Subject: AU: E Timor doubles security spending

E Timor doubles security spending

Mark Dodd August 23, 2006

EAST Timor will double its spending on police and defence this financial year, under a national budget worth $US451.9 million ($601 million).

Interim Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta's first budget includes $US315.5 million in spending from the national treasury and $US136.4 million from foreign donors, eclipsing ousted prime minister Mari Alkatiri's proposal for a $US215 million budget. The Alkatiri administration spent only 37 per cent of its $US247.4 million budget last year.

Political analysts say the Horta budget is designed to stimulate the moribund East Timorese economy and improve security in the aftermath of the political violence earlier this year.

But with national elections scheduled for next May, the budget reinforces suspicions that Mr Horta is wooing popular support with his spending plans, which include controversial community handouts.

The budget makes an allocation for a patrol boat, as the Government focuses more on border security. The country's petroleum fund savings have increased from $US623.4million last financial year to $US1.04billion for 2006-07.

Oil and gas revenue is up 63per cent from last year to $US732 million, while East Timor's estimated petroleum wealth is calculated to have reached $US9.4 billion.

The budget was passed by the Dili parliament on August 14 by 64 votes to five, with one abstention. The main feature is an increase in spending in all categories, including salaries and wages, which are up 30 per cent.

East Timor will open four diplomatic missions in addition to the 14 foreign embassies it now runs. The new missions will be in Cuba, Kuwait, the Vatican and The Philippines. Several hundred East Timorese are enrolled as medical students in Havana, and many Cuban health workers work in East Timor.

The increased defence funding covers implementation of a new directorate of procurement to enhance transparency in defence spending. Defence responsibilities have been expanded to include control of East Timor's southern maritime border security - a move that will require the purchase of patrol boats.

The vice-president of parliament's foreign affairs, defence and security committee, Clementino Amaral, said he hoped Australia would assist East Timor to develop an effective maritime patrol capability.

"Most of our ocean riches are being stolen by foreign boats," Mr Amaral told The Australian.

"We need at least two or three new patrol boats. This year we can afford one. We need help from Australia, our neighbour."

He said two Portuguese-donated patrol boats were unable to patrol in heavy seas.

Under the budget, additional police funds will be used to open six new border security posts, build a new police training centre and a new warehouse for the use of riot police.

Another 249 police will be hired, bringing to 3500 the total number of officers serving in the National Police of East Timor.

The new police will be deployed in paramilitary units, with 100 officers going into the border patrol unit, 50 into the riot police, and 99 expected to join the Malaysian-trained counter-insurgency police reserve.

And given the widespread arson attacks that occurred in recent political violence, budget approval has been given for the purchase of two new fire-trucks to be based in Dili.

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