I decided to share this modest contribution to add to the set of measures already taken by those entitled to it. I do not assume that this will be the best proposal. But I believe that given the seriousness of the challenges, government officials have to be bold, and swift in decision-making and execution.
This serious global crisis, whose profound impact is already being felt in our lives in Timor-Leste, will have even more devastating effects if the National Leadership does not have the intelligence, vision, courage and audacity to quickly adopt a strategy based on two pillars - the medical and humanitarian pillar and the socio-economic pillar.
Creation of a National Emergency Fund, in the order of USD 2,000,000,000.00 (two billion US dollars), valid from January 2020 to December 2022, 3 (three) years, for a multifaceted strategy, of more intense (ongoing) prevention, victim care, and economic recovery and dynamism. The Gov may appeal to friendly countries and global financial institutions for its participation in that Fund.
In meetings with Maun Bot Xanana, PM and in a wider one with the President of the Republic, I emphasized that we must face this challenge on two fronts simultaneously, tackle the impact of the virus as a national public health issue and at the same time stop the hemorrhaging of the national economy. .
To minimize and, if possible, avoid a real catastrophe with the spread of COVID-19, drastic and courageous measures have to be taken. Some have been taken and I applaud the Government for that.
Fortunately we are benefited with three relative advantages:
we find ourselves in a situation in which this pandemic can still be contained in the face of the modest number of identified cases - at the moment a confirmed confirmed case.
we can learn from the experiences of other countries already affected by the presence of COVID-19, both from the mistakes made by those and from the measures that have proved to be positive and effective.
We have financial liquidity that allows us to face this double challenge quickly and effectively, to curb Covid-19 and stop the economic crisis, using our Sovereign Fund.
Urgent Response Measures to COVID-19:
Only the measures that have not yet been considered are listed here:
c) medical-sanitary inspection of social institutions which, due to their nature - orphanages, boarding schools, homes for children, young people, women victims of domestic violence - should not be closed. Provide support in food, money, and on-site medical care. Equally and directly support Religious and Lay Orders that host children and young people.
d) Disperse military personnel in tents and camp beds in the HQ area;
e) Proceed to the immediate release of prisoners who have already served 1/3 of their sentences;
f) Free distribution of hygiene products to the population.
Economic and Social Measures to be Adopted
Timor-Leste has liquidity and the means to use it to face the social and economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
List some considerations in this regard below:
National Emergency Fund, in the order of USD 2,000,000,000.00 (two billion US dollars), valid from January 2020 to December 2022, 3 (three) years, for a multifaceted, prevention strategy (in progress), victim care, and economic recovery and dynamism, namely:
v. support the national productive sector, agriculture, horticulture and export products such as coffee, vanilla and others, through the banking system, in particular BNCTL and BNU and micro credit institutions such as Moris Rasik.
saw. support national companies, the hotel industry, commercial houses, public passenger and cargo transportation (angunas, microletes), through the banking system. Example: fuel subsidies for trucks transporting goods from Dili to the interior and from the interior to Dili. Support the hotel sector in an amount equivalent to 50% occupancy of the rooms based on a realistic daily rate to be negotiated.
VII. Free use of electricity during 2020, this measure may extend to 2021;
Viii. support private sector employees who, due to the crisis, have lost their wages. Freeze the payment of state property rents to the private sector. Cover the rent of private space, with the owners contributing to reduce the cost of rent.
IX) Imposing speed in the unloading of goods and customs clearance.
X) The banking sector freezes interest and other obligations, restructures debts and adjusts interest rates compatible with those practiced regionally from 2022 onwards. Debt forgiveness should be seriously considered.
XI) Suspension of international travel by members of the Government, State officials, members of the Defense and Security forces until December 2020 by
XII) Attribution to all health professionals who work at the front line, in hospitals, health centers, as well as those who support the sector, cleaning and garbage collection personnel, with a cash prize equivalent to 50% of its monthly, net, retroactive salary from January to December 2020, which may extend until the end of 2021. These benefits will be extended to Cuban doctors and technicians and other international health workers. The same benefit extends to water and sanitation workers and fire departments.
XIII) Acquisition of food stock for 180 days.
XIV) Consider a direct transfer, for each Timorese family, a monthly amount sufficient to cover a food basket.
XV) To give an example, the PR, PM, PPN and PTR, members of the Government and Deputies, and ex-incumbents propose to cut 50% of their salaries by the end of 2022. This initiative will be extended to all national advisers, as well as hired employees. Likewise, the government had instituted greater discipline and control over the use of official vehicles and fuel.
Dili, March 27, 2020
Opinion By Jose Antonio Belo
Timor-Leste has to date managed the Covid-19 crisis very well, as is shown by the low number of cases and the fact there are zero deaths.
Tempotimor (Dili) - The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison called with Timor-Leste’s prime minister Taur Matan Ruak reiterating Australia’s support and solidarity in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tempotimor (Dili) – The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Timor-Leste has increased to a total of six cases. On Tuesday (14 April) two new corona-patients were taken to the isolation center in Vera Cruz, stated Rui Maria de Araujo, the spokesperson of the Integrated Crisis Management Center (Sentru Integradu Jestaun Krize – SIJK).
“There are six confirmed cases: one is recovered, another five are now in the isolation center,” Rui de Araujo said on Tuesday (14 April), updating the information about the epidemic from the Dili Convention Center.
On Tuesday morning, at 09:45am, an ambulance collected one Timorese who was quarantined mandatorily in the Katuas Hotel in Timor-Leste’s capital city Dili, while about the same time another Timorese was taken from the Fortuna Hotel.
Both persons were brought to the isolation center in Vera Cruz.
“These two latest COVID-19 cases were confirmed within 24 hours,” SIJK spokesperson Rui de Araujo said.
The first case in Timor-Leste was confirmed on 21 March 2020 and that patient has recovered. After that a Timorese, after having travelled from Kupang (the capital city of West-Timor) to Dili and taken to be quarantined in the Katuas hotel, was tested positive for the corona disease last Friday (10 April).
SIJK then announced that 37 Timorese who also stayed in quarantine at the Katuas hotel were tested by the medial team.
On Sunday evening (12 April) an ambulance visited the hotel twice. Then on Monday (13 April) SIJK announced that indeed two Timorese were confirmed positive of Covid-19 bringing the total to four.
“These two were together with a group from Kupang, now they are in Vera Cruz isolation center. Fortunately their condition is good: no cough, no fever,” stated Odete Viegas, the general director of health care at the Ministry of Health and part of the SIJK team, on Monday (13 April).
The following day, on Tuesday (14 April), two more Timorese were tested positive for the corona disease, bringing the total to six. (***)
Australia is supporting Timor-Leste to be prepared in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19. The neighbouring country has provided personal protective equipment and medical supplies to protect healthcare workers. The Menzies School of Health Research is helping Timor-Leste’s national laboratory to be able to do local testing for COVID-19 in the near future. Also training is provided to health workers at the national hospital.
Tempotimor (Dili) – After a seven-hour long discussion, the national leaders agreed that the president must find ways to resolve the current political crisis that Timor-Leste is facing. They also concluded that early elections are only a last resort, when no other options are left.
BY Jose Antonio Belo
The current political crisis began in 2017 when the Government (the 7th since independence) was led by a minority coalition of FRETILIN and the Democratic Party, with the majority opposition consisting of CNRT, PLP and KHUNTO didn’t pass the government programs.
Tempotimor (Dili) - The parliament of Timor-Leste rejected the new proposal of the government for the state budget.
Tempotimor (Dili) - The Vatican Embassy in Dili is ‘still optimistic’ that Pope Francis will visit Timor-Leste this year. Recently president Francisco Guterres – Lú-Olo – sent an official invitation to the Holy Father. The bishops conference of Timor-Leste united itself behind the initiative.
Bellow is full speech of East Timor Prime Minister, Taur Matan Ruak during presentation State budget to National Parliament.
I have the honour, on behalf of the VIII Constitutional Government, to present to the National Parliament, the Major Chamber of the Democratic Representation of our People, the draft law that approves the State General Budget and the Social Security Budget for the current year 2020.
On this occasion, I would like to acknowledged and thank the efforts that have been made by all public administration leaders and officials, as well as by Your Excellencies Members of the Government and by the Honourable Members of the National Parliament, in order to prepare and enable the discussion of this draft law, that begins today, and whose approval is absolutely crucial for the proper functioning of our Public Administration and for the growth of our national economy.
As national policy makers, we know well and we cannot ignore the dire consequences that prolonged period of duodecimal budget execution had on our economy, and which desirably should not be repeated again.
It was aware of the urgent need to provide the State with a Budget capable in responding to the demands of our society and our economy, and in fully respect of the constitutional powers of the National Parliament, that the Government withdrew the draft budget law presented on last October, replacing it with the one that is today submitted for discussion.
The decision to withdraw the previous draft budget law for 2020, and to recast it, in accordance with the recommendations approved by the various parliamentary committees, was not taken lightly, and was nevertheless concerned to ensure the preservation of political stability and the approval of a State General Budget for 2020, commitments made by the majority of elected Deputies to this legislature in 2018 and by the members of the VIII Constitutional Government in the elections held in 2018.
It was due to the obligation to respect the commitments made to our People that the Government withdrew its draft budget law and presented a new law proposal, able to address the concerns of the National Parliament and to respond positively to their recommendations.
In an increasingly unstable and uncertain international context, concerns about political stability and the creation of national conditions for an environment conducive to economic growth and social welfare are of even greater importance.
Despite the criticisms and repairs that have been made by many of the Parliament members to the Government, and which I consider legitimate in the context of a frank and democratic political debate, I can only express my satisfaction and pride at many of the Government's achievements during the fiscal year ended recently.
In fact, and despite the limitations arising from the fact that the VIII Constitutional Government has not yet been fully appointed and sworn in by the President of the Republic, a political situation unparalleled in any previous moment of our history, a situation that causes serious constraints on government action, there are signs of recovery and acceleration of the economic growth, namely through the realization of non-oil real GDP growth estimated at around 4% (four per cent) in 2019 and about 6% (six per cent) for the current year 2020.
These results are not of minor importance if we bear in mind that in 2017 and 2018 the non-oil real GDP was, respectively, -3.8% (minus three point eight per cent) and - 0.8% (minus zero-point eight percent).
The growth of the Non-oil real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019 was thus the biggest one registered since the year 2014, when it reached 4.5% (four-point five percent), that is, was the highest in the last nearly five years.
To this registered increase, the growth of public and private consumption has greatly contributed to, and it is estimated that in 2019, the first one represents about US $ 971 million (nine hundred and seventy-one million) dollars and the second one represents about US $ 1,054 million (one billion and fifty-four million) dollars.
Compared to previous years, it is noted that the estimated values of public and private consumption, estimated for the end of 2019, were the highest recorded since 2016 and represents, in relation to the year 2018, a growth of about US $ 124 million. (one hundred and twenty-four million) dollars.
Investment also contributed positively to the growth of our real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and it is estimated that in 2019 it represents around US $ 544 million (five hundred and forty-four million dollars), of which US $147 million (One hundred and forty-seven million dollars) refers to private investment and $ 397 million (three hundred and ninety-seven million dollars) to public investment.
The total amount of investment estimated to have taken place over the past year of 2019 is similar to that recorded in 2017, far from the US $ 653 million (six hundred and fifty-three million) dollars invested during 2016. However, and this detail is not irrelevant, public investment in 2016 amounted to $ 527 million (five hundred and twenty seven million) dollars, representing about 80.7% (eighty point seven percent) of the total investment, and private investment stood at US $ 126 million (one hundred and twenty-six million) dollars, representing no more than about 19.3% (nineteen point three percent) of the total amount of investment.
However, during the last year, private investment grew by about $21 million (twenty-one million) compared to 2016, representing around 27% (twenty-seven per cent) of the total investment made in our economy. Moreover, it should be noted that, while in 2016 private investment growth accounted for about $20 million (twenty million), compared to 2018 estimated private investment growth at approximately $77 million (seventy-seven million dollars).
In addition to contributing positively to the growth of our real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the positive evolution in private consumption and private investment reflects the confidence that households and businesses have in our economy and its continuous economic growth.
Despite the positive signs and results, to which I have had the opportunity to refer, the Government is aware of the need to take measures to boost our export sector, ensuring its increasing preponderance in our real GDPs’ growth.
Despite the positive results that have been achieved in the area of private investment, the Government is aware that the State remains the main driver of economic growth and development, and that is responsible for ensuring access to justice, social inclusion, peace and tolerance, protection of the most vulnerable social groups, equal opportunities and gender equality.
By being absolutely determined to honour the political and constitutional obligations of the State, the Government intends to continue the execution of the Strategic Development Plan SDP 2011-2030 and the 2030 Roadmap for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for this purpose, mobilizing, the most dynamic sectors of our society, as well as the fulfilment of the goals set by the Government in its Program for the current legislature, in order to achieve the development and well-being of the people.
The Government is aware that the implementation of the strategies provided in these documents and the achievement of the objectives set forth in them, depends, largely, on the political will of the sovereign bodies. However, the Government also believes that the success of this implementation will depends on the mobilization of our citizens, our local communities and our business sector.
Building an increasingly prosperous, just and perfect country depends on our ability to be deeply involved in the ongoing national development process, but also on our ability to engage each and every one of our citizens in that process, ensuring that no Timorese is left behind, in the access to the benefits provided by the development of our beloved Homeland, but also that none is excluded from the responsibility to help build the present and future of our Republic.
Only with the efforts of all and only with the sharing of results for all, can we aspire to build a richer, prosperous, cohesive and fraternal country, able to value its most important potential available, namely its citizens.
It is therefore urgent that we continue to focus on enhancing the human potential of our People by enhancing their literacy levels and increasing their professional skills, thereby improving their opportunity to earn decent jobs.
It is also imperative to boost the private and cooperative sectors, especially their investment and wealth creation capacities, namely through easier access to credit, making their dynamics progressively less dependent on public spending and increasing their capacity to create more and better jobs, especially for Timorese younger generations, who are still struggling with the still very serious scourge of unemployment, regardless of more qualified and competent they are.
Action must be taken to strengthen the cohesion of our territory, blurring the existing asymmetries between rural and urban areas and between the city of Dili and the other municipalities of our Country, ensuring access for all citizens to the benefits of economic growth and development, regardless of where they live with their families and creating the conditions for them, through their work or business, to contribute to the country’s wealth growth.
It is urgent to reinforce the means of support and social protection for the most socially vulnerable groups, in order to guarantee and promote the dignity of all Timorese who, due to any misfortune of physical, cognitive or advanced age, cannot provide livelihood for themselves under minimally satisfactory conditions.
The Government is deeply convinced that our People demands a determined intervention on their part which, supported by a realistic budget, will allow them to take actions capable of meeting those unavoidable goals and, similarly, respond to the problems that are being experienced by the citizens, like access to water and sanitation, better roads, better healthcare facilities and better educational and pre-school establishments, as well as access to greater and better employment or business opportunities.
In this regard, and in order to reconcile the need to respond to the most pressing needs of our People with the need to ensure respect for the recommendations made by the various parliamentary committees on the 2020 budget proposal, the Government has presented for discussion and approval by Parliament National, a proposal for a State General Budget for 2020 with an estimated expenditure of US$ 1,668 million (one billion, six hundred and sixty-eight million) dollar and estimated revenue of US$ 1,765 million (one billion, seven hundred and sixty-five million) dollars.
In relation to the expenditure budget, the Government proposes to the National Parliament that of the US$ 1.668 millions (one billion six hundred and sixty-eight million) dollars: US$ 235.6 millions (two hundred thirty five millions and six hundred thousand) dollars are allocated in the category of “Salaries and Wages”; US$ 582.3 millions (five hundred eighty two millions, and three hundred thousand) dollars are allocated to the “Goods and Services” category; US$ 329.7 millions (three hundred twenty-nine millions, and seven hundred thousand) dollars are allocated to the category of “Public Transfers”; US$ 31.5 millions (thirty one million five hundred thousand) dollars are allocated to the “Minor Capital” category; and US$ 488.8 millions (four hundred eighty-eight millions, and eight hundred thousand) dollars are allocated to the “Development Capital” category.
Regarding to the revenue budget, the Government intends to obtain authorization from the National Parliament to transfer the amount of US$ 996.5 million (nine hundred and ninety-six million, and five hundred thousand) dollars from the Petroleum Fund to the State Budget, of which US$ 536.8 millions (five hundred and thirty six million, and eight hundred thousand) dollars does not exceed the Estimated Sustainable Income (ESI) for that Fund and US$ 459.7 millions (four hundred and fifty-nine millions, and seven hundred thousand) dollars will be transferred already above the Estimated Sustainable Income (ESI).
However, I would like to point out that the amount of the transfer of the Petroleum Fund above the Estimated Sustainable Income (ESI) is less than the amount of expenditure categorized as “Development Capital”, which is related to sustainable investments, able to meet the needs not only of the current generation of East Timorese, but also for the future generations, as well as the country’s needs for the economic dynamization and diversification on the medium and long term.
Still concerning to the revenue budget, the Government estimates to raise US$ 433,9 millions (four hundred and thirty-three million and nine hundred thousand) dollars in none-oil revenue; US$ 7,5 millions (seven million and five hundred thousand) dollars in donations; and US$ 73 millions (seventy-three million) dollars as a result of loans.
Finally, and bearing in mind the degree of implementation of the last State General Budget, which reached 88.2% (eighty-eight-point two percent), the Government expects that the balance of the US$ 254,3 millions (two hundred fifty-four million, and three hundred thousand) dollars, will be transferred to the new budget.
The budget proposal that is the subject of the debate that is starting today was based on the document presented to the National Parliament on October 15th, 2019, adjusted according to the recommendations that were generically formulated by the various parliamentary committees on the same document, over the months of October and November.
As I had previously mentioned before this chamber, governing is a complex and demanding exercise in itself, which obliges public officials to take decisions, namely decisions related to the use of public funds, which if cannot please all, should always seek to serve the public interest or the general interest of our National Community.
It was faithful to this understanding, and in pursuing the goals and objectives that was outlined in its Program for the current legislature, that the Government established for the current fiscal year a set of five priorities or strategic axes of action, guiding the decision to allocate resources for Public investments, namely: (1) social capital – social well-being, social protection and citizenship; (2) economic development - investment of the country’s economy and public finances; (3) improvement of national connectivity; (4) consolidating and strengthening of justice, democracy and human rights. (5) consolidation and strengthening of justice, democracy and human rights.
Among the budgetary measures that the Government proposes to the National Parliament for the current fiscal year, regarding social capital – social well-being, social protection and citizenship, I have the honour to highlight the allocation of:
Among the budgetary measures that the Government proposes to the National Parliament for the current fiscal year, regarding economic development - investment of the economy and public finances of the country, I would like to highlight the allocation of:
Among the fiscal measures that the Government proposes to the National Parliament for the current fiscal year, in terms of improving national connectivity, I have the honour to highlight the allocation of:
Among the fiscal measures that the Government proposes to the National Parliament for the current fiscal year, regarding the consolidation and strengthening of defence, security and external relations, I would like to highlight the allocation of:
Finally, among the fiscal measures that the Government proposes to the National Parliament for the current fiscal year, regarding the consolidation and strengthening of justice, democracy and human rights, I have the honour to highlight the allocation of:
I would also like to take this opportunity to call on the support of the National Parliament for the fiscal measures proposed by the Government to deepen the process of administrative decentralization, which include the allocation of:
The Government remains faithful to its political and constitutional commitment to implement administrative decentralization, and for this purpose, it has set a timetable that calls for, during this year, to start a process of assessing the existence of minimum conditions for the establishment of municipal authorities.
The fiscal measures I have just briefly highlighted reflect well the Government's effort to develop a budget proposal for the current fiscal year, which is able to establish the necessary balance and compromise between meeting the program objectives we set ourselves and, at the same time, beware of Parliament's concerns about the sustainability of the oil fund and the quality of public spending.
Naturally, the Government would like to have more financial resources to have a greater capacity to act in order to promote the welfare and quality of life of the Timorese families, as well as to boost our national productive sector. However, aware of the importance of providing the State, as quickly as possible, with a budget that ensures its normal financial activity, the Government presents a more conservative budget proposal, convinced that it will thus respond to the most immediate needs of our country’s economic and social sectors and will meet the necessary conditions for its parliamentary viability and presidential promulgation.
As usual, the document which I have the honour to present to you today is a document which can be improved and refined, which can only be achieved as a result of a fruitful dialogue between the Members of my Government and all the Honourable Members of National Parliament, taking place over the next few days.
I strongly believe that, together, the Government and National Parliament will be able to debate and find solutions that offer concrete answers to the real problems of our citizens, boost our economy and consolidate our democracy.
As in the past, only by uniting and mobilizing all Timorese will it be possible to overcome the challenge of development and leave to future generations a prosperous, just and caring homeland for all Timorense.
For an increasingly modern, developed and prosperous Timor-Leste!
May God bless us all!
Taur Matan Ruak
East Timor Prime Minister