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One of the ironies about creating wealth in a customary setting in Papua New Guinea is that despite having the resources, in particular land, the people still struggle to make ends meet and therefore find it difficult to build wealth.
This is relevant to villages within close proximity to Port Moresby.
Many of the villagers have some form of ownership over traditional land that they live on or elsewhere. Yet many of them do very little with it to generate revenue and create wealth.
But issues with land ownership in the customary setting isn’t as easy as 1,2,3. Family feuds, disputes over boundaries, selling of land are just some of the issues which hamper the true owners from realizing the potential of their assets.
Then there’s the endless customary obligations that prop up frequently. Bride price, haus krai and many other customary events also negatively affect one’s ability to not only save but to commence some sort of activity towards creating wealth.
Saving is a critical feature in creating wealth. Your ability to save assists you in laying the foundation for investing. But the ongoing customary obligations do very little or nothing to set you on the course for wealth creation.
Bride price can cost you between K1,000 to K50,000. Many people save for bride price but save little regularly towards buying a home, purchasing residential investment properties or even buying shares.
Obviously, a lack of knowledge in investing and generally wealth creation is a factor that prevents people from undertaking activities that can build wealth but even without this knowledge customary obligations are just too much to even think about investing.
A lot of people do actually dream about creating wealth but how can one take that crucial step forward when a bride price is around the corner and another in a couple of months time.
Customary obligations aren’t exactly one off events. They tend to be a series of events throughout the year and the more events there are, the thought of actually taking that investment step remains a thought.
Customary obligations also tend to have become more competitive. Pride has taken over the true meaning and purpose of a customary obligation. One has to ask why pride takes precedence over a path that could potentially set them up for a successful sustainable period?
And if customary obligations have become competitive, so too have Church related activities. The more church activities there are, the greater the chance of spending time and money on these activities and less on building wealth.
There was an article recently about a Samoan farmer who criticized the endless church commitments for contributing to poverty.
Afoa Aliva, a farmer from the village of Tafitoala Safata, stated that the church had a greater influence in their society. Alifa says:
“A lot of our money goes to schooling because we put their education first. In these back villages there are many things that take up money such as village activities.
“But the money going to village activities is nothing compared to what goes to the church”.
“The fact of the matter is that there are way too many church activities and that is why the village really suffers.”
Taken individually, many people in the village may suffer because of the continuous contributions being made to the Church. Perhaps the issue isn’t really the contribution itself but the lack of return from the Church to help them in areas the people need most in their household.
It would be interesting to check the average family’s yearly budget on how much is spent on customary obligations and church activities. These two areas do take a significant slice of the household budget and it is possible that these also hamper one’s ability to save, invest and build wealth.
So what should be done if one wants to build wealth amongst these difficult customary customary obligations and church activities?
Every one is obviously different but the trend is clear. Individuals need to think more about themselves than others. If they can’t help themselves, how can they help others?
A change in mindset is required. A change where a focus on priorities is a must. Rather than concentrating on customary obligations, one must concentrate on ways to build wealth. Perhaps a change in lifestyle is also needed to rid those unnecessary expenses like betelnut, beer and cigarettes.
A lot of high income earners tend to concentrate on material things to make them look wealthy. But in essence, their wealth is limited by the cash they have on hand and not the assets they hold.
One of the most difficult words to say is “No”. It becomes all the more difficult to say it when cash is on hand. If one is to build wealth under current customary situations, one must learn to say “No” or at least minimise the spending on this area.
The reality is that if we one to build wealth, we must change our priorities. Whatever the priorities depends on each individual. Take a look at yourself and make decisions that can put you on course to reach whatever wealth creating goals you set.