Published on Apr 15, 2015 1:16 AM
|Next Generation: |
The future is in your hands.
PROGRESS in Timor Leste has been remarkable ("Timor Leste 'running out of money' "; March 23).
The nation has emerged from years of exploitation and occupation into a country with a thriving economy and multi-party democracy. Timor Leste's economy is among the fastest-growing in the region, recording double-digit growth for the past 10 years.
In January, an investment agreement was signed with Heineken Asia Pacific to build a US$40 million (S$55 million) brewery, which will create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs.
Reliable electricity now reaches 80 per cent of the population, and the building of infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and schools, is under way.
These are astonishing successes for a nation that started with almost nothing, following the destruction in 1999.
More than 1,000 doctors who graduated from Cuba practise in villages across Timor Leste, and thousands of students are studying in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Portugal and Indonesia.
These achievements are possible because of the prudent management of Timor Leste's US$16 billion petroleum fund, regarded as one of the most transparent and best managed sovereign wealth funds in the world.
Aware that oil and gas reserves will not last forever, Timor Leste is undertaking a 20-year development plan to diversify the economy.
Timor Leste exports organic coffee to Europe, and its coffee is sold at Starbucks outlets around the world. Its tuna is being exported to Japan and South Korea.
Approximately 17,000 Timorese work in Britain, and remit some US$20 million a year to Timor Leste. Thousands more work in South Korea and Australia.
Government measures and the people's hard work ensure the country will never become bankrupt.
In the March 23 commentary, Ms Sarah Dewhurst, of the Overseas Development Institute, was quoted as saying: "Timor Leste is not going to become the next Singapore. They're not strategically located. They don't have the same level of educated populace. The climate is hot and arid."
However, Singapore, too, started with limited resources and an uneducated populace. It took Singapore decades to overcome these limitations.
Singapore played to its strengths, built ports and other infrastructure, as well as institutions, to take advantage of its strategic location.
In the same spirit, Timor Leste is embarking on a south coast development project to take advantage of its strengths - vast oil and gas reserves.
Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste