Subject: XG: WB Press Review - More Cash On Its Way For E Timor As Donors Hail Progress

May 19, 2004

More Cash On Its Way For East Timor As Donors Hail Progress

Impoverished East Timor left a meeting of global donors Wednesday with pledges of more aid to come and a resounding slap on the back for its progress since independence two years ago, reports Agence France Presse.

Delegates from 26 countries attending the World Bank-organized conference in Dili agreed help would be on its way to cover a vastly reduced $30 million budget deficit as the country faces uncertainties over oil incomes. "Keeping in mind the tremendous uncertainties surrounding projected oil and gas revenues, the World Bank supports the government's request that development partners extend their financing," World Bank Vice President Jemal-ud-din Kassum said at the close of the two-day meeting. Prime Minister Mari Alkatari said the tiny Southeast Asian nation, Asia's poorest at independence two years ago on Thursday, had secured definite promises of donor cash but was also ready to explore other options.

The PNG Post Courier (Papua New Guinea) notes that Kassum said East Timor has only a brief window to tackle corruption and mismanagement before they become entrenched. He said the young country was making significant progress in enacting legislation to complete its institutions. But laws must be transformed into adequately-resourced, well-functioning institutions that can provide the checks and balances called for in the country s constitution, he said.

Agence France Presse adds the World Bank official also noted "development partners ... recognize as a community of donors that we still face significant challenges with regards to building the capacity that East Timor needs," he said. "In several key areas, this will most likely require the continued presence of medium to long-term international assistance combined with comprehensive training of Timorese teams and carefully crafted succession plans.

In another piece, Agence France Presse writes that in a report ahead of the anniversary of [East Timor's independence], the [United Nations] pointed to "excellent progress" in firming up an administrative system capable of tackling widespread poverty and weaning the country off aid handouts. "By playing a key role in providing security, by facilitating the country's emergence from conflict and its political development and by supporting the state's development, the international community has made a crucial contribution," it said. But though East Timor's infrastructure may be strengthening despite reports of early corruption, for many of the country's people, progress since May 2002 is seen as little more than a fresh lick of paint for some of the capital's old colonial structures.

Kyodo (Japan) meanwhile reports the Australian government announced Wednesday it will contribute 100 troops and 16 police officers to the extended UN Mission of Support in East Timor. The Australian police contingent will join about 140 others from around the world to make up the UN police contingent in East Timor for the coming year, Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison said in a statement. The UN Security Council has renewed the East Timor mission's mandate for further 12 months, until May 20, 2005, to support the fledgling nation's ability to maintain its security and stability.

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