Subject: World Bank Faces Enormous Reconstruction Task In East Timor

EAST TIMOR: World Bank Faces Enormous Reconstruction Task

By Sonny Inbaraj

DARWIN, Australia, Oct 28 (IPS) - A World Bank mission travels to East Timor to examine what needs to be done to rebuild the devastated state formerly occupied by Indonesia even as Bank officials admit they face major challenges.

They say every aspect of newly independent country's needs -- from reconstruction to governance and the establishment of a fledgling economy -- poses serious challenges.

The mission, comprising 30 experts from the International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, Australia, Japan, Portugal and UN agencies will leave Friday the northern Australian city of Darwin, 500 kilometres from East Timor, along with an East Timorese contingent led by former governor Mario Carrascalao.

''This is a country that needs to be rebuilt from ground up,'' said Graham Barret, the World Bank's external affairs adviser for East Asia and the Pacific region.

''Everything's the focus starting with East Timor's urgent humanitarian needs, which is a priority, right through to the replenishment of East Timor's infrastructure and the mechanisms forming an ultimate independent country -- including an administration, an economy, a legal framework, rebuilding health clinics, schools, everything. So it's a very big job,'' he told reporters here.

The transfer of full authority in East Timor to the United Nations was formalised on Monday when the Security Council voted to set up an interim administrative authority called the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

The UNTAET is mandated to maintain law and order in the troubled territory and set up an effective administration, social services, political and development infrastructure.

Pro-Indonesia militias went on an orgy of killing and destruction in Dili and elsewhere in East Timor nearly two months ago after an overwhelming majority voted for independence from Indonesia, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee the territory.

Though tens of thousands have slowly returned, thousands more remain in refugee camps in West Timor, which is under Indonesian juristdiction.

Security in East Timor is now maintained by a 7,500-strong multinational force led by Australia. But this contingent, which includes troops from Asian countries, is to be replaced by UN peacekeepers who are expected to be deployed in East Timor within the next two or three months.

''This (World Bank) mission is designed to come up with a fast framework for action,'' said Barret.

''On Monday we saw how UNTAET, as an interim UN administration will be running East Timor for the next two or three years until the East Timorese are equipped to do it themselves. So in this period we have to achieve our basic goals in getting the country back on its feet.''

The results of the World Bank mission, which concludes in mid- November, will be presented to a donors' conference in Washington scheduled for December.

''I think it's a test case for the international community because here we have a country that really needs to be rebuilt or reconstructed from the ground up, and if the international community can't get its act together and do what needs to be done then there's something amiss,'' said Barret.

Mario Carrascalao, who is also the National Council of Timorese Resistance vice president, said the establishment of a Timorese economy will be slow but crucial for his country.

''We need the help of the international organisations because we don't have the means to reconstruct our country. We only have our will,'' said Carrascalao, who served as governor from 1982 to 1992 under the Suharto regime.

He was appointed member of the seven person Transitional Commission headed by East Timor resistance leader Xanana Gusmao -- who's widely tipped to be East Timor's first president. The commission will work with UNTAET in running the territory before full independence.

Though the World Bank would not estimate the cost of rebuilding East Timor until the donors conference, it has, however, announced that a trust fund, with grants, will be set up to finance investments in development.

This, said mission leader Klaus Rohland, was to allay fears from non-governmental organisations that East Timor will fall into a debt-trap.

''Many NGOs are concerned that with World Bank involvement East Timor will be heavily in debt. But the Bank is committed to funding the country on grant money for a minimum of three years at least,'' said Rohland. ''The World Bank has committed part of its net income to East Timor's reconstruction.''

Responding to criticism that multilateral donor agencies seldom involve the local population when assessing their aid needs, Barret said the East Timor World Bank mission would be different.

''Over the next three weeks the mission specialists will be involved in extensive consultation with the East Timorese. We are absolutely determined that they have ownership of whatever that is done in their name,'' said Barret.

Added Barret: ''The East Timorese are an integral part of this assistance mission -- an integral part of the discussion and consultation that is going to take place in the next few weeks. They will ultimately be able to move to independence -- knowing that they have had ownership from the beginning.''

Carrascalao is confident international help will speed up East Timor's path to complete independence. ''Two to three years might be too soon, but to be sure five to ten years we will be there.'' (END/IPS/ap-dv-si/ral/99)

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