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Horta Says Buy Local

Ramos Horta asks where $3bn in aid has gone

Caroline Overington July 28, 2009
Article from: The Australian

EAST Timor has reportedly received more than $3 billion in foreign aid over the years — but President Jose Ramos Horta has no idea where the money went.

He suspects that, like most aid money, it got wasted on studies and reports and self-important visiting delegations. He doubts that much made it to East Timor.

“If you read certain newspapers, over the years the international community has spent $3bn on rebuilding East Timor,” Dr Ramos Horta told an audience at the University of NSW yesterday.

“I never saw this money. The people don’t see it in the villages,” he said.

He knew much of the aid money was spent on reports because “one estimate suggests that 3000 studies and reports have been done on East Timor”.

“We have been psychoanalysed from every angle,” he said. “They say it has been spent on ‘capacity building’ … but if that money was really used for capacity building, every Timorese would have a PhD by now. We’d all be Einstein by now.

“Either we, the East Timorese, are the dumbest people in the world, or they send us the dumbest people in the world to teach our people. Because no one can explain how so much money, allegedly provided, has gone.”

Dr Ramos Horta said the situation was similar in Afghanistan, where no more than 30 per cent of international aid money allocated to Afghanistan was actually spent in the country.

Speaking during the 20th anniversary celebrations for the Diplomacy Training Program, which Dr Ramos Horta founded at UNSW in 1989, the President pleaded for new foreign aid policies and better trade deals.

During the years in which Australia had a significant presence in East Timor, Dr Ramos Horta said, he had to “plead with the then PM John Howard (to) buy local. We have beautiful local vegetables and fruit (to feed the defence forces). It’s not going to kill you.”

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