Subject: LUSA: Donors Optimistic Despite Transition Problems

East Timor: Donors Optimistic Despite Transition Problems 29 Mar-20:13

The day-long conference of international donors ended Thursday in Dili with representatives of the UN and World Bank saying they were optimistic about East Timor's transition process, despite various problems, specifically in public administration.

The final statement by UNTAET (the United Nations Transition Ad[m]inistration) and the World Bank specifies that "special attention" should be given to "central elements of the government", especially the hiring process, "intensification" of training and […]"fiscal sustainability".

"Concerns about the relationship between the political calendar and the administrative transfer also dominated debate, with special attention given to the need to ensure calm operation of government services during the political transition" to independence, the text states.

At the meeting's close, chief UN transition administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello reiterated the need to enhance the process of "Timorizing" the fledgling civil service, which he termed a "central aspect" of the UN's effort in the territory.

Independence leader Xanana Gusmao, who was cited in the document, said he believed "the international community's support" should focus primarily on "the population's needs". He likewise recognized the "enhanced need to guarantee an atmosphere of political tolerance amid tranquility".

World Bank representative Klaus Rohland in turn praised the East Timorese leadership for setting up a "clear plan that recognizes the ties between social, political and economic development".

The day-long interim meeting of 15 donor countries and the European Union, which the World Bank and International Monetary Fund attended as observers, was called to assess progress before their regular semester meeting, set for Canberra, Australia, in June.

During the proceedings earlier Thursday, Gusmao painted a negative image of the territory's independence transition process, telling participants of money ill spent, delays in implementing projects and divisions within the island society. He also urged them not to be "overly impressed" with the hustle and bustle of Dili, the capital and stressed that "in the interior the economic situation of the population has not changed much" since the wave of Indonesian- instigated violence in 1999.

The cooperation attache at the Portuguese mission in Dili, Antonio Perez Metelo, told Lusa on the sidelines of the conference that Lisbon was worried about various aspects of the East Timorese administration. He specifically cited problems in the current state appparatus [sic] that prevent existing structures from applying available funds.

"What the raw numbers are telling us is that the construction of a functional and efficient administration, with healthy financial principles, is costing a lot more to build and develop its work than what was or ought to be expected", Perez Metelo stated.

The problems applying funds earmarked in the budget approved last July are an example, he said.

"The simple fact that we are at the end of a ninth budget month, three quarters of way through the budget, and have only been able to spend 38 percent of the authorized funds, is cause for concern", the Portuguese representative added.


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