Subject: SMH: UN officials told to ensure their redundancy

February 13, 2001 Sydney Morning Herald UN officials told to ensure their redundancy

By Mark Dodd, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Senior bureaucrats working for the UN administration in East Timor should focus on developing the skills of local public servants to avoid a vacuum of experienced officials when the world body pulls out, the visiting head of its development program said.

Mr Mark Malloch Brown yesterday urged the transitional administration, UNTAET, to speed up training local officials.

"It has to be driven through the whole international establishment that their absolute priority is to ensure their own redundancy," Mr Malloch Brown said at the end of a three-day visit to East Timor.

"As we take stock of where we have got to, we have to say a heavy interim administration was indispensable in the first phase, but we've now got to phase out the administrative component of what we do. That really was the big push of my visit."

His comments are likely to please East Timor's senior independence leaders, including Mr Xanana Gusmao and Mr Jose Ramos Horta, who have expressed irritation at UN slowness in handing over responsibility to East Timorese.

Mr Malloch Brown said UNTAET "will not be running the show" by next year and that one of the biggest challenges for East Timor's leaders would be to agree on a range of national economic priorities while foreign aid remained strong.

In the short term, East Timor's economy could be dependant by as much as 50 per cent on foreign aid, but once proceeds from the Timor Gap oilfield began to fill government coffers, foreign aid would start to dry up, he warned.

By June 2000 more than $US135million ($A251million) in humanitarian aid had been delivered to East Timor, mainly in food aid, shelter and health.

Japan, Australia and former colonial power Portugal are East Timor's biggest donors as the country recovers from the violence that followed the 1999 ballot for self-determination from Indonesia.

Beyond the donor response, the economic future of the world's newest country is less clear. A renegotiation of the Timor Gap Treaty with Australia could result in as much as 90 per cent of revenue worth some $US50 million a year being paid to East Timor by 2004.

According to a UN report published last November, coffee and oil exports could account for more than 25 per cent of East Timor's gross domestic product.

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