There were robber barons in the US in the 19th Century who built great wealth through corrupt means but what they built were great enterprises that drove Americas industrial development e.g. Standard Oil that is the forefather of Exxon, Chevron, Texaco. The methods used were not right but the outcomes set America to be this great country that we now know.
There has been a lot of misappropriation of funds from the government coffers. That is wrong. However, I am pragmatic enough to know that it will not be stamped out overnight.
However, I do want to say that, for those who steal the money, it would be better for them to start up commercial enterprises that employ a lot of people in PNG. That is contributing to development because opportunity is given to people who would otherwise be unemployed. They can then send their kids to school or can look after their extended family and increase the cash flow within the economy.
Stealing the money and investing it overseas is a poor allocation of capital from a development point of view. You reduce the opportunities available for your people.
Pragmatist, I don't know about those Americans you talk about but obviously what they did isn't going to happen here. Reason being that Americans were nationalistic and proud of being American, whereas in PNG, we applaud and encourage Papua New Guineans whose loyalties bend with the wind and take the first opportunity to escape PNG for overseas, whether it be jobs, escape from prosecution, or political retirement. So why would they ever invest in PNG?
You're talking about a time before globalisation and a very huge country that was rich in unexploited resources. In PNG, the unexploited resources are locked up by foreigners, where is the opportunity for a Papua New Guinean to get richer still in PNG?
Sorry, but you're not a pragmatist. You're an unrealistic dreamer. You can't compare a small island country in the age of globalisation, a place where most people think 'outside ways' are better, with a giant country 100 years ago.