Papua New Guinea

Flag of Papua New Guinea

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The eastern half of the island of New Guinea - second largest in the world - was divided between Germany (north) and the UK (south) in 1885. The latter area was transferred to Australia in 1902, which occupied the northern portion during World War I and continued to administer the combined areas until independence in 1975. A nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville ended in 1997 after claiming some 20,000 lives.


Oceania, group of islands including the eastern half of the island of New Guinea between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia

Geographic coordinates:

6 00 S, 147 00 E


total: 462,840 sq km
land: 452,860 sq km
water: 9,980 sq km


tropical; northwest monsoon (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October); slight seasonal temperature variation


mostly mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Wilhelm 4,509 m

Natural resources:

gold, copper, silver, natural gas, timber, oil, fisheries

Land use:

arable land: 0.46%
permanent crops: 1.44%
other: 98.1% (2001)

Natural hazards:

active volcanism; situated along the Pacific "Ring of Fire"; the country is subject to frequent and sometimes severe earthquakes; mud slides; tsunamis

Environment - current issues:

rain forest subject to deforestation as a result of growing commercial demand for tropical timber; pollution from mining projects; severe drought

Geography - note:

shares island of New Guinea with Indonesia; one of world's largest swamps along southwest coast


5,420,280 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

Melanesian, Papuan, Negrito, Micronesian, Polynesian


Roman Catholic 22%, Lutheran 16%, Presbyterian/Methodist/London Missionary Society 8%, Anglican 5%, Evangelical Alliance 4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1%, other Protestant 10%, indigenous beliefs 34%


Melanesian Pidgin serves as the lingua franca, English spoken by 1%-2%, Motu spoken in Papua region
note: 715 indigenous languages -- many unrelated

Government type:

constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy


Port Moresby

Administrative divisions:

20 provinces; Bougainville, Central, Chimbu, Eastern Highlands, East New Britain, East Sepik, Enga, Gulf, Madang, Manus, Milne Bay, Morobe, National Capital, New Ireland, Northern, Sandaun, Southern Highlands, Western, Western Highlands, West New Britain


16 September 1975 (from the Australian-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 16 September (1975)

Legal system:

based on English common law

Economy - overview:

Papua New Guinea is richly endowed with natural resources, but exploitation has been hampered by rugged terrain and the high cost of developing infrastructure. Agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for 85% of the population. Mineral deposits, including oil, copper, and gold, account for 72% of export earnings. The economy has faltered over the past four years. Former Prime Minister Mekere MORAUTA had tried to restore integrity to state institutions, to stabilize the kina, restore stability to the national budget, to privatize public enterprises where appropriate, and to ensure ongoing peace on Bougainville. The government has had considerable success in attracting international support, specifically gaining the backing of the IMF and the World Bank in securing development assistance loans. Challenges face Prime Minister Michael SOMARE, including curbing inflation, gaining further investor confidence, continuing efforts to privatize government assets, maintaining the support of members of Parliament, and balancing relations with Australia, the former colonial ruler.

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

14.7% (2003 est.)

Labor force:

3.25 million (2003)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture 85%, industry NA, services NA

Agriculture - products:

coffee, cocoa, coconuts, palm kernels, tea, rubber, sweet potatoes, fruit, vegetables, poultry, pork


copra crushing, palm oil processing, plywood production, wood chip production; mining of gold, silver, and copper; crude oil production; construction, tourism


$1.938 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)

Exports - commodities:

oil, gold, copper ore, logs, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, crayfish, prawns

Exports - partners:

Australia 27%, Japan 7.3%, China 5.8% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, fuels, chemicals

Imports - partners:

Australia 44.3%, Singapore 20.5%, New Zealand 7.7%, China 4.9% (2003 est.)


kina (PGK)

Telephones - main lines in use:

62,000 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

15,000 (2002)

Telephone system:

general assessment: services are adequate and being improved; facilities provide radiotelephone and telegraph, coastal radio, aeronautical radio, and international radio communication services
domestic: mostly radiotelephone
international: country code - 675; submarine cables to Australia and Guam; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean); international radio communication service


total: 19,600 km
paved: 686 km
unpaved: 18,914 km (1999 est.)


10,940 km (2003)


oil 264 km (2003)

Ports and harbors:

Kieta, Lae, Madang, Port Moresby, Rabaul

Merchant marine:

total: 23 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 47,586 GRT/60,934 DWT
foreign-owned: Singapore 2, United Kingdom 6
registered in other countries: 1 (2003 est.)
by type: bulk 1, cargo 12, chemical tanker 1, combination ore/oil 2, container 1, petroleum tanker 4, roll on/roll off 2


559 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 21
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 14
under 914 m: 1 (2003 est.)
914 to 1,523 m: 4

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 538
1,524 to 2,437 m: 10
914 to 1,523 m: 62
under 914 m: 466 (2003 est.)


2 (2003 est.)

Military branches:

Papua New Guinea Defense Force: Ground Force, Maritime Operations Element, and Air Operations Element

Disputes - international:

seeks assistance from Australia to control illegal cross-border activities from primarily Indonesia, including smuggling, drug trafficking, and Indonesian squatters and secessionists