2012 Elections: Getting Dosh to the Districts.

February 21st, 2011

The matter of whether or not money/development is reaching the mountains is going to be issue number one from now until national elections scheduled for the first half of 2012.

There is alot of debate in Timor-Leste these days about how much dosh (money) is getting to the districts. Its a pretty hot debate, and very political.

The distribution of wealth has always been an important issue in Timor-Leste. Liurais used to get alot, the Portuguese got alot, the Indonesians got alot, and then aidworkers like me got alot. Leaving ordinary people poor, uneducated, unhealthy, and not very happy at all. Unhappy people are not good.

Have a look at this sexy little number below – I came across it a few days ago in Dili. Someone is doing well. In Dili. In and of itself its not a bad thing. Make some money, and spend it as you see fit. I am a believer in free markets, but I am also aware that a few eating alot, while alot eat just a little, is not a good mix, from a practical point of view if nothing else.

Another sports car in Dili.

Getting the benefits of the Petroleum Fund to the voters in the mountains – or not, as the case may be – will be a very big deal when it comes to national elections next year. As a foreigner I am not a voter, so my opinion does not matter, however its fun listening to my CNRT oriented staff talk about issues, and then compare with the observations of my FRETILIN leaning staff. They all concur, getting benefits to people in the mountains is where the elections of 2012 with be fought, won and lost.

I have alot of friends in the AMP Government, and on the other side of the bench, in FRETILIN and other opposition parties. Watching, listening and observing them run the country on the one hand, and criticize the running of it on the other is an educational experience. Timorese have come such a long way in a short period of time. I am increasingly feeling its best to close shop and leave, as Timorese really don’t need our help that much anymore. Nor do they want it so much either!

Most of my “political friends” are now running around the mountains organising political parties in preparation for 2012. How much money is out there is right at the heart of the political debate.

Something very interesting happened over the weekend.

Someone sent me an interesting SMS on Saturday. I was in Ermera, and he was in Suai. The SMS said “the market here is really humming, never seen it so busy, and you would not believe it, there are about 70 ojeks operating this morning”.  He also told me that Suai now has the south coast’s very first real petrol station. No doubt people are getting ready for the south coast infrastructure boom that was highlighted in the recent budget.

Meat costs dollars - dollars are being spent. Suai Market 19 February 2011.
70 Ojeks operating on Suai Market Day - 19 Feb 2011. More dollars.

Ojeks are interesting.  Motorcycle taxis. Why walk when you can take an Ojek?  Well it costs money.  A boom in the number of Ojeks suggests there is more money – perhaps not alot more, but more nonetheless.  Anyone ever counted the Ojeks in Timor-Leste?  We did once in 2008.  Since 1999 they only really operate in border areas Cova Lima, Bobonaro and Oecusse.  In 2008 we counted about 250.  I was just told a few minutes ago there is now an Ojek station in Gleno too…  Jobs for young men it would seem.

Fuel - anticipating a wave of construction and consumption activity?
First flash petrol station on the south coast. Ever.

If you want to help people in the mountains, buy goods and services from them – its much better than a hand out.  Have a look here, its something we are working on with the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry. 3,000+ businesses in Timor-Leste and about half of them are in the rural areas. Use it and do your development via your procurement.

Tags : bobonaro covalima Pjek suai Timor-Leste

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