Bank Official Hopeful On Rebuilding East Timor
Associated Press December 10, 1999
World Bank Official Hopeful On Rebuilding East Timor
WASHINGTON (AP)--East Timor can become a prosperous country but needs to rebuild its economy from the ground up, the World Bank said Friday.
The bank will seek up to $300 million at a donors' conference of wealthy nations in Tokyo Dec. 17 to restart the flow of goods and services and get shattered water supplies, electricity grids and other infrastructure reconstructed.
"The country has been hit hard but is moving again and has a highly motivated people willing to work for their future, said Klaus Rohland, the bank's director for Pacific Islands. "But they need help."
He led a joint mission with the International Monetary Fund and East Timorese representatives that spent three weeks in the territory assessing its needs.
Rohland said funds provided by donor nations would be used to get basic services operating again, the port of Dili opened and roads rebuilt.
As one example of East Timor's destitution, Rohland pointed to the scarcity of doctors, and he said "teachers, judges, administrators are needed."
In addition to the $300 million the bank estimates it needs to cover the first three years of construction, the U.N. is seeking $199 million for humanitarian assistance.
Funds also are needed to run a U.N. transitional administration and to start setting up an East Timorese government.
Rohland said the good news is that during the violence the coffee harvest wasn't affected and future productivity looks good.
East Timor exported $20 million annually in coffee beans under Indonesian rule.
"The tricky issue is roads to get the coffee crop to the port," Rohland said. "There are a lot of mudslides that need to be cleared."
He said another priority was to get the port of Dili functioning so it could start generating revenue from customs taxes. It is now mainly used by the peacekeeping force.
Among East Timor's urgent requirements are to create a new civil service, to rebuild and re-equip public and private buildings, repair telecommunications, the water supply and electricity grid.
The bank also is recommending the rapid entry of reputable foreign banks to provide banking services, including commercial lending and mobile payment units for rural areas.
Rohland said as governments and international agencies help prepare East Timor for independence, they must resist the urge to impose their designs and keep the Timorese involved at every level.
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