Subject: E Timor Seeks To Build Natural Resources Management Skills

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News

November 3, 2008

E Timor seeks to build natural resources management skills

A group of 33 East Timorese students are on their way to Australia to begin bachelor degrees in natural resource development areas.

The East Timorese Government scholarships are a bid to ready the next generation to manage the nation's multi-billion dollar oil and gas sector.

The tiny half-island nation is protective of its natural resources, and the government is taking steps to ensure that there are more East Timorese with skills to work in the sector

"The petroleum sector is one that requires science - maths, chemistry in particular, as a nation yes we are weak in that area," Alfredo Pires, state secretary for natural resources told Radio Australia.

Through an independent testing process the government selected over 100 of the nation's brightest high school graduates to send to courses in Australia, and Indonesia.

The top 33 are being sent to universities in Western Australia, New South Wales, and South Australia to do bachelor degrees in science and engineering.

Nineteen-year-old Santina Moniz, who will be studying mining environmental engineering at Perth's Curtin University, says her nation's future lies in proper management of the petroleum sector.

"A lot of people, East Timor's population, they really hope that someday in the future we will get the money from the petroleum to help our population out and increase our economy," she said.

East Timor has already taken steps towards being able to independently manage its oil and gas sector.

The country has set up its own regulation body - the National Petroleum Authority, which is made up of a board, a president and six directors.

Alfredo Pires says it is important for the constituency to see their future wealth being managed by Timorese.

East Timor's oil and gas reserves put a lot of strain on the relationship between the fledgling nation and neighbouring economic giant Australia.

There was bitter fight between Dili and the former Australian government, led by John Howard, about which country had rights to the huge oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

In 2006 the two nations signed a treaty agreeing to split revenue from the biggest reserves equally.

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