Ministry of Finance, June 10th, 2022
Your Excellency the President of the Republic, Dr José Manuel Ramos-Horta,
Your Excellency, the President of the National Parliament, Dr Aniceto Longuinhos Guterres Lopes,
Your Excellency the President of the Court of Appeal, Dr Deolindo dos Santos,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Government,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen Ambassadors, Representatives of International Organisations and other Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen Representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations and Religious Confessions;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Allow me to begin by welcoming the distinguished presence of His Excellency the President of the Republic, Dr José Ramos-Horta, to whom I extend my congratulations and good wishes for his work as Head of State.
I greet all participants in this Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting, our annual meeting to share experiences and good practices, to debate challenges and difficulties, but also to discuss prospects for building the future, strengthening coordination and pooling ideas, options, efforts and investments, so that together we may speed up the pace of progress and wellbeing of our People.
I also greet all Portuguese-speaking citizens on June 10th, Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities.
Timor-Leste is proud of the 20 years since the Restoration of National Independence and feels increasingly encouraged to continue building the Democratic Rule of Law, where peace, stability and security reign, a context where all the living forces of the nation strive to build development, progress and a better quality of life for all citizens.
It is comforting to see that, step by step and stone by stone, we have been consolidating the foundations of social cohesion and democracy, and also to see that Timor-Leste has always been very well accompanied and benefited from the presence of a network of solidarity and development partnerships, which over the years has been consolidated and strengthened within our Society.
I take the opportunity of this annual meeting of Development Partners to reiterate the high appreciation of the 8th Constitutional Government for the great Global Partnership, which has been established at the internal and external cooperation levels to address the spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus and the emerging situations of calamity or disaster caused by climate change and natural disasters.
This is a particularly symbolic acknowledgement in the year in which Timor-Leste celebrates the Twenty (20th) Anniversary of the Restoration of Independence, and that makes it possible to convey all our gratitude to the anonymous countries, donors and friends who help us, not only in moments of peace or stability but above all in the most difficult moments of great economic tension or social distress.
Therefore, I would like to take the opportunity provided by the 2022 Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting to renew our profound appreciation to all the Partners to present here today, public and private, national and international, bilateral and multilateral, individual and collective, for the contribution they have made over the past 20 years of independence and the struggle for State building, the consolidation of public institutions and the progressive economic and social liberation of our People, in the great national quest to build a modern, prosperous, peaceful and secure country, which, by placing people at the centre of its governing partnerships, seeks to improve the wellbeing of its citizens!
I would like to extend special thanks for the support in the area of health, defence and security services, civil protection and border management received during the two years of the COVID-19 Pandemic, which was manifested in the capacity building and training of human resources, during the period of prevention and preparation of the various services, to respond to the growing outbreaks in our country.
This support was extended and adapted to the need for control and management, as measures restricting freedoms and fundamental rights were imposed, such as sanitary fences or the mandatory quarantine of travellers, while there was a progressive increase in clinical cases, isolation and hospitalisation for the most serious infections, with special incidence during the peak of the pandemic registered in the first half of 2021, responsible for the irreparable loss of 131 of human lives and thousands of infected people in our country.
It cannot be overstated that this support proved crucial to the gradual return to normality and the resumption of economic and social activities following the implementation of the National Vaccination Plan against SARS-Cov-2 and that it enabled the National Health Service’s response capacity to be strengthened.
Allow me to refer in particular to the bilateral support from friendly countries such as Australia, China, South Korea, the United States of America, Japan, New Zealand and Portugal, which has relieved the pressure on available resources and reduced the financial effort required to respond promptly to the various outbreaks and occurrences in our country.
I would like to thank also the humanitarian and social support provided during emergencies of calamity and natural disasters, at times of heavy rains or strong winds, floods, landslides, high tides, fires or strong winds with great destructive power.
A solidarity support network that was particularly present during the passage of Cyclone Seroja in 2021, leaving a trail of destruction estimated at over US$ 300 (three hundred) million and around 48 (forty-eight) fatalities, with hundreds of families affected and thousands of people displaced in the shelters.
A support and reception network that, with the help of the Development Partners, is strengthened and deepened through the creation of the Civil Protection Authority, aiming at coordinating the different emergency services: health, security, the distribution of humanitarian aid, the reception and protection of victims in Multipurpose Centres and in the granting of subsidies that enable the reintegration of the people and families affected, with renewed hope for the future.
I would like to thank also the different forms of connectivity made available, at a time of restricted internal and external movements imposed by the different countries, accompanied by demanding health measures in response to the Pandemic.
Connectivity was facilitated at the peak of the pandemic, through humanitarian flights made available by various friendly countries, both bilaterally and multilaterally, with emphasis on regular flights if carried out between 2020 and 2021 under the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in anticipation of the gradual resumption of commercial flights which has taken place over the last twelve months.
This connectivity, with renewed aid and investment from Development Partners, now makes it possible to establish new movement and passenger routes, with regular destinations to Kuala Lumpur (in Malaysia), Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney (in Australia), reinforcing the connections that already existed to Darwin, Bali and Singapore, while negotiating the opening of Timor-Leste to Brunei Darussalam, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Portugal and Qatar.
Public-private partnerships that will intensify in transport and communications, with the new Port of Tibar coming into operation, and with the start of the procurement process of the Submarine Cable between Darwin and the South Coast, or through the extension of the runway and construction of the new Dili Airport.
Lastly, I would like to express our gratitude for the great effort made to contain the increased risk of hunger, malnutrition, poverty and social exclusion that the pandemic crisis and natural disasters have brought to thousands of families, especially those who are most needy, vulnerable and disadvantaged, or located in the most isolated parts of the country.
The Government responded quickly to this risk by approving a package of measures in the first months of 2020 to minimise the negative effects of the spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus in our society.
A Government commitment to guarantee people’s well-being, with special attention to the elderly, children, women, disabled citizens or groups at risk, who benefited from the economic and social support measures under the Economic Recovery Plan, approved in August 2020, whose most visible and highest impact mechanisms were the Basic Food Basket Measure, the Household Subsidies or the Food Security Measure, as well as the support to companies and other entrepreneurial entities in the private sector.
Measures that have lasted over time, accompanying the evolution of the pandemics and benefiting not only ordinary citizens but also the workers, individual entrepreneurs and companies most affected, promoting the maintenance of jobs and the appearance of new digital services, such as teleworking or distance learning.
This support, although decided by the Government and implemented by the public authorities, could not have been achieved without the teamwork carried out in a true spirit of development partnership and coordination of efforts.
We also registered new governmental and non-governmental partnerships, at the associative, cooperative and private levels, which were the basis for the appearance of new, more innovative and creative investments, creating a new generation of producers, entrepreneurs, businessmen and cooperatives, at the local and national level, that reinforced the role of Timorese civil society and contributed decisively to the success of the different public policies and programs of the Development Partners operating in our territory.
These are successes in partnerships that today also celebrate 20 years of activities and that help us face the future with renewed hope!
A future with more private initiative and more economic and social diversification, in which civil society organisations will play an increasingly important role in establishing the new partnerships for the coming years.
A future that, while seeking to reduce the structural weaknesses of our country, which is too dependent on the Petroleum Fund, public investment or imports, continues to focus on improving the education, training and capacity building of our young people, women and men, with equal opportunities, to increase national productivity, increase our competitiveness and improve the quality of our exports.
A future that, while placing the well-being of the people at the centre of all activities, seeks each day to build a country of upper-middle-income, with healthy, educated and well-prepared citizens to take advantage of development opportunities, leaving no one behind.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The public and private Development Partnerships developed over the past twenty years have shown that unity, coordination, complementarity and joint efforts allow us to build a stronger, better prepared, more resilient and sustainable Timorese Nation, capable of advancing towards achieving the commitments adopted in the Strategic Development Plan (SDP 2011-2030) and progressing towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we assumed with our People.
They also demonstrate the importance of Strategic Planning and Teamwork, to make the most of the resources and means made available by the Government, the authorities and the partners on the ground, during the modelled implementation of public policies and the different cooperation programmes, duly adapted to the situations and problems at local, national, regional and international level.
Teamwork that is essential to face the new risks and challenges of development in an increasingly global, interconnected and interdependent world, subject to emerging crises that cross our borders and constrain the progress of national development.
This is the renewed example coming from the military conflict in Ukraine, which, although geographically distant, has negatively affected the growth of our economy.
A conflict that aggravated the negative impacts caused by the Pandemic on movements, connectivity and international supplies, exerting growing inflationary pressure on basic commodities, especially foodstuffs – such as cereals or oils – and oil-based products such as fuel or gas.
Risks and challenges that increasingly demonstrate the weakness of sovereign States in acquiring their sovereignty or economic self-sufficiency on their own, and lead us to renew our determination to continue to pursue our integration process at the international level, by deepening our participation in the international agencies and organisations of the United Nations System, in the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), in the Organisation of the g7+ countries, as well as fulfilling our dream and ambition to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or the World Trade Organisation (WTO), among others.
A national determination that believes in the capacity and the duty of Timor-Leste to play an increasingly active and participative role in the resolution of international problems and conflicts, repaying investments received in the past and contributing, with its good deeds, to the promotion of peace, security, mutual respect and stability in the regional and international system, by the best practices and in strict compliance with International Law.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is in these progressive circumstances of new opportunities, in the resumption of post-pandemic activities and economic and social recovery, that we are holding this 2022 Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting, dedicated to the general theme of: “Together We Work to Recover the Economy Towards a Resilient Society“.
Recently, on June 3rd, 2022, the National Parliament approved the Law Proposal on the Major Planning Options, which renews throughout the document the country’s determination to continue to Fight for the Economic and Social Liberation of our People, placing the well-being of the people at the centre of the governing priorities, without forgetting the general objectives of good governance, consolidation of defence, security and sovereignty of the country, in the context of international relations.
A law that encourages us to establish new short and medium-term partnerships, based on and complementary to the services that the State intends to make available to the people over the next five years, regardless of which Government is in office.
A law that, deepening the Budget Reform promoted in recent years, of programme-based budgeting, now allows for a clear multi-year vision on the most important investments and the respective sources of financing.
A law that, by investing in the Country’s main resource, its Human Capital, seeks to promote the necessary conditions for a healthy life, longer in time, with peace, harmony and security.
We are aware that the goal of a Healthy Population, with high life expectancy and reduced mortality rates, especially in the most vulnerable groups: women, pregnant women, mothers, children and new-born babies, is not easy, nor can it be achieved without everyone’s involvement, in a true spirit of partnership for public and community health.
This has been our experience over the last twenty years of independence, with the establishment of multiple partnerships with international agencies and non-governmental organisations that work in the health sector, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), or in food security, such as the World Food Programme (WFP), among others, particularly in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
A law that recognising the importance of scientific and technological knowledge seeks to promote the emergence of new development partners in education, technical and professional training, human resources development and training, seeking to stimulate the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship of our young citizens so that they can transform their lives and lift their families out of the endemic cycle of poverty.
Also in this important sector of education and civic training, we recognise the important complementary role played by the network of public and private, national and international educational establishments, which have contributed greatly to the preparation of cadres and specialised workers for the needs of companies, organisations and the different development partners.
Without wishing to belittle any initiative, I would like to highlight the important role of technical-vocational secondary schools, such as the School of Fatumaca, or the Vocational Training Centres of Tibar, Becora or Don Bosco in Comoro, at a time when the Government is investing in a study for the creation of a Centre of Excellence for Manpower Qualification in Metinaro. This will bring together, in a single location, the various efforts of the public sector, to train 10,000 trainees per year, who will be trained and qualified to respond to the growing demand for specialised workers in the internal and external markets (such as Australia and South Korea).
I would also like to highlight, among many others, the large investment made in the Hera Engineering Faculty with the support of the Japanese cooperation agency, and the investment we intend to make in partnership in Higher Education, concentrating the various faculties of the Timor Lorosa’e National University (UNTL) in the large multi-year project of the Aileu University City, with the foundation stone laid at the end of 2021.
With the Major Planning Options Law, the Government continues to seek to provide better standards of living, to ensure that all citizens. men or women, disabled or vulnerable groups, have equal opportunities in access to education, training and employment, to be able to obtain the necessary resources and income to ensure sustainable dignity.
It was with this in mind that I invited the Honourable Members of Parliament, in a speech made in the National Parliament on June 2nd, 2022, to unite their efforts with the Government in the search for and creation of New Value Chains, capable of mobilising and grouping all the efforts and partnerships established, to Achieve Food Security and strengthen national production.
Value chains for the key sectors of our potential and productive economy: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, industry and services, improving existing partnerships and seeking new multi-sectoral cooperation initiatives, local and national, public and private, internal and external, in favour of merit, excellence, and quality and added value.
Partnerships that help us to enhance the national supply, through the training of producers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, authorities, and associative and cooperative leaders, and may also contribute to the promotion and marketing of local products, with a smaller ecological footprint and are more environmentally friendly.
Partnerships that, take advantage of the resources of the local and national distribution network established throughout the implementation of the Basic Food Basket Measure, may also contribute to the introduction of more modern and intelligent technological methods and processes in the packaging, stowing and storage of products, respecting, on the one hand, the environmental commitments assumed by the “zero plastics” policy, and on the other hand, the commitments assumed with the Country to increase the quality of Timorese products, raising their quality, certifying their origin and improving their competitiveness in the markets and exports.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Major Planning Options approved by the National Parliament may and should be complemented through the establishment and planning of Great Partnerships that, by taking advantage of the public efforts to be made in the next five years in two hundred and sixty-three (263) initiatives, may contribute decisively to increase the beneficial effects of the twenty-eight (28) national results that the Government proposes to achieve through sixteen (16) strategic areas.
These are Major Partnerships in favour of different value chains, namely:
In Health: following the example of the Public-Private Partnership, which we are preparing for medical examinations and diagnoses, which commits to the importance of valuing the chain of prevention, screening and health education, to minimise the expenses, difficulties and future challenges faced at the time of treatment and palliative care.
Enhancing the reference chain, so that health can be brought closer to the citizens, through family health programmes, fixed or mobile clinics, health centres and referral hospitals, taking advantage of the capacities in place and the investments we will be making in the construction of the New National Hospital Guido Valadares and the new Lahane Hospital, currently being analysed.
In Education: following the example of other countries that have managed to value the chain of connection that should exist between the supply of education, the skills and qualifications, the ability to create companies or self-employment and the demand of the labour market. This is a value chain that we seek to establish with the construction of the Centre of Excellence for Manpower Qualification in Metinaro or the investment in technical-vocational and polytechnic higher education, which seeks to respond not only to the growing flow of Timorese workers abroad but also to the growing internal needs of a developing country.
In Territorial Development and Housing: value chains that take advantage of the large upcoming public investments in the water and sanitation sector in the city of Dili and other municipalities in the country, promoting multi-sector partnerships that must exist between national, municipal and urban territorial planning and public or private initiatives in civil construction and economic activities.
Partnerships that can unite the integrated efforts of providing the necessary basic services of access to electricity, water and sanitation, security and communications that must exist in all buildings at the time of their use, linking public services to the needs of the users.
Value chains that could follow the example of the Public-Private Partnership in Housing, currently under study for the construction of 2,000 (two thousand) homes in Hera Village, with the financial support of the World Bank International Finance Corporation. A value chain that seeks to make social housing available for people affected by natural disasters or living in areas at risk of calamity.
With this partnership, we link the objective of improving living conditions to the objectives of reorganising the city of Dili and improving the environment and the well-being of residents and our visitors.
In Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock: new legislation has recently come into force with support mechanisms to increase agricultural production (for example in coffee or Coastal Mangroves – Ai Parapa) or which make it mandatory to contract at least 75% of local products in the State’s procurement processes, especially in public bodies with large catering consumption, such as school meals, hospital meals or those of the defence, civil protection and security services, among others.
These measures aim to reinforce the important role of the value chain created over recent years in the Basic Food Basket and Food Security Measure, encouraging its expansion to other private, associative and cooperative economic operators that wish to operate in the production, distribution and storage of foodstuffs such as vegetables, dairy products, meat (poultry, beef, goat, pork and their derivatives), fish or forestry products (such as sandalwood or teak, among others).
In our view, these measures respond to the need to increase the country’s food sovereignty, making Timor-Leste more resilient to present and future food crises, and which, by contributing to increased national productivity, also reduce excessive dependence on the importation of food and necessities.
In Tourism: taking advantage of major public investments, such as the future rehabilitation of the Port of Dili, adapting it into a modern passenger terminal for cruise ships and equipping it with a modern marina to accommodate the recreational and leisure boats that visit us, which will certainly encourage the appearance of new businesses in the transport sector and maritime or underwater tourism.
New investments in a sector with multiple tourist offers, which by taking advantage of local potentials such as beaches, mountains, rural areas, and historical and religious monuments, boost the emergence of multiple value chains associated with tourism, generating employment and new highly qualified services, as shown by the examples of the Dili Hilton Hotel or the Dili Marina Square project, whose foundation stone was recently laid.
These projects demonstrate the growing interest of our international partners and their confidence in the Timorese economy and society, certainly aware of the efforts that the Government has made to improve the business environment at a national level, preparing a legislative package that is more attractive to private initiative.
In Industry: The Government has the ambition to build, in every Municipality in the country, an Industrial Park, duly equipped with all the basic services needed to start new economic activities, namely access to electricity, water and sanitation, communications, waste treatment stations and adequate road access or safety conditions.
But we know that any industrial park project will take time to implement. Based on the studies underway, one can conclude that industrial parks that will integrate their three pillars environmental, economic and social, will link modernity and innovation, which together will surely contribute to sustainable development and social equity shortly.
An investment for which we are looking for interested public or private development partners who can operate in the value chain of product transformation and manufacturing to meet the needs of the markets.
In Defence and Civil Aviation: Following the example of the cooperation partnership established in Defence with the Government of the United States of America for the rehabilitation of Baucau Airport, supporting on one hand the national objective of establishing and enabling an air component for the FALINTIL – Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL), and on the other hand, placing the rehabilitated infrastructure at the disposal of a value chain in the civil aviation sector, in a broader program that will make Baucau International Airport available for the civil movement of passengers and goods, both domestically and internationally, contributing to the development of Baucau’s development hub, through new connectivity for the various sectors of the local and regional economy.
In Culture: taking advantage of the recent recognition by UNESCO of the Timorese Tais as an intangible heritage of Humanity, to encourage the appearance of new partnerships in the value-added chain of the handicraft sector and the micro, small and medium local industries of traditional Timorese products, in basketry, pottery, artistic expressions, jewellery and bijouterie, wood carving and the use of other certified traditional materials, placing culture at the service of Tourism and the people, as a complementary offer to the local economy that adds value to Timor-Leste as a destination.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we celebrate Twenty Years of the Restoration of Independence and relations with our Development Partners, allow me to invite all of the country’s development partners to ponder and consider the possibility of significantly increasing the contribution you may make to the budget assistance mechanism, instead of channelling assistance through projects that are often isolated and with the possibility of generating redundancies.
We would be moving, for example, towards the creation of a Budgetary Support Group for Timor-Leste, which would be an expression of the degree of trust you have in the Public Finance Management system in our country, in the soundness of public accounting and transparency in the management of public affairs and accountability.
I leave you with this challenge this year, because the Major Planning Options will become the main reference in financial programming and budgeting, and there will be space and opportunity for all Development Partners to fit their interests and priorities, which should converge with the development options of Timor-Leste.
I will conclude by renewing the appreciation of the 8th Constitutional Government for the partnerships that we have managed to forge over the years, and also by renewing the hope that we will continue together, so that we may become stronger and more resilient in building the future we want, without leaving anyone behind.
I wish continued good work, professional success, and much health and happiness to all present.
May God bless us and give us health and strength to work for our People and our Country!
Thank you very much for your generous attention.