U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes:  Papua New Guinea, February 1996 
Bureau of Public Affairs 
February 1996 
Official Name:  Independent State of Papua New Guinea 
Land area: 461,690 sq. km.; about the size of California. 
Cities: Capital--Port Moresby (pop. 195,570). Other cities--Lae 
(88,172), Mt. Hagen (70,850). 
Terrain: Mostly mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills. 
Climate: Tropical. 
Population: 4.3 million. 
Annual growth rate: 2.3%. 
Languages: English (official), Tok Pisin, Motu, and about 850 other 
Education: Years compulsory--eight.  Literacy--52%. 
Health: Infant mortality rate-- 
61/1,000. Life expectancy--men 56 yrs.; women 58 yrs. 
Type: Constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy. 
Constitution: September 16, 1975. 
Branches: Executive--British monarch (chief of state), represented by 
governor general; prime minister (head of government). Legislative--
unicameral parliament. Judicial--independent; highest is Supreme Court. 
Administrative subdivisions:  
19 provinces and the national capital district (Port Moresby). 
Major political parties: People's Progress Party (PPP); Pangu Parti; 
People's Democratic Movement (PDM); People's Unity Party (PUP); League 
of National Advancement (LNA); People's National Congress (PNC); and 
Melanesian Alliance (MA). 
Suffrage: Universal over 18 years of age. 
GDP (1994): $9.2 billion. 
Growth rate: 6.1%. 
Per capita GDP: $2,200. 
Natural resources: Gold, copper ore, oil, natural gas, timber, fish. 
Agriculture (25% of GDP): Major products--coffee, cocoa, coconuts, palm 
Industry (32% of GDP): Major sectors--copra crushing, palm oil 
processing, plywood production, wood chip production, mining of gold, 
silver and copper, construction, tourism. 
Trade (1993): Exports--$2.4 billion: gold, copper ore, oil, timber, palm 
oil, coffee, cocoa, lobster. Major markets--Australia, Japan, U.S., 
Singapore, New Zealand. Imports--$1.2 billion: machinery and transport 
equipment, manufactured goods, food, fuels, chemicals.  Major suppliers-
-Australia, Japan, U.K., New Zealand, Netherlands. 
The United States and Papua New Guinea established diplomatic relations 
upon the latter's independence on September 16, 1975.  The two nations 
belong to a variety of regional organizations, including the Asia-
Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum; the ASEAN Regional Forum 
(ARF); the South Pacific Commission; and the South Pacific Regional 
Environmental Program (SPREP). 
One of the most successful cooperative multilateral efforts linking the 
U.S. and Papua New Guinea is the U.S.-Pacific Islands Multilateral Tuna 
Fisheries Treaty, under which the U.S. grants $14 million per year to 
Pacific island parties and the latter provide access to U.S. fishing 
The U.S. supports Papua New Guinea's efforts to protect biodiversity.  
The U.S. Agency for International Development is sponsoring a rapid 
assessment project to identify endangered species in Papua New Guinea, 
as well as a conservation project in Gulf Province.  The U.S. Government 
supports the International Coral Reef Initiative aimed at protecting 
reefs in tropical nations such as Papua New Guinea. 
The United States Information Service (USIS) sponsors a wide variety of 
activities in Papua New Guinea, including the International Visitor 
Program, Fulbright and Humphrey exchanges, and the South Pacific 
Scholarship Program.  USIS helped found the Papua New Guinea-U.S. 
Association, an independent entity that promotes bilateral ties. 
U.S. military forces, through the Pacific Theater Command in Honolulu, 
Hawaii, carry out annual bilateral meetings as well as small-scale 
exercises with the Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF).  The U.S. 
also provides military education and training courses to security force 
The U.S. Peace Corps brought its first group of volunteers to Papua New 
Guinea in September 1981.  Currently about 55 volunteers serve 
throughout the country. Volunteer work is concentrated in rural 
community development and education. 
About 4,500 U.S. citizens live in Papua New Guinea, with major 
concentrations at two missionary headquarters in Eastern Highlands 
Trade and Investment 
Papua New Guinea is the largest Pacific island nation in both population 
and land area.  Its natural resources, including gold, copper, 
hydrocarbons, timber and fisheries, and tree crops (coffee, cocoa, 
copra, and palm oil), provide the country's main exports.  There is 
little domestic industry. 
Although its per capita GDP of $2,200 ranks Papua New Guinea as a 
middle-income developing nation, 85% of its population engages in 
subsistence and smallholder agriculture.  The government employs about 
30% of the roughly 250,000 workers participating in the formal economy.  
Mining and petroleum exports represented 67% of total exports and an 
estimated 23% of GDP in 1994. 
Australia, Japan, the United States, Singapore, and New Zealand are the 
principal exporters to Papua New Guinea.  Equipment and supplies for the 
mining and petroleum sectors and aircraft and aircraft parts accounted 
for most U.S. exports in the early 1990s. 
Australia was Papua New Guinea's most important export market throughout 
the early 1990s, followed by Japan, South Korea and Germany.  The U.S. 
purchased at most 4% of Papua New Guinea's annual exports during this 
period.  Crude oil is by far the largest U.S. import from Papua New 
Guinea, followed by cocoa beans, coffee, shellfish, and tea. 
U.S. companies are active in developing Papua New Guinea's mining and 
petroleum sectors.  Chevron operates the Kutubu and Gobe oil projects.  
Exxon's Papua New Guinea subsidiary is exploring for natural gas 
reserves.  Battle Mountain Gold owns an interest in the Lihir gold mine 
project in New Ireland Province.  Two 30,000-40,000 barrel-per-day oil 
refinery projects, each involving an American company, have been 
approved by the government, while a U.S. investor plans to construct a 
tuna cannery in Madang. 
Papua New Guinea became a participating economy in the Asia-Pacific 
Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 1993.  Its bid for access to the 
World Trade Organization (WTO) was approved in April 1995.  The 
accession must still be formally approved by WTO members and ratified by 
Papua New Guinea. 
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials 
Ambassador--Richard W. Teare 
Deputy Chief of Mission--Edward J. Michal 
Political Officer--Royal M. Wharton 
Economic Officer--Beatrice P. Soila 
Consular Officer--Patrick W. Walsh 
The U.S. embassy in Papua New Guinea is located on Douglas Street, Port 
Moresby (tel. [675] 321-1455; fax [675] 321-3423). The mailing address 
is P.O. Box 1492, Port Moresby, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 
Although what is now Papua New Guinea was first sighted by Portuguese 
explorers more than 300 years before, significant European colonization 
did not begin until the latter part of the 19th century, when Germany, 
Britain, and Holland all claimed parts of New Guinea and other nearby 
islands.  The Dutch-controlled areas became part of Indonesia in 1961; 
the British and German areas earlier had been joined into what 
eventually became the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. 
Britain transferred control of its colonial administration to Australia 
in 1906.  The latter then took over the German-controlled areas at the 
outset of World War I and administered them afterwards under a League of 
Nations mandate.  In 1942, the Japanese occupied portions of both Papua 
and New Guinea, until driven out or forced to surrender by Allied 
forces.  Gen. Douglas MacArthur made his headquarters in Port Moresby 
during the initial phases of this struggle.  Australia continued to 
govern after World War II under a United Nations trusteeship agreement.  
In 1973, Papua New Guinea achieved internal self-government and then 
full independence on September 16, 1975. 
Papua New Guinea, a constitutional monarchy, recognizes the Queen of 
England as head of state.  She is represented by a governor-general who 
is elected by parliament and who performs mainly ceremonial functions.  
Papua New Guinea has three levels of government--national, provincial 
and local, but the national level is the most powerful.  There is a 109-
member unicameral parliament, whose members are elected every five 
years.  The parliament in turn elects the prime minister, who appoints 
his cabinet from members of his party or coalition. 
Members of parliament (MPs) are elected from 19 provinces and the 
national capital district of Port Moresby.  Parliament introduced 
reforms in June 1995 to centralize the system, with regional (at-large) 
MP's becoming provincial governors, while retaining their national MP 
Papua New Guinea's judiciary is independent of the government. It 
protects constitutional rights and interprets the laws.  There are 
several levels, culminating in the Supreme Court. 
Papua New Guinea's politics are highly competitive.  MPs are elected on 
a "first past the post" system, with winners frequently gaining less 
than 15% of the vote.  There are seven major parties, but party 
allegiances are not strong.  Winning candidates are usually courted in 
efforts to forge the majority needed to form a government.  No single 
party has yet won enough seats to form a government in its own right. 
There have been several changes of government during the five-year 
intervals between national elections.  Since 1975, four political 
leaders have held the office of Prime Minister--Sir Michael Somare, 
Rabbie Namaliu, Sir Julius Chan, and Paias Wingti--and all remain active 
in politics.  The current Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, won election 
in August 1994 in a parliamentary vote following a Supreme Court 
decision invalidating a parliamentary maneuver by then-Prime Minister 
Sir Julius' People's Progress Party is the dominant member of a 
coalition that includes the Pangu Parti and several smaller parties and 
independent MPs.  The coalition government is unlikely to face a 
challenge until the June 1997 general election, given constitutional 
reforms that render governments less vulnerable to motions of "no 
Principal Government Officials 
Governor General--Wiwa Korowi 
Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade--Sir Julius 
Ambassador to the United States--Nagora Bogan 
Papua New Guinea maintains an embassy at 1615 New Hampshire Ave. NW, 3rd 
Floor, Washington, DC  20009 (tel. 202-745-3680; fax 202-745-3679). 
The Papua New Guinea mission to the United Nations is at 801 Second 
Avenue, New York, NY  10017 (tel. 212-682-6447). 
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at (202) 647-5225 
or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular Affairs Bulletin 
Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem with standard 
settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining 
passports and planning a safe trip aboard are available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.  
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-94-8280, price 
$7.00) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20420, tel. (202) 512-1800.  
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication).  
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to 
register at the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" 
listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you 
en route in case of an emergency. 
Further Electronic Information: 
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB 
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful 
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to 
anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications software, and 
a telephone line. 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press 
briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. 
DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the Internet: 
Gopher: dosfan.lib.uic.edu 
URL: gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ 
WWW: http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/dosfan.html 
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis 
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Priced at 
$80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and 
Macintosh compatible) and are available from the Superintendent of 
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, 
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250. 
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy 
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government 
Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS 
information, call (202) 512-1530. 
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information. 
Background Notes Series -- Published by the United States Department of 
State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- 
Washington, DC -- Series Editor: Marilyn J. Bremner 
Papua New Guinea -- Department of State Publication 8824 -- February 
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without 
permission; citation of this source is appreciated.  For sale by the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402. 
Return to East Asia and the Pacific Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage