supplies.

Fund the departments and churches directly.

Establishing this powerful partnership can correct PNG’s disappointing outlook and comfortably place the country in the Medium Human Development countries in the next 10 years.

Writer’s note:

This is a collection of academic work on SDG goals, especially the SGD 4 goals relating to education targets. The work is an analysis of literacy and research work by educationists in the area of sustainable development goals. A complete list of reference relevant to the quotations can be found here.

This post is published under Policy Analysis.

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