East Timor Action Network to Bush: "Put Your Money Where
Your Mouth Is"
Calls for a Debt-Free East Timor
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller,
(718)596-7668; 917-690-4391 (mobile)
Karen Orenstein, 202-544-691
March 21, 2002 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today
urged President Bush to "put your money where your mouth is" by
supporting a debt-free start for East Timor. The world's newest nation
gains independence on May 20, and its government projects a gap in its
national budget during its first three years before expected natural gas
and oil revenues begin to flow in.
The call came as President George W. Bush spoke before the United
Nations' International Conference on Financing for Development in
Monterrey, Mexico. ETAN urged donor nations, including the U.S., and
international institutions to fund the gap through grants rather than
loans and free of crippling conditions.
"The Bush administration and other governments have stated their
commitment to eradicating global poverty, and the U.S. advocates that a
large portion of international assistance to poor countries should come in
the form of grants. We are telling President Bush to 'put your money where
your mouth is' and help East Timor embark on its new nationhood free of
debt," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN.
"The endless cycle of debt and cuts in social spending to which so
many poor nations are condemned must not be repeated for East Timor.
Grants for East Timor must be given without the strings of structural
adjustment programs that further impoverish those who are already
poor," continued Orenstein.
East Timor expects a $154-$184 million shortfall in the government's
recurrent and development budget over the first three years of
independence. East Timorese government officials and civil society have
repeatedly stated that the government should not mortgage its future by
Centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and 24 years of brutal Indonesian
occupation have left East Timor one of the poorest countries in the world.
"East Timor is literally rebuilding itself from ashes. The
Indonesian military exited East Timor in 1999 by destroying 75% of the
country's infrastructure." stated Orenstein. "The money East
Timor needs is a mere drop in the bucket in international terms."
"East Timor has a government committed to alleviating poverty. The
United States and other industrialized countries should seize the
opportunity to put their stated principles into action," said John M.
Miller, Media and Outreach Coordinator for ETAN. "Otherwise, they
will be doomed to repeat failed policies and practices, and it will be the
East Timorese people who suffer."
"Governments like the U.S. actively aided Indonesia's genocidal
occupation of East Timor with weapons, military training and political
support. The least they should do is provide East Timor with a chance at
financial and economic independence," added Miller.
Gathered at the International Conference on Financing for Development
are dozens of heads of governments and states and hundreds of finance,
trade, foreign and other ministers. The conference is discussing ways to
better finance established development goals, including halving the number
of people who live in extreme poverty, lack access to safe drinking water
and suffer from hunger; reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters; and
assuring universal primary education by 2015.
According to international agencies, East Timor's annual per capita
gross national product is just $340, life expectancy is 48 years and the
infant mortality rate is 135 per 1000 live births. At 890 per 100,000 live
births, the maternal mortality rate is twice that of other countries in
Southeast Asia or the Western Pacific according to the World Health
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity
for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable
development, and justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN
has 26 local chapters throughout the U.S. For additional information see
ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).
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