Subject: Singapore Vows To Help East Timor Train Workers

Singapore Vows To Help East Timor Train Workers

SINGAPORE, Sept. 20 (AP)--Singapore will assist newly independent East Timor to improve the quality and skills of its work force, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said Friday.

"As a small island with no natural resources, our people are our most valuable asset," Goh said of Singapore, adding that for East Timor the "imperative of human resource development is perhaps even greater."

Without skilled labor, East Timor would have trouble finding investors willing to put "long-term money" into the new nation, Goh said during a dinner with his East Timorese counterpart Mari Alkatiri at the presidential palace in Singapore.

Both leaders said during an earlier meeting Friday that it was important to prioritize the development needs of East Timor, which is desperately poor and is likely to be dependent on foreign aid for many years.

Singapore has already trained several dozen Timorese officials in finance, Internet technology, civil aviation, education and port management, Goh said, adding that Singapore has prepared a training package for Timor's foreign service officers. No specifics were given.

During Indonesia's occupation, many educated East Timorese fled abroad. Some have since returned, but the country still lacks skilled administrators.

Alkatiri is on a two-day official visit to Singapore. He is scheduled to leave late Saturday.

East Timor was under Portuguese colonial rule for 400 years before Indonesia invaded the territory in 1974. It voted in August 1999 for independence from Jakarta, triggering violence by pro-Indonesian militias who slaughtered hundreds and burnt down most of the capital, Dili. The United Nations then took control of East Timor's administration as it began reconstruction, until the nation achieved full independence on May 20.

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