By : Oki & Monty Jacka
Tempotimor (Dili) – In Timor-Leste, there is currently no law which forces the government to use local industry over international companies.
As a result of this, international companies are used regularly for mega projects across the country, hurting local companies who are being overlooked by their own government.
International companies who win big projects also hold no obligation to utilise local industry. They often refuse to buy sand and stone from local timorese, instead bringing in supplies and even labourers from abroad.
Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKI-TL), Hergui Luina Fernandes described the situation as worrisome.
"We are sad! In the private sector there is currently no law supporting local industry. We often think this law exists, but actually it is very sad because it doesn’t," Ms Fernandes said on Friday.
While the Timor Sea agreement laid out legislation for 10% of work to be done by local companies, nothing has been created in national law yet, she explained.
"This is very troublesome to the private sector, because people who come and work on big projects in Timor, they have the right to bring everything from their country, one example is the Tibar Port project,” Ms Fernandes said.
“Our country investing a fair amount of money in the project, but the agreement has nothing to discuss about local companies."
This situation is so harmful, especially around Liquisa where there are Timorese investing in sand washing and destroying stones, but being overlooked in favour of overseas companies, Ms Fernandes explained.
"We visited various places up to Aileu, where the Chinese are putting their own machines to wash sand, crush rocks,” she said.
“We as Timorese cannot go forward, when there are no laws to support local companies.”
"International companies have told us that no legal force can force us. There is no law, no agreement that forces them to have a local context.”
“As a private sector, we are saddened by this situation where there is no opportunity for Timorese," Ms Fernandes expressed.
The situation will continue. The oil and gas pipeline to Timor will not benefit the Timorese the way it should, because when this opportunity is open to multinational companies, they will bring everything from their countries, Ms Fernandes said.
"We will not become a sovereign state, economically we will become dependent on foreign countries.”
Businessman Rui Castro also raised the issue about businessmen from abroad coming to Timor, renting land and using it to grow vegetables to sell back to Timorese people.
"This happens in Aileu many times, in Atabae there are also a few, if we keep this sector open and free, it will not provide good protection and eventually people from abroad will take over everything," Mr Castro said.
Mr Castro is urging the Government to establish a good policy in it’s agriculture sector which will provide opportunities to Timorese.
“If not, what will happen in Aileu, Atabae, Batugade (Bobonaro) and Natarbora (Manatuto), is that the overseas people will rent the land and use it to grow vegetables and sell it back to Timorese.”
The Government has established numerous international partnerships with countries such as China and Germany, which are causing this to happen, Mr Castro said.
A chinese company has opened the shrimp industry in Loes, while others have planted chilies in Natarbora and the other one is now in Manatuto, he said.
The Interim Minister for economic affairs and the Minister of Legislative reform and Parliamentary affairs, Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, responded to the comments, saying the government has noted the them and would inform local entrepreneurs and the relevant law-making ministries.