Subject: East Timor President angered by peace project closure

also Ramos-Horta urges AusAID to rethink funding cut

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East Timor President angered by peace project closure


June 10, 2010

EAST Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta has attacked international aid agency AusAID for forcing the closure of what he says is one of his country's few successful aid projects.

Dr Ramos Horta said he would tell Prime Minister Kevin Rudd when he met him in Canberra later this month that the ''vast majority'' of donor aid sent to East Timor was spent on consultants, study missions, reports and recommendations.

In a blunt letter yesterday to Peter Heyward, Australia's ambassador in Dili, Dr Ramos Horta called on AusAID to reverse its decision to cut funding to a project operated by the Peace Dividend Trust that has redirected at least $16 million to poor Timorese entrepreneurs.

Launched in 2007, the project centres around a ''Buy Local, Build Timor-Leste'' campaign that matches international and national buyers and domestic suppliers, thereby steering aid funds directly into the Timorese economy.

Dr Ramos Horta said the project had changed the way the international community operated in East Timor and provided ''unique critical services that support our efforts to create employment and build a viable economy. Unlike most donor-funded projects, it produces tangible results, creates jobs and generates tax revenue.''

One of the project's main aims is to eliminate the role of international companies with rich aid contracts and highly paid foreign consultants.

The process has been successfully replicated in Afghanistan and Haiti.

In his letter, which has been obtained by The Age, Dr Ramos Horta called on AusAID to extend and boost its funding for the project and consider adopting a ''Timor-Leste First'' policy for Australia's aid program.

The Peace Dividend Trust issued a statement this week saying its matchmaking, training, marketing and tender distribution operations in East Timor's 13 provinces would begin to be phased out from July 1 unless additional donor support could be found.

An AusAID spokeswoman told The Age that sometimes difficult decisions had to be made about where to spend finite resources. She said AusAID would provide funds so the Peace Dividend Trust project could link East Timorese businesses to opportunities through a business directory data base until mid-2011.

AusAID's decision to cut its funding for the project to only $120,000 in 2010-11 from a high of $1.2 million in 2007-8 coincides with a Rudd government review of the use of foreign aid technical advisers and a budget announcement that Australia's aid spending would more than double to $8 billion by 2015.


ABC News

Ramos-Horta urges AusAID to rethink funding cut

By Sara Everingham

Updated 9 hours 53 minutes ago


East Timor criticises Australia for aid cut (The World Today)

East Timor's president has criticised Australia's overseas aid program for cutting funding to what he says is one of the few effective aid projects in his country.

Dr Jose Ramos-Horta called for AusAID's decision to be reversed in a letter to Australia's ambassador.

He says during his visit to Australia later this month he will tell Prime Minister Kevin Rudd some home truths about what happens to a lot of the international aid money sent to East Timor.

In particular, Dr Ramos-Horta is unhappy with AusAID's decision to cut funding to a project run by the not-for-profit group Peace Dividend Trust.

He says the trust's marketplace project stands out because, unlike most donor-funded projects, it produces tangible results such as creating jobs for the East Timorese and is helping the nation's economy develop.

The project aims to steer foreign aid funds directly into the Timorese economy and to reduce the amount spent on international companies and consultants.

"I'm very disappointed. They could at least have consulted with people like me. They know I follow the issues here on Australian aid and other donors' aid very closely," Dr Ramos-Horta said.

"This is how Australian taxpayers' money can really have an impact."

Program at risk

The founder of Peace Dividend Trust, Scott Gilmore, says in three years $16 million has been redirected to poor Timorese entrepreneurs.

"So for example right now when an international company or the UN issues a tender for contract we translate that and distribute it to Timorese companies," he said.

"And then perhaps most importantly we work in the poorest rural areas helping any international agency that happens to be operating out there to buy their food and water locally, any goods they might need, as opposed to having it brought in from overseas or buying it in the capital of Dili."

Australia has spent about $600,000 on the project since August last year.

Mr Gilmore says the project is likely to shut down next month without AusAID's support.

A spokeswoman for AusAID says Australia's aid to East Timor is focused on areas of greatest need such as health and that difficult decisions have to be made when allocating finite resources.

But last month the Australian Government said it would review the use of foreign advisers.

Dr Ramos-Horta says the marketplace project is in line with Australia's aid priorities.

"Australia had made as one of the commitments to inject more money in rural development, in rural communities," he said.

"The Peace Dividend Trust is the best channel so far that I know of in this regard that would match Australian alleged priorities."



Radio Australia


Australian aid cuts to East Timor under fire

Updated June 10, 2010 12:15:23

East Timor's President has written a letter to the Australian Ambassador in East Timor criticising Australia's aid agency and calling for a new direction in aid spending. Jose Ramos Horta has lambasted Canberra for reducing the funding it provides for a grassroots organisation that helps local entrepreneurs, while still spending millions on highly-paid technical advisers. The Australian government recently announced it will review its technical assistance program, which Canberra expects will this year account for 38 per cent of the country's total aid spending.

Presenter: Stephanie March

Speaker: Scott Gilmore, founder of Peace Dividend Trust; Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timorese President


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