Don't give up on East Timor: trade expert

Friday, 9 June 2006

A University of Adelaide trade and development expert has appealed to Australia not to give up on East Timor, but rather strengthen its government and community support.

The Senior Program Manager for the University's Institute for International Business, Economics and Law, Jim Redden, says the current unrest in East Timor is symptomatic of a country struggling with its newfound independence.

"This is not a country which is a failed state. Obviously it has problems - in particular poverty and unemployment both fuelling the current internal unrest. However, people forget that just six years ago its leaders were fighting in the mountains.

"It is somewhat arrogant for Australian and other western leaders to talk of failed states and poor governance when East Timor has barely had time to recover from the trauma of the 1999 massacre. It is instructive to recall just how long it took countries such as America or Ireland to become independent and stable following protracted and bloody civil wars."

Mr Redden, who has recently returned from the capital, Dili, says despite East Timor's problems, the country has significant economic potential.

This includes an expected revenue flow of US$20 billion from oil and gas deposits over the next 20 years; employment opportunities in mining and engineering services; and untapped tourism potential.

"The waters surrounding Timor Island constitute a unique marine environment with spectacular coral reefs and a pristine coast with unlimited potential for diving, water sports and bushwalking. It won't be long before investors see the potential of East Timor as the "new Bali".

Mr Redden says the downside of a large United Nations presence since 2000 has been the creation of artificially high prices for many goods and services, contributing to the poverty among locals.

"To counter this, the East Timorese government plans to implement a low tariff regime, reducing the cost of food imports, and diversify its agricultural production," he says.


Contact Details

Jim Redden
Director, International Programs
Institute for International Trade
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 6902
Mobile: +61 414 257 446

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762