Subject: Tokyo meeting to raise US$20m to rebuild E. Timor's basics

Straits Times November 10 1999

Tokyo meeting to raise S$33m to rebuild E. Timor's basics


BANGKOK -- Appeals will be made at an international donors meeting in Tokyo next month, for funds to rebuild roads, power plants and other amenities in East Timor that were destroyed during recent civil fighting.

The meeting on Dec 20 would be asked initially to donate at least US$20 million (S$33 million) to restore the most basic amenities, said Mr Mike Shone, a senior official of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), who was part of a World Bank team that visited the former Indonesian territory recently.

But he told The Straits Times that the amount was sufficient to cover only the cost of repairs to roads, power generators, and water supply plants, destroyed by pro-Jakarta militiamen in the wake of the vote for independence by East Timorese.

More aid, he said, would be requested when the full extent of the damage -- estimated at US$100 million -- was known.

"There has been widespread devastation to basic infrastructure. A lot of commercial buildings, homes, power plants, and telecommunication lines been destroyed," said the Bangkok-based official.

"It will need a lot of money to get them working again."

Among the areas that require urgent attention are:

Power generator: The plant in Dili was set on fire and it needs a major overhaul before it can resume operation.

Water system: Thorough inspection by professional engineers must be carried out to determine if the water is safe for drinking.

Telecommunication: Cables must be rewired and cellular technology may have to be introduced.

Transport: Thousands of new vehicles are required because some 60,000 have been driven across to West Timor during the fighting. While Mr Shone was confident that aid would be forthcoming from key donors like Japan, Australia and Portugal, he was concerned about the shortage of skilled workers.

Thousands of East Timorese were killed and thousands more have fled the territory during the fighting.

The ILO official estimated that the agency would need US$7 million to train workers in basic skills like plumbing and driving.

The ILO plans to tackle labour shortage through various means, once it obtains the budget.

Among the priorities is to set up an employment-services centre.

Dili's national polytechnic, which was among the buildings destroyed, will be renovated and re-staffed to provide technical training to the public.

A fund will be set up to help small and medium-sized companies in the important transport and construction sectors.

Mr Shone said ILO was also working with the International Migration Organisation, another UN agency, to recruit expatriate East Timorese in Australia and Portugal to return and help rebuild the territory.

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