Subject: E Timor Aims To Be Agriculturally Self-Sufficient By 2008

E Timor Aims To Be Agriculturally Self-Sufficient By 2008

DILI, East Timor, June 4 (AP)--East Timor President Xanana Gusmao said Wednesday his government would implement a plan that would make the impoverished nation agriculturally self-sufficient in five years.

"We now urgently need a phased program able to guide towards self-sufficiency in basic agricultural commodities," Gusmao said at a meeting with the World Bank in Dili.

The program should eliminate the agricultural price fluctuations and create a reserve of basic necessities such as rice, corn and beans, along with a national-level distribution and processing system.

"The people complain that their produce is either not sold or sold at ridiculous prices," he said. "This prevents most of the population from having the purchasing power to buy other commodities or even have the cash to pay school fees of 50 U.S. cents monthly."

In much of East Timor, residents live on as little as US$0.55 a day. Outside of the capital of Dili, basic services remain woefully inadequate. Only four of 13 districts have phone service, 75% don't have electricity and 60% don't have access to clean water.

Gusmao said that while East Timor would remain committed to reducing poverty, it will also begin to focus on building up a strong agricultural base and industry.

After hundreds of years of Portuguese and then Indonesian rule, East Timor voted in August 1999 to become independent in a U.N.-sponsored referendum.

The Indonesian military and its proxy militias responded by laying waste to the former province, killing 1,500 Timorese and forcing 300,000 from their homes.

-Edited by Mary de Wet

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