|Subject: AFP: Tell me your problems, World Bank chief tells ETimor
Saturday April 8, 02:31 PM
DILI (AFP) - World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz has begun a two-day visit to East Timor, one of Asia's poorest countries, saying he wanted to learn about the problems facing the world's newest nation. "It's my first visit to independent Timor Leste and I am very excited to be here," Wolfowitz said on his arrival at Dili airport where he was welcomed by East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
"I was here once before almost 20 years ago during a very unhappy time for the (East Timorese) people," Wolfowitz said.
East Timorese guerrilla forces fought against Indonesian troops during their almost 24 years of occupation of the former Portuguese colony. The country became the world's youngest nation in May 2002.
"Certainly I am also here to learn about the problems of the country today and especially the problems of very severe poverty," Wolfowitz said.
The World Bank chief said he was keen to learn about the government's plans for the future and in particular to hear how it planned to use the "potential blessing of oil money."
"The petroleum transparency law that you passed last year is considered a real model of how to manage oil revenues so that it becomes a blessing and not a curse and I'd be interested to learn more about how that mechanism works and what the international community can do to help strengthen it," he said.
Wolfowitz will hold meetings on Sunday with East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao and on Monday with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri as well as with those in charge of managaing the country's valuable oil reserves.
On Sunday, Wolfowitz will wrap up his official visit to this majority Catholic nation with a mass at the Motael church.
DILI, April 10 (AFP) -- East Timor's management of its oil revenues can set an example for other countries but the world's newest nation must put safeguards against corruption in place, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz said Monday.
"The system in place is sound and can stand as something for a model for other countries," he told a press conference on the last day of his visit.
Wolfowitz said that "in many cases, oil revenue has hurt developing countries more than it has helped. It has often undermined discipline in public accounts, increased corruption and actually made social divisions and poverty worse but I have every confidence that will not be the case in Timor Leste (East Timor).
"But this is definitely an area for continued vigilance going forward," said Wolfowitz, who met energy officials during his stay.
The World Bank chief said energy revenues must benefit the people and reduce poverty in a nation which was Asia's poorest upon independence in 2002.
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said his country had established a Petroleum Fund so that revenue from energy resources in the Timor Sea would benefit future generations.
"We are building infrastructure that the population needs. We will create jobs and improve the living conditions in the districts, not just in the capital of the country," he told the press conference.
More than half the population is aged under 18 and the country has one of the world's highest population growth rates.
Wolfowitz praised Alkatiri for his country's "remarkable performance" in recovering from years of conflict.