Subject: East Timor gets new oil minister

East Timor gets new oil minister

Upstream - August 24, 2007

Russel Searancke

Alfredo Pires takes over role from Jose Teixeira in new administration

East Timor has a new minister for natural resources following the recent national elections that led to a change of government.

Alfredo Pires has taken over from Jose Teixeira, who played a major role in the development of the country's oil and gas industry but who is now a member of the political opposition.

It is understood Teixeira retained his seat in the national poll but is a member of the former ruling party Fretilin.

His replacement Pires has been the natural resources advisor to the country's new Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao since 2002. Sources said Pires was educated in Australia and Macau, and has university degrees from both countries.

Sources said Pires is likely to take a cautious approach to developing the country's oil and gas industry, with his main interest said to be on improving the capability and competence of Timorese people.

There will be no rush to launch a new licensing round until more local workers are involved in its implementation.

The country has been plagued by outbreaks of civil unrest this month following the appointment of the new government.

Supporters of Fretilin are reportedly unhappy about the party not leading the new government.

On the brighter side, the country's Petroleum Fund, which was formed in August 2005, had grown to $1.2 billion as at 31 March 2007. Petroleum revenue is derived from the Bayu-Undan and Elang-Kakatua fields in the Timor Sea, although production recently stopped at Elang-Kakatua in preparation for field abandonment.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) said last week that Pires had "affirmed Timor Leste's continuing commitment to EITI and assured the international EITI Secretariat based in Oslo that the new government will move quickly to publish its first EITI report and go through the EITI validation process, in line with the country's strong track record of petroleum sector transparency".

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