Subject: E. Timor parliament passes delayed US$315m budget

Agence Presse-France August 9, 2006

East Timor's parliament passes delayed 315 mln dlr budget

East Timor's parliament has passed the 2006-7 fiscal year budget, the young nation's largest ever at 315 million dollars, after a delay caused by violence and political upheaval in May.

East Timor's fiscal year began on July 1, days after Mari Alkatiri stepped down as prime minister in the wake of deadly unrest sparked by the dismissal of some 600 soldiers who deserted complaining of discrimination.

Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta was sworn in to replace him last month and is leading a government that will rule until elections in May next year.

Ramos-Horta has already presented the government's planned program to parliament, which focuses on stimulating Asia's poorest economy through infrastructure projects.

Sixty-six members of the 88-seat parliament voted in favour of the budget, which is 121 percent higher than last year. Two voted against.

The government will also tap into 100 million dollars provided by international donors, an increase of 300 percent on 2005-6.

"With the 66 votes for, two against and zero abstaining, it was a true, good process and the prime minister has already said that the government promised to implement this budget," deputy prime minister Rui Araujo told reporters.

Of the expenditure, 122 million will be for goods and services and 120 million is slated for capital development, a government statement said.

Ramos-Horta plans a meeting with all district and subdistrict heads at the end of August to discuss kickstarting the economy.

East Timor's economy grew by 2.3 percent last year, up from 0.4 percent in 2004. About 40 percent of the population lives below a poverty line set at 55 cents a day, according to United Nations figures.

Despite the millions of dollars expected to flow from its rich reserves of oil and gas in the coming years, the UN has warned that the income is fraught with uncertainties and the country still needs financial support from donors.

May's violence left at least 21 people dead and forced 150,000 to flee their homes. The refugees remain in camps, too afraid to return home despite the presence of some 3,000 international peacekeepers in the nation.

It was the worst unrest to hit East Timor since it gained independence in 2002, after a 1999 vote to breakaway from neighbouring Indonesia which ruled it for 24 years.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


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