Tag Archives: Resource Curse

Can East Timor dodge the ‘resource curse’?

Despite oil and gas riches, signs of wealth remain scarce in the impoverished country.

Photo: Wong Pei Ting

Photo: Wong Pei Ting

Published by Al Jazeera English, Nov. 1, 2013.

By Tom Benner

Dili, East Timor – The 2014 budget unveiled last week by tiny East Timor is a $1.5bn spending plan funded almost exclusively – 95 percent – by lucrative oil and gas revenues. One of the fastest-growing budgets in the world in recent years, it ballooned from $64m in 2004 to $604m in 2009.

That the budget depends on a single, finite resource that could be depleted in a generation has some worrying the country may fall victim to the same “resource curse” that has seen other developing countries lose their wealth to inexperience, mismanagement and corruption.

“Given how much money has poured through the country, and given how much money the government has access to, it’s fairly depressing,” said Anna Powles, an academic researcher who worked in East Timor for eight years as an adviser to the government and several non-government organisations.

East Timor is one of the most oil-dependent countries in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country’s non-oil industries, such as organic coffee and tourism, generate a fraction of the amount as the oil does. Continue reading …

‘Resource curse’ haunts Timor-Leste

Op-ed published in Today, Oct. 25, 2013

In Timor-Leste’s capital of Dili, young men walk the streets aimlessly; youth unemployment is over 50 per cent in a country where more than 60 per cent are under 25. Photo: Wong Pei Ting

In Timor-Leste’s capital of Dili, young men walk the streets aimlessly; youth unemployment is over 50 per cent in a country where more than 60 per cent are under 25. Photo: Wong Pei Ting

By Tom Benner

There is a free health clinic in Dili, the capital of Asia’s newest and poorest country, Timor-Leste, that treats some 400 people a day. The doctor who runs it was telling me about the kinds of cases he generally treats — tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, typhoid, malnutrition, stunting, poor growth, pregnancy complications.

Dr Dan Murphy is actually happy about this. Back before Timor-Leste became a country in 2002, he treated gunshot wounds, machete wounds, victims of torture and hand grenade victims.

What passes for progress in Timor-Leste is a lot like that. The war zone days are over, but the patient at the door has new problems with endemic causes. Now that United Nations (UN) peacekeepers are gone and the civil unrest has quieted, the challenges of governing a very poor country and inexperienced democracy seem far greater than anticipated in the hopefulness of its first sovereign days. Continue reading …