Facts about 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.

Geography of Papua New Guinea

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
6 00 S, 147 00 E
total: 462,840 sq km
land: 452,860 sq km
water: 9,980 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than California
Land boundaries:
total: 820 km
border countries: Indonesia 820 km
5,152 km
Maritime claims:
measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM
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
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

Population of Papua New Guinea

5,931,769 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 37.8% (male 1,090,879/female 1,054,743)
15-64 years: 58.3% (male 1,703,204/female 1,601,224)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 103,054/female 117,440)
Median age:
21.2 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
49.96 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 65.28 years
male: 63.08 years
female: 67.58 years
Fertility rate:
3.88 children born/woman
noun: Papua New Guinean(s)
adjective: Papua New Guinean
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
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 66%
male: 72.3%
female: 59.3% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Independent State of Papua New Guinea
abbreviation: PNG
former: Territory of Papua and New Guinea
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)
16 September 1975
Legal system:
based on English common law
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by governor general Sir Paulius MATANE (since 29 June 2004)
head of government: Prime Minister Sir Michael SOMARE (since 2 August 2002); Deputy Prime Minister Puka TEMU (since 29 August 2007)
cabinet: National Executive Council appointed by governor general on recommendation of prime minister
elections: monarch is hereditary; governor general nominated by parliament and appointed by chief of state; following legislative elections, leader of majority party or leader of majority coalition usually is appointed prime minister by governor general.
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Parliament - sometimes referred to as the House of Assembly (109 seats, 89 elected from open electorates and 20 from provincial electorates; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the proposal of the National Executive Council after consultation with the minister responsible for justice; other judges are appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission)


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 copper, gold, and oil, account for nearly two-thirds of export earnings. The government of Prime Minister SOMARE has expended much of its energy remaining in power. He was the first prime minister ever to serve a full five-year term. The government also brought stability to the national budget, largely through expenditure control; however, it relaxed spending constraints in 2006 and 2007 as elections approached. Numerous challenges still face the government including regaining investor confidence, restoring integrity to state institutions, promoting economic efficiency by privatizing moribund state institutions, and balancing relations with Australia, its former colonial ruler. Other socio-cultural challenges could upend the economy including a worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic and chronic law and order and land tenure issues. Australia will supply more than $300 million in aid in FY07/08, which accounts for nearly 20% of the national budget.

$12.05 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 35.3%
industry: 38.1%
services: 26.6%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
3.4 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 85%
up to 80% in urban areas
revenues: $1.368 billion
expenditures: $1.354 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 54.1%
hydro: 45.9%
copra crushing, palm oil processing, plywood production, wood chip production; mining of gold, silver, and copper; crude oil production; construction, tourism
coffee, cocoa, copra, palm kernels, tea, sugar, rubber, sweet potatoes, fruit, vegetables, vanilla; shell fish, poultry, pork
oil, gold, copper ore, logs, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, crayfish, prawns
Export partners:
Australia 27%, Japan 8.1%, China 5.5%
machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, fuels, chemicals
Import partners:
Australia 54.4%, Singapore 13.9%, Japan 4.5% 
kina (PGK)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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