April 30, 2008 | by Edward Rees
An Opportunity Lost.
Big budgets have come and gone from Timor-Leste since 1999.
On the peace operations side there has been UNTAET, UNMISET I and II, UNOTIL, JTF 631 and now UNMIT and ISF. Add to these the UN Agencies Programmes and Funds, (UNICEF, UNDP, ILO, WFP, UNHCR, UNFPA, FAO etc) the bilateral donors (USAID, AusAID, DFID, JICA, Norway, Ireland etc) and the Worldbank and now major oil and gas outfits are even in town. However, how much of the billions of dollars spent “on” Timor-Leste has been spent “in” Timor-Leste? Answer: Alot, but not as much as could have been. This represents a major opportunity lost, given the chronic and destabilising poverty and unemployment in Timor-Leste. 15 000 young people enter the workforce in Timor-Leste every year and that there are only 400 new jobs a year to greet them. Buying locally to build the capacity of the domestic private sector is both good politics as well as economics. Some would even argue it is moral issue.