||Republica Democratica Timor Leste (RDTL). Also known Timor Lorosa'e
(Timor of the Rising Sun in Tetum)
||The eastern half of the island of Timor. The western half is
part of Indonesia.
||926,000 (2004 Census data)
||Catholic, with a very small Muslim minority
||Tetum and Portuguese (working languages: English and Indonesian).
Also numerous local languages.
||Coffee, potential for oil
||Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao (Independent)
||Mari Alkatiri (Fretilin)
|Per capita GDP:
Timor-Leste is the newest nation on earth, and also one of the world's
newest democracies. As such, it is facing monumental challenges. The
difficulties of building a new democracy alone are massive: Timor-Leste
has never before been fully independent, and the process of running
a country is new to almost all of its politicians. In addition, Timor-Leste,
is still coping with the legacy of a generation of brutal occupation
and the vicious violence of 1999 that followed their decision to vote
for independence. This legacy is evident on many levels, from the trauma
that remains for those who suffered physically and emotionally to the
destroyed buildings that still litter the Timor-Leste countryside.
The problems that would be faced by any new nation are compounded by
two major factors. One is the lack of physical infrastructure. When
the Indonesians left in 1999 they systematically destroyed or seriously
damaged about 85% of the country's infrastructure. Hospitals, power
stations, schools, offices, houses, market places, water systems, the
port and property such as cars all suffered. As a result, much of UNDP's
early work concentrated on the reconstruction of essential facilities
such as power stations. In addition to this physical damage, Timor-Leste
also faces a critical shortage of skills in almost all areas. In Indonesian
times, few East Timorese people were allowed to rise to positions of
any importance in most significant professions. For example, there were
no East Timorese, in the upper levels of the Civil service, and nor
were they allowed to practice law or sit as judges. As a result, when
the Indonesians left, Timor was left with no judges, practising lawyers
or senior civil servants. This is a consistent problem in all sectors,
from education to the police service, from medical professionals to
those skilled in running key facilities such as the power station.
An additional problem for Timor-Leste is the level of poverty. The
first UNDP National Human Development Report found that Timor-Leste
is officially Asia's poorest country with a per capital GDP of just
$478. The vast majority of its population live in rural areas and have
livelihoods based on subsistence agriculture. In some areas, barter
still forms the basis of the economy and economic development is at
a primitive level. At the moment it has little to export beside coffee:
the sandalwood for which it was once famous was massively depleted by
the Portuguese and Indonesians and the tourism, for which it undoubtedly
has potential, is seriously hampered by the lack of infrastructure.
This is a situation that could change in a few years when revenue begins
to flow from the exploitation of oil resources in the Timor Sea, but
until then Timor-Leste remains hugely dependent on the international
community just to meet its annual budget requirements. As a result of
the lack of industry living costs are high as everything from cooking
oil to cars has to be imported, and unemployment is a rapidly growing
For all this, however, Timor-Leste remains a country filled with hope.
The need to provide emergency aid - food, shelter, clothing etc - that
was so important immediately after the crisis of 1999 has now largely
subsided, and has been replaced by major long-term commitments by agencies
such as UNDP to skills training, the provision of expert advice to the
government and poverty alleviation. As Xanana Gusmao wrote in the introduction
to UNDP's National Human Development Report, "For many long years,
we dreamed of independence. Our dream has become a reality. Now we must
all play a part in developing a country. Government, the private sector,
civil society and communities must work together to reduce poverty and
promote economic growth that is sustainable and equitable."