Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pig Inflation

Wealth streams into a developing country, but social norms don't change:
Hamon Matipe, the septuagenarian chief of Kili, confirmed that he had received [USD 120,000] four months earlier. In details corroborated by the local authorities, Mr. Matipe explained that the provincial government had paid him for village land alongside the Southern Highlands’ one major road, where the government planned to build a police barracks. ... Mr. Matipe said he had given most of the money to his 10 wives. But he had used about $20,000 to buy 48 pigs, which he used as a dowry to obtain a 15-year-old bride from a faraway village, paying well above the going rate of 30 pigs. He and some 30 village men then celebrated by buying 15 cases of beer, costing about $800.

“All the money is now gone,” Mr. Matipe said. “But I’m very happy about the company, ExxonMobil. Before, I had nothing. But because of the money, I was able to buy pigs and get married again.”
Although some land in PNG is customarily held via matrilineal descent, even in those instances, men make the decisions about its use. I'm sure that there are better things that could have been done with proceeds from a sale of village land than for a seventy-something to purchase marry a teenage eleventh wife. I wonder: what did his ten existing wives do with the unspecified share(s) they received? Did the reporter ask?
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