Subject: AP: Cash-Strapped E. Timor Unveils Devt Blueprint For Future

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Cash-Strapped E Timor Unveils Devt Blueprint For Future

DILI, East Timor, May 14 (AP)--East Timor's cash-strapped government on Tuesday unveiled a multimillion-dollar development blueprint that it plans to ask international donors to finance.

Representatives from 27 countries and multilateral agencies gathered in East Timor's capital, Dili, for a two-day aid conference co-hosted by the World Bank and the United Nations.

East Timorese political leaders presented donors with a national plan outlining development goals for the former Indonesian territory, which will immediately rank as one of world's poorest countries when it becomes independent on May 20.

"We will not be able to implement the National Development Plan without your support," Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri told delegates.

Building the institutions of government and reducing poverty will top the agenda, said Alkatiri.

East Timor's government is asking donors to cover a $90 million budget deficit over the next three years. World Bank officials have said they expect donors will hand over the money.

In 2005, East Timor will begin receiving revenue from oil and gas reserves under the Timor Sea that it will tap jointly with Australia.

The reserves are expected to last around 20 years and to bring in around $7 billion in revenues over that period.

The conference comes less than a week before East Timor gains independence after more than 400 years of colonization by Portugal followed by occupation by Indonesia.

On the stroke of midnight on May 19, U.N. administrators who have governed the territory since it voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999 will hand over authority to a democratically elected East Timorese government.

The country is still recovering from the devastation caused by retreating vengeful Indonesian troops and their militia proxies following the vote.

Much of the territory's infrastructure was destroyed and hundreds were killed in the rampage, which only stopped when international peacekeepers arrived shortly after the vote.

East Timor, which has a population of 800,000, has already received millions in aid from the international community, in particular Japan, Portugal and the European Union.

Almost half of the country's population lives on less than 55 U.S. cents a day.

Its oil and gas reserves may be enough to lift it out of poverty in the future, however, economists say.

"East Timor has a good chance to achieve economic independence a few years from now when revenue from offshore reserves come into the country," said Klaus Rohland, East Timor's World Bank country director.

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