Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Papua New Guinea
Independent State of Papua New Guinea, often referred to by just the initials, PNG, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (the other half is the Papua province of Indonesia). It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, north of Australia, and west of the Solomon Islands.
Main article: History of Papua New Guinea
Human remains have been found on New Guinea, dated ca. 60,000 years old. These ancient inhabitants probably originated from South East Asia, establishing a simple civilization based on agriculture. Little was known about the island until the 19th century, although European explorers discovered the island in the 16th century. The country was named in the 19th century: the word Papua is derived from a Malay word describing the frizzy Melanesian hair, and New Guinea was the name given by a Spanish explorer because of the population's resemblance to that of Guinea in Africa.
The northern half of the country came into German hands in the late 19th century as German New Guinea. In World War I, it was occupied by the Australians who also administered the southern part as Papua (formerly British New Guinea). The two territories were combined into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, later simply Papua New Guinea.
Main article: Politics of Papua New Guinea
Actual executive power lies with the prime minister, who heads the cabinet. The unicameral parliament has 109 seats, of which 20 are occupied by the governors of the 20 provinces. The members of parliament are elected every five years.
Elections in PNG attract large numbers of candidates. In the past, many members of parliament were elected with less than 10% of the total vote. Electoral reforms have now restored the use of the alternative vote, known locally as Limited Preferential Voting, to ensure that each MP represents a majority of the voters in their district.
Main article: Provinces of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is divided into nineteen provinces and the National Capital District:
- North Solomons (Bougainville)
- Eastern Highlands
- East New Britain
- East Sepik
- Milne Bay
- National Capital District, Papua New Guinea
- New Ireland
- Northern (Oro)
- Southern Highlands
- Western Highlands
- West New Britain
- West Sepik (Sandaun)
Main article: Geography of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is mostly mountainous (highest peak: 4509 m) and covered with rain forest; there are small plains along the coast. Situated along a fault line, earthquakes and the resulting tsunamis are relatively common in Papua New Guinea.
Geologically, New Guinea is the northern extension of Australia, separated only by a shallow continental shelf that has served as a land bridge when sea levels were lower, particularly in the ice ages. New Guinea shares many families of birds and marsupial mammals with Australia. Australia and New Guinea are distinguished by their large population of Marsupial mammals, including kangaroos, possums, and wombats.
Many of the islands that make up Papua New Guinea, including New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, the Admiralty Islands, the Trobriand Islands, and the Louisiade Archipelago, were never linked to New Guinea by land bridges, and they lack many of the land mammals and flightless birds that are common to New Guinea and Australia.
Australia and New Guinea are portions of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which started to break into smaller continents in the Cretaceous era, 130-65 million years ago. Australia finally broke free from Antarctica about 45 million years ago. All the Australasian lands are home to the Antarctic flora, descended from the flora of southern Gondwana, including the coniferous podocarps and Araucaria pines, and the broadleafed southern beech (Nothofagus). These plant families are still present in Papua New Guinea.
As the Indo-Australian Plate, which contains India, Australia, and the Indian Ocean floor in between, moved north, it collided with the Eurasian Plate, and the collision of the two plates pushed up the Himalayas, the Indonesian islands, and New Guinea's Central Range. The Central Range is much younger and higher than the mountains of Australia; so high that it is home to rare equatorial glaciers. New Guinea is part of the humid tropics, and many Indomalayan rainforest plants spread across the narrow straits from Asia, mixing together with the old Australian and Antarctic floras.
Papua New Guinea includes a number of terrestrial ecoregions:
- Admiralty Islands lowland rain forests
- Central Range montane rain forests
- Huon Peninsula montane rain forests
- Louisiade Archipelago rain forests
- New Britain-New Ireland lowland rain forests
- New Britain-New Ireland montane rain forests
- Northern New Guinea lowland rain and freshwater swamp forests
- Northern New Guinea montane rain forests
- Solomon Islands rain forests (includes Bougainville and Buka)
- Southeastern Papuan rain forests
- Southern New Guinea freshwater swamp forests
- Southern New Guinea lowland rain forests
- Trobriand Islands rain forests
- Trans Fly savanna and grasslands
- Central Range sub-alpine grasslands
Main article: Economy of Papua New Guinea
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. Former Prime Minister Mekere Morauta had tried to restore integrity to state institutions, stabilize the kina, restore stability to the national budget, privatize public enterprises where appropriate, and 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. Significant challenges face Prime Minister Michael Somare, including gaining further investor confidence, continuing efforts to privatize government assets, and maintaining the support of members of Parliament. The third quarter (September, 2004) Reserve Bank Report by the Governor of Bank of PNG showed positive economic stance by the Government, with inflation at zero.
Main article: Demographics of Papua New Guinea
There are three official languages of Papua New Guinea, although over 700 indigenous Papuan languages are spoken in the country (an incredible 25% of the world's languages). English is one of them, although most people speak the creole language Tok Pisin. In the southern region of Papua, the third official language, Motu , is spoken. See the SIL Ethnologue for more information on the diverse range of languages.
About one third of the population adheres to indigenous beliefs, while the rest is Christian. About one third of the Christians are Roman Catholic, while the rest are divided among several Protestant denominations.
Main article: Culture of Papua New Guinea
- Communications in Papua New Guinea
- Transportation in Papua New Guinea
- Military of Papua New Guinea
- Foreign relations of Papua New Guinea
- Music of Papua New Guinea
- List of cities in Papua New Guinea
- List of Papua New Guineans
- Papua New Guinea Government Online
- Interactive maps of Papua New Guinea
- Jane's Papua New Guinea Home Page
- Trevor's Papua New Guinea Information Pages
- A newsletter dealing with news and gossip about PNG
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