Lae is an interesting place – 260 inches of rain a year (isn’t that amazing?), either hot and steamy or hot and dusty, as when it does dry out great clouds of dust are thrown up on the dirt track roads, and an hour from the airfield in a van crewed by security guards with metal grills on the windows (as the locals amuse themselves by using passing traffic for target practice) on a road which is about 50 metres wide in some parts because the drivers, trying to avoid the potholes, just make the road wider and wider.
It’s like the Wild West in more ways than one, firstly because of the lawlessness, and secondly, because there’s gold in “them thar hills”. This means boom time, as the local businesses make the most of the opportunities. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, the shower pressure is a trickle, there’s another power cut and the toilet won’t flush as the water pressure is now non-existent.
But despite all that, there are some amazing business success stories to be heard there, such that we could only dream about in NZ or the UK. Like the client I was helping who had started his business with Kina 500 (about NZ $350) whose sales in September were Kina 500,000 and Kina 1 million in October.
Or my client who makes an annual profit of Kina 120,000 after investing just Kina 7,000 4 years ago in a new business. He’s already invested the surplus profits in two new businesses that cost him Kina 200,000 to set up.
Another of my clients recently stood for Parliament (spending a fortune of his own money in the process) in his desire to change things for the better in PNG and to alleviate poverty and unemployment. He’s now moving into no less than 5 new businesses to take advantage of the booming economy and the huge demand for building materials and similar.
And even stranger, the client of my colleague George who has a business out in the bush (where there’s no bank) who has to drive back to Lae armed to the teeth (he’s been shot once already) with Kina 200,000 in his car every month, this representing his surplus takings!
All self-financed, no help from banks or the Government, often no proper education and without the benefit of hundreds of years of Western development. And yet, despite their success, so friendly, humble, and full of gratitude for the help we provided. Truly a rewarding and thought-provoking experience and well worth the sacrifice of missing a week of helping paying clients and the stress of getting back to piles of work.