Next generation takes the reins of development to move troubled tropical paradise away from its bloody past.
Published by Al Jazeera English, June 23, 2015
By Tom Benner
Dili, East Timor – Following his first 100 days in office, the new prime minister of East Timor marvelled at how the peaceful transition of power from his predecessor stood in stark contrast to the young nation’s turbulent past.
“Since independence, East Timor has come a long way,” said Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo in a speech at the 2015 East Timor Development Partners Meeting.
“We have moved from a fragile country overcoming the ghosts of our traumatic past, to a nation that is consolidating the foundations of our state,” the prime minister said. Continue reading …
Despite oil and gas riches, signs of wealth remain scarce in the impoverished country.
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 …
Contracts with a Chinese company lead critics to blast government for alleged poor procurement policies.
Published by Al Jazeera English, Oct. 19, 2013
By Tom Benner
Dili, East Timor – East Timor’s government has come under renewed public criticism after granting a contract to a Chinese state-owned company to supply furniture to Timorese schools.
The contract of just over $1m is relatively small for a country with oil and gas wealth, but its significance is larger. In 2008 the prime minister, Xanana Gusmao, granted the same company a $300m contract – the largest in the nation’s history at the time – to build East Timor’s power plants and national electricity grid.
The company, Chinese Nuclear Industry Construction Company No. 22 (CNI22), was widely criticised for its failure to fulfill the terms of the contract, and a big portion of the work had to be reassigned to a different company, increasing the cost by hundreds of millions of dollars and delaying the project for several years.
“We hope that they will never receive another contract from East Timor,” a government watchdog group, La’o Hamutuk (Walking Together), wrote in an October 8 letter to the chairman of the National Procurement Commission. Continue reading …