Subject: UN official advises agencies in E Timor not to overpay locals

UN official advises agencies in E Timor not to overpay locals

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 8 (AFP) - International agencies should agree not to overpay local staff in East Timor lest they create unsustainable economic expectations, a senior UN official cautioned Monday.

Tom Koenigs, deputy head of the civilian administration in Kosovo, acknowledged that "mistakes have been made" in the Serbian province, which has been under United Nations rule since June.

Koenigs was in New York to brief officials of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) which took over from Indonesia last month to prepare the territory for independence.

He told a news conference that UNTAET could draw lessons from the UN's experience in Kosovo.

Military forces, UN civilian personnel and the staff of international and non-governmental agencies should hold meetings at least once a week to coordinate their efforts, he said.

"If they hire drivers and interpreters at three times the sustainable level, they will never come down to a normal level," he explained.

There were 50,000 NATO-led troops in Kosovo, he said, plus 2,000 UN staff, another 2,000 international agency and 1,000 NGO workers.

"They earn good pay and are able to spend quite a lot of money" on rent or restaurants, he said.

"We cannot avoid this impact. We all have to live there. We all have to rent a room. But we can create certain fences. It a question of coordination and spirit of the international community."

Koenigs said his driver in Kosovo was paid an hourly rate which enabled him to earn up to 1,000 dollars a month. A sustainable wage would be between 100 and 200 dollars, he said.

UNTAET will include up to 10,590 UN peacekeeping troops and civilian police and an undetermined number of civilians.

Koenigs, who briefed the UN General Assembly's budget committee, also said UNTAET should "set up a government budget as soon as possible."

Donors, he said, "do not like financing recurrent budgets."

They want to be told "this is a sustainable budget which is based on the assumption that the revenue-generating power of the country will soon make up for the recurrent budget."

In Kosovo, he said, "we are at the point that if we do not find the necessary donors for the budget in 1999 and 2000 this mission will fail."

He stressed that he was not talking about investment in the country.

"This is not selling cars which are made in the donors' countries. This is financing the day-to-day business of a government which is two thirds local wages," he said.

"It is just recurrent financing of activities which in the first instances of a rotten economy cannot be refinanced by taxes or duties."

His final message to UNTAET was to "stay on page one of the newspapers in donor countries."

Sergio Vieira de Mello said after he was appointed on October 25 to head UNTAET that his top priority would be to rebuild East Timor's system of justice.

Koenigs warned that once the courts were functioning "they are likely to be flooded by property claims," saying that almost all rented property in Kosovo was subject to legal dispute.

In some cases "you have five different ownership claims to one flat and another six people living in it," he said.

"When life returns to normal, people go to court to settle these kind of problems."

The problem was "overseeing the decisions of the judiciary", he said, "because we want a local and independent judiciary, and that means independent from the UN."


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