coffee is E Timor's salvation

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Fri Nov 5 08:34:59 PST 1999

[from the World Bank's daily clipping service]

EAST TIMOR SEEKS ESPRESSO ROUTE TO ECONOMIC PICK-ME-UP. Newly independent East Timor, its financial sector as devastated as its villages, will have to survive on its natural resources as it rebuilds, Reuters reports the World Bank said yesterday. World Bank East Timor mission chief Klaus Rohland said the territory's high quality coffee, its major export, could be the first business sector to take off and Bank officials were looking at getting exports moving again as soon as possible.

"The very basis for the economy is very much resources," Rohland said in Dili. "Coffee experts have arrived and will be going to the highlands tomorrow and apparently there is still some sizeable amount of this year's harvest left hidden somewhere and the main task is to get it back to market for export to generate some income."

Although coffee is the territory's main export, there are hopes the Timor Gap may yield rich oil and gas deposits in the sea between Timor island and northern Australia about 800 kilometers or 500 miles to the south. Indonesia and Australia have agreed to share the gap's resource, but that treaty will have to be redrawn between Australia and East Timor.

The territory's marble deposits are another source of income. East Timor's economy would be small but this was not to be regarded as an impediment, Rohland said, emphasizing the need to "embark on the right politics and policies" and establish relationships with supportive countries.

AP reports that the World Bank held a "town hall" meeting in Dili, at which the people of East Timor voiced hopes and fears for the future, asking about the loss of their historical heritage and wondering which language the new country's schools will use. More than 1000 people attended the open session.

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