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You are in:  Nations > Oceania > Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea*Papua New Guinea flag
Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Port Moresby
Area: 462,840 sq km; 178,704 sq miles
Population: 4,811,939 (2000 Estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 17 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 83 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Gold, copper ore, oil, logs, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, lobster

Industry: Copra crushing; palm oil processing; plywood production; woodchip production; mining of gold, silver and copper; construction; tourism

Agriculture: Cash crops: coffee, cacao, coconuts, palm kernels; other products: tea, rubber, sweet potatoes, fruit, vegetables, poultry, pork

Currency: 1 kina (K), consisting of 100 toea

Natural resources: Gold, copper, silver, natural gas, timber, petroleum


The people

Ethnic: Melanesian and Papuan 98 per cent, Micronesian, Polynesian, Chinese, European 2 per cent

Language: English (official), Melanesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin), Motu, Enga; Melanesian and Papuan languages and dialects. Linguists have catalogued more than 700 distinct languages in Papua New Guinea. The country's rugged terrain accounts for much of the diversity-for centuries, most groups lived in isolation from one another. English is the official language and is taught in schools. Melanesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin) is most widely spoken and is often used for communication between members of different ethnic groups. Early colonists and their indigenous labourers developed it. It has roots in English, German and the local languages of the island of New Britain. Tok Pisin contains fewer than 1,800 words, which makes it easy to learn. At home people usually use the language of their group; more people (mostly those living in the Papuan region) speak Motu than any other of the indigenous languages. In isolated rural areas, many women and older people know only their local language.

Religion: Protestant 44 per cent, Roman Catholic 22 per cent, Indigenous beliefs 34 per cent (Many people who identify themselves as Christians also follow indigenous beliefs). Various Papua New Guinean societies had their own distinctive religious practices and beliefs until Western missionaries arrived. Today more than 95 per cent of them are Christian, primarily Catholic and Lutheran. However, strong beliefs in the occult and ancestor reverence remain and coexist with Christianity. Many people in remote areas still follow traditional theologies.


The history

Independence: 16 September 1975 (from United Nations trusteeship under Australian administration)

Government: Papua New Guinea was colonised by the British in the 1800s and from the early 1900s until 1973-when internal self-Government was established in Papua New Guinea-Australia governed the area. Full independence was granted in 1975 and elections have been held on a regular basis ever since. Papua New Guinea's head of state is the United Kingdom monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by a governor-general. The Prime Minister is head of Government. The unicameral national parliament has 109 members who are elected for terms of up to five years. Papua New Guinea has 19 provinces and a capital area. Each province has a provincial assembly, which elects a premier. At the village level, elected council and committee members settle local disputes. The voting age is 18.

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