Timor's leaders set measures to spur recovery, ease tensions
Agence France Presse Saturday, January 15, 2000
East Timor's leaders set measures to spur recovery, ease tensions
By: Ian Timberlake
DILI, East Timor, Jan 15
East Timor's leadership plans to start paying volunteer public servants as part of measures to ease growing frustration over the lack of progress since Indonesian rule ended.
The National Consultative Council, a type of cabinet for the territory, also agreed at a meeting that ended Friday to create a central fiscal authority which will be the foundation for a finance ministry.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, who heads the UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET), told journalists that the fiscal authority needed to be in place before donor countries will provide financial support.
The donors were also waiting for a reconstruction and development plan that the council approved and which will be reviewed later this month in Washington.
De Mello said these measures, particularly the public service payments and the fiscal authority, were important in the light of an "obvious increase in the expectation and frustration of the local population, with a rise in criminality and possible social unrest."
Xanana Gusmao, president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), has called on donor countries to provide assistance quickly.
He said East Timorese were feeling "a little frustration because we cannot start something concrete to help our people" four months after winning freedom from Indonesian rule.
Gusmao is a member of the national consultative council, which meets regularly and is chaired by de Mello. The council tries to reach decisions by consensus.
It includes a total of seven CNRT members, four UNTAET officials, a priest and two former supporters of autonomy with Indonesia.
The council agreed to begin payments to the many people who have been doing volunteer public service in the education, health, water and electrical sectors.
Some receive food or small compensation from aid organizations or UNTAET. "But the majority receive nothing," de Mello said.
De Mello said nobody knows the number of people who will be eligible for the payments that will range from 538,000 Indonesian rupiah (75 dollars) a month for unskilled workers to 2.2 million rupiah a month for judges and department heads.
By comparison, the average wage for an UNTAET worker has been 1.5 million rupiah a month, and that is under review.
A civil service for East Timor has not yet been recruited and de Mello called the stipends a "provisional arrangement" that will last about three months.
Other measures adopted by the council will lay the foundation for foreign aid and job creation in this territory where widespread unemployment is a legacy of the destruction wreaked in September by militias and their backers in the Indonesian armed forces.
The systematic trashing of East Timor's housing, commercial and government infrastructure followed an August 30 vote for independence from Indonesia.
De Mello said the new central fiscal authority is fundamental to East Timor's recovery because "no donor will give us a penny" without it.
He said the six-month reconstruction and development plan is also a precursor to foreign aid.
"Before contributions are made into the reconstruction trust fund, donors wish to have -- which is only logical -- a clear indication of what our priority areas would be and what type of projects would be implemented," de Mello said.
The priorities, approved unanimously by the council, include quick-impact job creation schemes, agriculture, education, transport and communications.
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