PNG has about six million people and 830 spoken languages. Translation projects are in progress in at least 175 languages with another 250-300 languages still having translation needs. PNG is ethnically and linguistically the world's most complex nation, whose cultures have been moulded by geography, successive immigrations, sorcery, fear and warfare, and more recently by Christianity, colonialism, World War II, and modernization. While the country is officially a Christian nation, the old ethnic religions remain a powerful underlying influence.
PNG is predominantly a subsistence agricultural/fishing economy, supplemented by cash crops (tea, coffee and copra), an expanding mining industry and increasing local manufacture. Many problems (land compensation claims, rugged terrain, earthquakes, aggressive multinational corporations, droughts, and war) complicate the wise exploitation and management of the land's rich mineral, timber, fish, oil and gas resources.
The north and east parts (called German New Guinea) were under German control until World War I and the south (called British New Guinea) was under British rule until 1901. The latter then came under Australian rule and was called Papua. Australia continued to administer Papua and New Guinea until independence in 1975 when Papua New Guinea became a state within the British Commonwealth. The nation is governed by a democratic parliamentary system and administered on a decentralized basis by 24 provincial governments.