Nearly two years have passed since the Indonesian military and their militias destroyed 75-80% of all school buildings in East Timor. Given such destruction, and the challenge of working in an emergency situation, restoring East Timor’s schools to basic operational order has been an extremely formidable task. Without doubt, the World Bank, UNTAET and the East Timorese Transitional Administration (ETTA) have made progress in this area. At present, 81% of the total 54,258 sets of furniture ordered have been delivered to schools. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 sets will be needed eventually to serve all students in East Timor.
There have been, however, a number of problems in the implementation of the emergency stage of the school rehabilitation effort, including the provision of school furniture. These problems have related to planning, process, and vision. Originally, for example, the goal was to complete the rehabilitation of the classrooms to a “basic operational level” by October 2000. While there are numerous reasons for the delay—some of which were beyond the control of the World Bank and UNTAET/ETTA—a number of them would appear to have been avoidable.
Perhaps the greatest problems relate to the insufficient level of commitment on the part of the World Bank and UNTAET/ETTA to having local employment generation and capacity building as important goals of the project. The Bank and UNTAET/ETTA argue that one should not confuse the goals of an emergency project—in this case, bringing destroyed schools to a basic operational level as quickly as possible—with other goals.
The outcome of the school furniture component
of the Emergency School Readiness Project shows, however, that school rehabilitation,
local capacity building, and employment generation are not mutually exclusive
goals. In fact, had the World Bank and UNTAET/ETTA prioritized all of these
goals, it is very likely that the project would have seen a more timely
completion of the first phase of the rehabilitation, while providing greater
benefits to East Timorese society as a whole.
Background: The Emergency School Readiness Project
The World Bank manages international donors’ funds for the Emergency School Readiness Project (ESRP) through the Trust Fund for East Timor (see The La’o Hamutuk Bulletin Vol. 1 No. 4). In June 2000, the World Bank completed negotiations on the US$13.9 million ESRP, the first phase in the School System Revitalization Program. This first phase, to be implemented by UNTAET/ETTA under the guidance of the World Bank, included three main components: 1) the renovation of 2100 classrooms; 2) the provision of furniture to 2500 classrooms; and 3) the design and building of five new “prototype” schools.
According to the World Bank’s “Project Appraisal Document”, the primary goal was to restore furniture to schools before the new school year started in October 2000. While this included both the provision of student furniture and teachers’ furniture, student furniture was by far the largest component. To meet the project’s goal, ETTA planned to import a temporary, national set of plastic furniture for students, which locally made furniture would replace during Phase II of the project.
The plan to spend US$1.7 million to import plastic furniture met with widespread dissent. Many East Timorese businesspeople, political leaders, and national and international NGOs wrote letters of protest to UNTAET/ETTA and the World Bank. They argued against the decision because: 1) the funds spent would leave the country, in no way assisting the local economy; 2) the importing of furniture would do nothing to provide local employment or build up the in-country carpentry capacity; and 3) questions remained as to whether sufficient funds would exist to replace the non-durable plastic furniture.
In response, UNTAET/ETTA and the World
Bank eventually agreed to change the project design to include greater
local furniture production. The new agreement promised 40% of the total
student school furniture contracts to local manufacturers. With this significant
project design change and Australian government support, the World Bank
and UNTAET/ETTA added local capacity building to the project goals.
Problems of Consultation and Local Ownership
The World Bank’s “Project Appraisal Document” describes the Emergency School Readiness Project as following a participatory approach and carrying out broad consultation. One must question the extent of these consultations, however, given the criticisms of the original project design.
The Bank and UNTAET/ETTA, for example, argued that it was necessary to import plastic furniture to satisfy the local demand for functioning schools. But a report from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) (October 2000) showed that community sentiment was more complex: “Particularly in the rural districts,” the report noted, “a strong feeling exists amongst parents in the communities that people are prepared to accept some further delays [in receiving school furniture] in return for the benefits of future local employment.”
Clearly, the decision to reject the plastic imported furniture option played a large role in the delays, as the World Bank and UNTAET are quick to point out. As their recent “Background Paper to the Canberra Donor’s Conference” (June 2001) states, “Strong efforts have been made to support local carpenter production of furniture, which has slowed distribution.” Others argue, however, that if the World Bank and UNTAET had consulted widely and recognized from the start the critical need for local employment, and that local capacity for furniture production existed, they could have immediately engaged local carpenters in the process of furniture making. Instead, the two institutions spent months developing a new project plan and then ensuring donors’ approval of the changes.
World Bank and UNTAET/ETTA officials such as Francisco Osler, current Project Director for the Emergency School Readiness Project, explained that there was always a commitment to local participation, but the concern was local capacity. Two different assessments, however, found that local capacity was sufficient for the project. The first one, carried out by the World Bank and ETTA, concluded that the local industry was adequate to produce the required number of desks and chairs within an appropriate timeframe. A second one, by a team from AusAID, supported this assessment:
“[T]here is sufficient local capacity both in Dili and across the other 12 districts to produce the amount of classroom furniture of the standard required to satisfy Phase I of the project…within an appropriate timeframe,” the report stated.
Despite the combined planning resources
of the World Bank, UNTAET and ETTA, they did not address the challenge
of country-wide distribution of materials and of completed furniture until
very late in the project. The Peacekeeping Force (PKF) and various international
NGOs assisted with the transportation of furniture, but because of the
lack of planning, furniture sometimes remained for weeks in carpenters’
shops waiting for delivery. An additional complication has been the fact
that there is still no grand map showing the location of schools in East
Timor. (A national school-mapping project has now commenced and is due
to present findings by the end of September 2001. It is unclear why the
mapping project began so late. The World Bank-led Joint Assessment Mission
identified the mapping project as a top priority for educational rehabilitation
in late 1999.)
A Poor Commitment to Local Employment
Both World Bank and UNTAET officials defend their decision to import 60% of the furniture. When asked about the studies mentioned above, Osler explained that capacity exists, but one must consider the time factor, implying that the importation of furniture would be faster than local production.
In fact, local companies have been much faster than international companies in delivering furniture. Delivery of locally produced furniture is now 100% complete, while the figure for internationally produced furniture is only 65%.
This is not surprising, as there is a rich tradition of carpentry in East Timor. Generations of carpenters have received training at Fatumaka and from the Don Bosco brothers in Dili, and there are many small carpentry shops scattered across the country. However the contracting process used by UNTAET/ETTA greatly hindered participation by these small shops.
Bigger international firms and larger Dili-based businesses that can produce furniture more quickly had a clear competitive advantage over small district carpentry shops. International firms also understood the rules of the game much better than local groups, particularly those in the districts. Many small carpentry shops, for example, were ineligible to bid for a contract because they were not registered officially as a business. The process of business registry itself was, for some local groups, a complex and confusing process.
The initial invitations to bid for contracts were in English only as were the multi-page contracts, which included highly technical legal prose. This had the effect of further marginalizing East Timorese participation. When asked about the appropriateness of this, School Readiness Project staff Ollie De Castro explained that the language of the UN and the transitional administration is English. “Marginalization based on language,” he added, “is not particular to this project.”
Statistics showing the division between locally and internationally produced furniture are misleading. UNTAET’s present regulation on business registration does not distinguish between an East Timorese-owned and run business and an internationally-owned and run business located in East Timor. Thus, if the operation is within the territory, it is a “national” business according to UNTAET.
In fact, 30% of “local” production
went to German Agro Action, an international NGO (in this case, the German
government provided all the necessary timber). Another 10% went to Rosedale,
a majority Australian-owned company. And only three truly local carpentry
shops based outside of Dili received contracts. (There have been several
different investigations into the bidding process. The World Bank’s Fraud
and Corruption Unit’s investigation is not yet finished. ETTA’s Inspector
General’s Office just released their report.)
Insufficient Commitment to Capacity Building
Much to its credit, the Australian government initiated a project in September 2000 with the explicit goal of helping to “build capacity for local furniture production throughout East Timor.” After assessing that local capacity did, in fact, exist, an AusAID team of consultants arrived to assist and support local production, with local capacity building being a priority. The team prepared to provide training and administrative assistance to small carpenters’ groups who had little to no experience with large-scale business contracts.
Ron Isaacson of the World Bank credits AusAID and their implementation team for facilitating much of the local carpenters’ participation. The AusAID team, according to Isaacson, was very successful in building local capacity as the team taught local carpentry groups about the processes of bidding for a contract, making purchase orders and procuring materials internationally.
Despite the noble goals of the AusAID effort,
it was seriously hindered in its ability to provide lasting capacity building.
In many ways, the team ended up acting as field agents for ETTA, signing
up local manufacturers’ contracts often with little time for capacity building.
In its own report of March 2001, the AusAID team wrote, “The goal to provide
school furniture is urgent with a demand for quick results whereas the
goal of capacity building requires time and an unhurried approach. These
conflicting objectives were the source of most of the obstacles the team
After the many difficulties in the contract process for student furniture, the AusAID team developed a simpler process for teachers’ furniture. “Participation agreements” allowed for much greater flexibility than the contracts used previously, and more carpentry shops from district were thus able to participate. In the end, twenty small workshops (many representing a collective of smaller workshops) in eleven districts signed “participation agreements” to produce sets of teachers’ furniture compared to eleven workshops in four districts for the much larger component of student furniture (not including the German Agro Action manufacturing in Suai and Oecusse).
Phase I of the School Revitalization Project is now near completion. The World Bank, in both Washington and Dili, together with UNTAET and members of the East Timorese Transitional Administration (ETTA) will soon negotiate on the next stage of the School System Revitalization Project. It is critical that the World Bank, the UN, and ETTA all take the lessons learned in this project and carry them into the next phase of the School Revitalization Project as well as into other projects.
The school furniture component of the ESRP shows that there must be:
*A genuine commitment to identifying and responding to community needs at the onset of project planning. If genuine consultation, in the form of participation in the planning process, had taken place before the project design was finalized, the project would have likely been significantly different and the project would have been able to move ahead much more quickly. In effect, East Timorese would have had a more meaningful role in the reconstruction process.
*A broader vision when developing projects, one that puts capacity building as a central concept. The School Rehabilitation Project started with the extremely narrow goal of getting furniture into schools as quickly as possible. Employment generation and local capacity building are, however, just as critical to East Timor’s ability to recover from the violence and destruction it has faced. International funding institutions, bilateral donors, and business contractors must prioritize capacity building and vocational training, whether in emergency or development projects.
*A commitment to keeping development dollars in East Timor and supporting East Timorese employment. International purchasing has not proved cheaper or more efficient in the case of school furniture. In any case, there must be a wider notion of what constitutes “efficiency.” The World Bank and the UN must develop clear purchasing and contracting procedures that are appropriate to supporting local employment and capacity building.
(the most common East Timorese
La’o Hamutuk, Institutu Timor Lorosa’e ba Analiza no Monitor Reconstrusaun / Institut Permantauan dan Analisis Reconstruksi Timor Loro Sa'e Updated Aug 18
Saida mak La’o Hamutuk? La’o Hamutuk organizasaun klibur Ema Timor Lorosa’e no Ema Internacional ne’ebe buka atu tau matan, halo analize ho halo relatorio kona ba hahalok (actividade) instuisaun internacional ne’ebe oras ne’e haknaar iha Timor Lorosa’e, liu-liu hahalok sira ne’ebe iha relasaun ho rekonstrusaun fizika no social Timor Lorosa’e nian. La’o Hamutuk fiar katak Povo Timor Lorosa’e mak tenke hakotu iha procesu rekonstrusaun ne’e nia laran no procesu rekonstrusaun ne’e tenke demokratiku no transparante duni.
Staf Timor oan: Inès Martins, Fernando da Silva, Thomas Freitas; Staf Internasional: Pamela Sexton, Mark Salzer; Kuadru Ejekutivu: Sr. Maria Dias, Joseph Nevins, Fr. Jovito Rego de Jesus Araùjo, Aderito Soares Durubasa: Benjamin Sanches Afonso, Tomé Xavier Jeronimo, Maria Bernardino, Manuel Tilman, Djoni Ferdiwijaya Ilustrador: Sebastião Pedro da Silva, Nan Porter Design Jeronimo Staf Monitoriu Projektu Judiciariu JSMP: Christian Ranheim, Caitlin Reiger, Rayner Thwaites
Local Contact: P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia) Mobile fone: +61(408)811373; Telefone Uma: +670(390)325-013
International contact: +1-510-643-4507 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Homepage: http://www.etan.org/lh
Boletim La’o Hamutuk: [Tetum PDF format]
Vol. 2, No. 3 Junho 2001 Fundu Monetariu Internasional (IMF) iha Timor Lorosa’e: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/bulv2n3T.pdf
Vol. 2, Nos. 1-2 Abríl 2001 Vizaun Jeral Hosi Fundu Ba Rekonstrusaun Timor Loro Sa’e: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/lhbl2n1t.pdf
Vol. 1, No. 4, 31 Dejembru 2000 Banku Mundial iha Timor Loro Sa’e: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/lhbul4tm.pdf
Vol. 1, No. 3, 17 Novembro 2000 Hari Sistema Saude Nasional iha Timor Lorosa’e: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/LHbul3tm.pdf
Vol. 1, No. 2, 17 Julho 2000 Protesaun ba meio ambiente iha TL: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/bulletin02tetum.pdf
Vol. 1, No. 1, 21 Juñu 2000 Rekonciliasaun: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/bulletin01tetum.pdf
La'o Hamutuk: East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis Updated June 24
La'o Hamutuk (Tetum for Walking Together) is a joint East Timorese-international organization that seeks to monitor, to analyze, and to report on the reconstruction activities of the principal international institutions. It believes that the people of East Timor must be the ultimate decisionmakers in the reconstruction process and that the process should be as democratic and transparent as possible ...
East Timorese staff: Inès Martins, Fernando da Silva, Thomas Freitas; International staff: Pamela Sexton, Mark Salzer Executive board: Sr. Maria Dias, Joseph Nevins, Fr. Jovito Rego de Jesus Araùjo, Aderito de Jesus Soares Translators: Maria Bernardino, Tom‚ Xavier Jeronimo JSMP staff: Christian Ranheim, Caitlin Reiger, Rayner Thwaites
International contact: +1-510-643-4507 Email: email@example.com Homepage: http://www.etan.org/lh
La’o Hamutuk Bulletin: http://www.etan.org/lh/bulletin.html
Mar 23 2001 LH: Job announcement for La'o Hamutuk in East Timor: http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood/01marjob.htm
Activity Report: Mar 16 2001 LH: http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood/01marlhreport.html
BD: Peoples' Participation / Partisipasaun Politika / Partisipasi Politik / Participação Dos Povos - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles
BD: Capacity Building & 'Timorisation' / à Criação de Capacidades - A collection of recent statements, reports, articles and news
BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' / Rekonstrusaun i 'Ajuda i Dezenvolvimentu' / Reconstrução e 'Ajuda e Desenvolvimento' - A collection of recent press releases, reports, and articles
BD: Financing Reconstruction in East Timor / Fundu Ba Rekonstrusaun Timor Loro Sa’e / Bantu uang: Rékonstruksi - A collection of recent reports and articles