DOOR Newsletter on East Timor home
"The large influx of foreigners
with different standards of comfort and greater financial capacity has
meant that satisfying their needs has become a priority area: they took
over the less damaged buildings and houses, and were given priority in
reconstruction and supply of materials. Meanwhile, a year after the
UN's arrival, the vast majority of Timorese, especially those in Dili,
are still living amidst the ruins." East Timor
Subject: Reconstructing suitable sustainable
3. Water and sanitation
5. Public Buildings
By contributing to the WB
administered Trust Fund for East Timor (TFET), either bilaterally or through
UN agencies or international NGOs, many nations are backing efforts to
reconstruct East Timor's infrastructures destroyed in the August-October
1999 violence. Significant progress has been achieved, but most resources
are absorbed by the international machine implementing the assistance (US$692
million for the UN mission vs. US$59 million for the Timor budget, according
to the Transitional Administrator S.Vieira de Mello (Reuters, 27.6).
The aid is not enough to replace the infrastructures existing prior to
September 1999, and the transition period will be insufficient to achieve
the set objectives. The purpose behind the announcement of some results
appears to have been to show how much has been achieved. However,
some of the statements have been found to be contradictory: according
to the UN, electricity now reaches 85% of the territory while, according
to a study undertaken by the International Fund for Agricultural Development,
only 22% of homes have electricity. It is vital that the future independent
East Timor is left with infrastructures that suit both the territory and
its population, as well as the human and material resources that will be
needed to maintain the infrastructures once in place. This will not
be done in the necessarily short political transition period.
a) land - Roads in East Timor
were not prepared to cope with the heavy vehicles being used by the UN
peacekeepers or international aid agencies. Many roads and bridged have
not stood up to the particularly heavy rainfall during this year's rainy
season (ETO, INFR01 & GOV01). The Asian Development Bank (ADB),
responsible for infrastructures within the framework of the TFET, released
US$ 4.5 million for emergency road construction work (ET Update, May-June
2000), but the slow international procurement process
only commenced with the pre-qualification
exercise in late August (World Bank, 31.8.2000). "More than 70 applications
were received, the majority of which were from East Timorese contractors",
small-scale works were given to Timorese contractors to encourage local
capacity building (TFET, 6.10). Through the pre-qualification exercise,
55 civil works contractors were identified, of whom "about 40 are local
contractors with experience and technical capability to undertake a significant
portion of the works" (WB-TFET, 9.11). In June a "Reconstructing East Timor
Conference" held in Tibar (Dili), with Timorese management cadres and foreign
experts, decided on the priorities for the reconstruction period.
With regard to road transport, the Conference prioritised setting up national
and regional services; development of local resources, and regulations,
verification and tolls. North-South road links were also considered priorities:
from Dili to Suai with a road to Same, and from Baucau to Viqueque (Tibar
2000). Most construction work has
been carried out along these two main routes and on the central Manatuto
to Natarbora axis. Some construction in the western zone had to be
halted in August for security reasons, and this could delay roads becoming
usable before the rainy season (UNTAET, 24.8).
b) sea - The Tibar Conference prioritised
the following ports: Dili, and Hera/Caravela (close to Dili, for
military purposes) on the northern coast; Suai, Betano (Same) and Beaço
(Viqueque) on the southern coast; Oecussi in the enclave of the same name
(Tibar document, 2.6). The 3 ports on the southern coast need ports
beach matting and all-terrain telescopic forklift trucks to facilitate
unloading (World Bank-TFET, 9.11). The "critical bottleneck" at the
Port of Dili referred to by the UN (S/2000/938 SC) is one reason for delays
in reconstruction in Timor (UNICEF, 28.8.). S. Vieira de Mello believes
that developing small ports, such as those on the southern coast, will
not only make it easier to ship produce and other goods around the country,
but also provide additional magnets for displaced people (The Economist,
26.8.). The Tibar Conference also stressed the need for studies, regulations,
international agreements, and tariffs.
c) air - "The airports in Dili and
Baucau have suffered damages owing to inadequate maintenance, destruction,
theft of equipment, and heavy use over recent months" (UN, S/2000/738 SC).
The Tibar Conference established Dili airport as an immediate priority,
and Baucau airport as a future priority, because of its potential for tourism
and freight transport. Development of regional airports in Oecussi,
Suai, Lospalos and Same was also considered important. The Conference
recommended that studies should be conducted to identify available human
and material resources, and that private sector involvement should be encouraged.
Harvey World Travel Ltd. has established permanent operations in Dili,
employing a dozen Timorese in providing airport servicing for Australian
airlines Qantas and Air North. According to Harvey World's Managing
Director, up to 200 passengers fly in and out of Dili every day (AAP, 7.6).
Indonesian airline Merpati operates 3 flights a week between Dili and Bali,
while a private Asian company, Dili Express, was granted a licence by UNTAET
to operate a flight link between Dili and Singapore via Bali twice a week
c) Link to the Oecussi enclave. The enclave,
located within the Indonesian part of the island, 45 km from the border
with East Timor, currently has 40,000 inhabitants. Others are living
as "refugees" in Indonesian Timor. Travel from the enclave to the rest
of East Timor has been limited, since September 1999, to a few military
flights or international aid agency flights that are rarely willing or
able to carry Timorese passengers. Timorese who were formerly civil servants
in the Portuguese administration cannot get to Dili to receive their pensions,
or have been unable to return to Oecussi; students from Oecussi have not
been able to get to Dili to register for their courses. At meetings
between UNTAET and the Indonesian authorities, there were differences of
opinion on how these problems should be overcome. UNTAET proposed
the use of buses escorted by Indonesian soldiers, but the Indonesian authorities
favoured sea transportation, apparently because of opposition from the
military. In September, people in the enclave held a demonstration
demanding transport: "UNTAET pays for its staff to go on holidays to Bali,
so why can't they buy a ferry for the people of Oecussi?" (The Age, 23.9).
Carrying passengers on boats transporting goods had been forbidden by UNTAET
because of lack of proper safety and sanitary conditions but, on 27 September,
the Government decided, as a temporary measure, to grant the Australian
based East Timor Shipping and Supply company a subsidy to operate a passenger
ferry service. When passengers buy their tickets, they are informed
that the company holds no liability towards passengers (UNTAET, 27.9)
In spite of statements by UNTAET (Briefing
15.5. and Update 30.6) that around 85% of East Timor was served with electricity,
several other reports suggest such claims are over optimistic. In
reality, power cuts are a frequent occurrence, even in hospitals and clinics,
and in Dili itself. This was recently officially acknowledged when UNTAET
issued users with a rota and map showing the areas of Dili and dates on
which power cuts were most likely (ETTA web page, November). Meanwhile,
a study has shown that only 22% of homes are connected to electricity networks
(IFAD-International Fund for Agricultural Development).
The contract with the [Australian] Northern
Territory's Power & Water Authority for the provision of electricity
supply to Dili was extended by UNTAET in June (UNTAET, 9.6.). The
Government decided that, as from August, large consumers would have to
pay for electricity that, hitherto, had been free of charge. Payment
for electricity by all consumers was postponed due to the need to install
meters in family homes and to assess their ability to pay bills (IFAD).
Head of UNTAET's electricity department said
that only 30 of the country's 60 power stations were working in August
2000 (UNTAET, 14.8.). A project to rehabilitate 15 power stations
remained on hold reportedly because of the security situation in the border
area where the stations are located (TFET, 6.10). Higher fuel prices were
the main reason for the increase in the territory's budget. S. Vieira
de Mello asked UNTAET staff to conserve electricity, and the Tibar Conference
recommended the establishment of rules and regulations to promote efficient
use of energy, including energy-efficient housing and construction.
The Conference also recommended recovering costs from users, proper training
for technical staff, and diversification of energy sources (hydro-electric
and alternative energy sources) in order to protect the environment and
reduce long term energy costs.
3. Water and sanitation
"Practically all East Timor water & sanitation
services were disrupted by the Aug-Sept 1999 post-referendum violence.
Practically all management and administrative staff departed East Timor
and will not return" (ETTA web site).
In the water sector, the US$4.5 million available
for 2000-2001 are just a fraction of the total US$40 million needed, of
which between 12 to 15 million are expected from the TFET (ADB, No.077/00,2-8).
The transitional administration had given
international agencies and NGOs, particularly Oxfam, responsibility for
running this sector. When it came to handing back its support activities
to UNTAET in September, Oxfam expressed its concern that staffing would
be reduced from 40 to 5 per district (UNTAET, 5.7). UNTAET confirmed
this cutback, but promised to send 100 UN volunteers to ensure a smooth
transition. Meanwhile, it acknowledged that in the Dili district
"one third of the outstanding water connections have now been completed;
new applications for water connections are not being processed for the
moment" (UNTAET, 24.8.).
NGOs called for additional investment in the
water system, including a budget for the training of community groups and
for maintenance (UNTAET, 24.8). To create a healthy physical environment
and promote hygienic practices among the population are two aspects of
the work in this area being done by UNICEF and other local and international
organisations (InterAction, 1.10).
With the US$4.5 million for 2 years, the TFET
aims to rehabilitate the damaged and inadequate infrastructure and re-establish
human and institutional capacity to manage, operate and maintain the water
service (TFET, 6.10).
In October, UNTAET noted that UN Volunteers
were still not in place in 3 districts: Aileu, Bobonaro and Viqueue (12.10)
while, in November, it acknowledged that the trained teams were only undertaking
maintenance work in the district capitals. An additional budget was
required to extend their services to outside the urban areas. Even
in Dili where, in June, the water supply was sufficient to cover "over
twice the needs of the people connected to the network" (ETTA web site)
"the water supply is becoming a source of
concern, with no solution in sight" (UNTAET,
High priority was given by the Tibar Conference
to producing telecommunications legislation and regulations, training staff
and preparing international tenders to provide full facilities to all districts.
a) telephones -
The telephone network, now gradually being
restored after extensive damage in September 1999, is only operational
in Dili. The mobile phone service, accessible through the Australian
Telstra mobile network, is available in Dili and parts of Baucau and Suai.
In other districts, communication is only possible by satellite phone (AAP,
The Transitional Administration's Information
Technology, Post & Telecommunications Dept. (ITPT) launched an international
call for Expression of Interest bids for a telecommunications system in
East Timor (ETTA, web site, 16.8.).
The Chairman of Portugal Telecom has expressed
interest in investing in telecommunications development in both Timor and
Indonesia (Indonesian Observer, 7.7.).
b) radio - UNTAET has
partially repaired the old radio network that was severely damaged by withdrawing
pro-Indonesia militia last year. East Timor's mountainous topography
has made the task difficult. In November 1999, UNTAET began broadcasting
Radio UNTAET in English and Tetum, but it is available to only about 50%
of the population. The pledge made last April by the Japanese Foreign
Minister, Yohei Kono, to donate 8,000 solar-powered radio receivers has
met with numerous delays; in early September, only 500 had been delivered.
In an interview with Kyodo News, S. Vieira de Mello regretted these delays
and described communication with the East Timorese as UNTAET's "biggest
failure" (Kyodo News, 1.9). [Was this due only to the shortage of
c) Internet - According to ETTA's
web site, the lack of a public communication network is a major obstacle
to reconstruction. The estimated cost of the project to link all
districts and central government in Dili via Internet, which should be
operational within a year, is US$1.45 million.
5. Public buildings
The Central Payments Office is "the first
major reconstruction project on a public building carried out by UNTAET",
said the transitional administration's spokeswoman. An Australian
company would be restoring the building. For the 2-month project,
costing US$416,000, which began in June, 38 of the 50 workers employed
were Timorese. "Other buildings in Dili to be reconstructed in the
transitional period with money from the trust fund include a judicial affairs
office, the Court of Appeal and an employment service centre. In
Baucau, ET's second largest city, rehabilitation works are to be conducted
on the prison, district court, public prosecutor's office and market (…)UNTAET
officials said rehabilitation of buildings through local contractors will
not be possible in the short term since the contracting industry was in
the hands of Indonesian firms, all of which have left ET and taken their
equipment with them (…) Xanana Gusmao had earlier questioned some of the
world body's priorities in reconstructing public buildings, calling for
a more balanced approach to be taken between public buildings in Dili and
those in the outlying districts." (Kyodo News Service, 16.6).
Companies were selected to compete for the
reconstruction of 4 public buildings in Dili and 3 in Baucau. For
the work in Dili, 13 of the 18 companies selected were Timorese-owned,
while 9 of the 11 companies chosen to compete for the works in Baucau were
Timorese. "The companies have now two weeks to prepare their proposals.
The works will start before 24 July" (UNTAET, 3.7). Renovation work
on Baucau prison was adjudicated to a Timorese construction company (UNTAET,
Reconstruction work on 6 public buildings
in Dili will take 3 to 7 months. They will provide new office space for
12 agencies of the ETTA (UNTAET, 9.8).
The newly renovated markets in Dili, Becora
and Comoro, have each provided 180 vendor stalls; some 2,600 vendors will
be housed in an open area next to the market buildings (UNTAET 31.10).
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved
a US$29.8 million emergency project, to be financed by the TFET, for roads,
ports and electricity networks rehabilitation. Immediate benefits
will be felt in food distribution work to areas hit by shortages, distribution
of agricultural materials, relocation of refugees, and in UN peacekeeping
force movements (ADB web page, 10.7).
Funding agreements worth US$27.5 million were
signed between the Japanese Government, UNTAET and the UNDP for 6 urgent
projects. The projects include work on Dili's water supply, the Dili-Ainaro
road, power stations and distribution networks in Dili and rural areas,
and irrigation systems). "This is the largest contribution made so far
for the rehabilitation of infrastructure in East Timor" (UNTAET and Government
of Japan, 14.7). The Japanese Government pledged US$100 million in
1. The slow pace of reconstruction
was inevitable for several reasons:
The extent of the devastation was such that
even the basic structures needed for receiving and transporting construction
materials had to be rehabilitated before reconstruction of services and
buildings could commence.
2. The Timorese are accustomed to having
to make do with little, and to wait patiently. However, what makes
the current situation less acceptable are: the pledges of massive aid that
take so very long to materialise on the ground; the starkly contrasting
life styles of the Timorese and foreigners - far more shocking than in
the time of the Indonesian administration; the feeling among the Timorese
that, with the same resources, they would have done more and better than
UNTAET has managed to do, and, finally, that UNTAET's own bureaucracy is
more of a hindrance than a help to the reconstruction process.
The large influx of foreigners with different
standards of comfort and greater financial capacity has meant that satisfying
their needs has become a priority area: they took over the less damaged
buildings and houses, and were given priority in reconstruction and supply
of materials. Meanwhile, a year after the UN's arrival, the vast
majority of Timorese, especially those in Dili, are still living amidst
3. Whether or not they are justified,
these feelings will only disappear when the foreign presence has substantially
decreased and Timorese see that they have gained control over their own
affairs. However, this may not happen when the UN withdraws if key
enterprises are left in the hands of foreigners.
4. As UNTAET officials have admitted
"the contracting industry was in the hands of Indonesian firms, all of
which have left East Timor and taken their equipment with them".
The fact that procurement is open to Timorese companies as well as to foreign
firms is not enough. Unless positive discrimination is practised,
the Timorese cannot compete. A key consideration in the procurement process
ought to be the creation of human and material resources that will ensure
the future maintenance of work now under construction. The Timorese
themselves are the party most interested in that future.
5. Half the territory's villages
still have no roads. The fact that 80% of Timorese work in agriculture,
and that it is on agriculture that the development of East Timor's economy
depends in the short and medium term, cannot be overstated.
6. The main objective behind the
installation, with international aid, of infrastructures ought to be local
capacity building, both for the purposes of boosting production and training
workers, so as to ensure that, when international aid ceases, development
Note: Documents and information
relating to this subject have been compiled by the East Timor Observatory
in a 44-page thematic Dossier entitled "Infrasructures - ref. INFR02".
The Dossier and/or further information may be ordered from the East Timor
Observatory for the
monitoring of East Timor's transition process a programme by the 'Comissão
para os Direitos do Povo Maubere'
Coordinator: Cláudia Santos
Timor Observatory / Observatório Timor Leste / Observatoire Timor-Oriental
ETO was set up by two Portuguese NGOs
- the Commission for the Rights of the Maubere People (CDPM) and
the ecumenical group Peace is Possible in East Timor, which
have been involved in East Timor solidarity work since the early eighties.
The aim of the Observatory is to monitor East Timor's transition process,
as well as the negotiating process and its repercussions at international
level, and the developments in the situation inside the territory itself.
"We should all understand that Liberation of the
Fatherland is only half the objective of independence.
After independence, Liberation of the
People constitutes the other half of the objective of independence."
Xanana Gusmão, 1999
Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE - 1069-069
Lisboa - Portugal
ph.: 351 1 317 28 60 - fax:
351 1 317 28 70 - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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