Dili, 13 May 2002


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today called on the international community to remain engaged in East Timor after releasing a report showing the country will be the poorest in Asia after its 20 May independence.

The UNDP’s first ever National Human Development Report on East Timor – which measures indicators including income per head, literacy rates, school enrollment and life expectancy – places East Timor among the 20 countries in the world lowest on the human development index, in the same category as Angola, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

The report shows East Timor’s GDP per capita to be US$478 and its life expectancy to be 57 years. Less than half of (41%) the population is literate, and the same percentage live on less than US$0.55 per day.

The report, presented today in Dili by President-elect Xanana Gusmão and UNDP Resident Representative Finn Rieske-Nielsen says the problems of poverty and economic growth still need to be tackled and that considerable international assistance will be needed in the years ahead.

“There are huge difficulties ahead for East Timor, but there is huge potential here too,” Rieske-Nielsen said today. “For many years, East Timor worked almost alone to achieve independence. In the future, more hard work will be needed, but East Timor will not be alone,” he added.


Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri and Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta today called on the international community to remain engaged in East Timor after it becomes independent on 20 May.

“While East Timor has been labelled a success story – by East Timorese, the UN, and donors – these successes have to be consolidated,” Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta told journalists at a press conference in Dili. “The international community cannot just leave,” he added.

Both Alkatiri and Ramos-Horta expressed confidence that the donor countries gathering in Dili tomorrow for the two-day Donor Meeting for East Timor will meet the requirements outlined by the Government in its proposed budget approved last week.

The US$77 million budget anticipates that the Government will raise US$42 million in revenue from the Timor Sea Arrangement and from on shore taxes over the course of 2002-2003, and will need donor funding to cover the shortfall.

Mari Alkatiri today reiterated that major portions of the proposed budget will be allocated to the education, health, and public works sectors, and that the Government’s main target is alleviating poverty within the next five years.

Ministry of Finance officials say the budget delivers on the Government’s commitment at the Oslo Donor’s Conference in December 2001 to contain growth in medium-term expenditures and provide a plausible donor exit strategy from the provision of direct budget support.

The following 27 countries are attending the 14-15 May Donor Meeting for East Timor: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.


The Australian postal service on Saturday presented the East Timorese Government with the first of two million postage stamps specially produced to mark East Timor’s 20 May independence.

Revenue from sales of the stamps – which will be released on 20 May and sold in East Timor, at Australia Post outlets in Australia and internationally by mail-order and over the internet – will go to the East Timorese Government.

Australia Post National Spokesperson Gary Highland said the stamps were designed following input from a wide range of East Timorese people, with the final designs being approved by the Government of East Timor.

“These stamps reflect East Timor’s past as well as its future,” Highland said. “We’re confident they’ll be in high demand both by collectors and other people of goodwill who want to purchase a piece of history and help East Timor.”

“Australia Post is urging people around the world to assist East Timor by getting behind this project, buying some stamps and asking your friends to do the same,” he added.

Those wishing to view images of the stamps can visit: www.auspost.com.au/stamps