General Information

The basic unit of currency is the Kina (K) which is subdivided into 100 toea (t). Historical movement is discussed in the economic overview .

Local time in Papua New Guinea is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean time. There is no daylight saving time.

English is the official language of government and commerce, but the language understood by the majority of Papua New Guineans is Pidgin. In addition, more than 700 local languages are spoken.

The population of Papua New Guinea is approximately five million, of whom approximately 85 percent live in rural areas in clan or village communities. Port Moresby, the major city and capital of the country, has a population of approximately 220,000. Other important towns and cities include Lae (population 90,000), Madang (30,000), Mt Hagen (45,000), Wewak (23,000) and Goroka (25,000).

Economic activity
The principal economic activity for most Papua New Guineans is subsistence agriculture. Most villages are self-sufficient and only small surpluses of produce are available for trading.

The cash economy of PNG is very much an open economy geared for international trade. Gross Domestic Product for the country mainly consists of income earned from mining activities, petroleum resources, agriculture , forestry and fisheries. Refer to Industries for a detail discussion of all industries in Papua New Guinea. Most of the finished goods required are imported. The National Government actively encourages more production onshore for the needs of the population and for export.

Because of the mountainous nature of the mainland and the number of island provinces, almost all travel from Port Moresby is by air and sea. The road network is limited and no rail network exists.

The telecommunications network is adequate, most businesses and government organisations have facsimile, telex and e-mail facilities. Electricity serves all major centres and is expanding to rural areas. Water supply is relatively safe in most towns.

Education is not compulsory and enrolments in community schools in 1996 were approximately 73 percent of children of school age only. A large number do not complete their primary education, and only a very small percentage of eligible candidates enrol for high school.

Political system
With independence on 16 September 1975, Papua New Guinea adopted a constitution that established a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model but excluding an upper chamber. The National Government consists of three independent branches – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

The National Parliament consists of 109 members, including the Prime Minister and his cabinet of 26 ministers. The country is divided into 20 provinces, each with its own Provincial Government.

Legal system
The legal system in Papua New Guinea is the common law system based on the English and Australian codes. Most civil matters can be dealt with through the district courts or, ultimately, the National Court. In addition, many local matters are settled by village courts and the local village administrator.

The majority of the population are Christians, with the Catholic, Lutheran and United Churches being the largest denominations.