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East Timor Action Network to Bush: "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is"
Calls for a Debt-Free East Timor

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller, (718)596-7668; 917-690-4391 (mobile) 
Karen Orenstein, 202-544-691

March 21, 2002 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today urged President Bush to "put your money where your mouth is" by supporting a debt-free start for East Timor. The world's newest nation gains independence on May 20, and its government projects a gap in its national budget during its first three years before expected natural gas and oil revenues begin to flow in.

The call came as President George W. Bush spoke before the United Nations' International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico. ETAN urged donor nations, including the U.S., and international institutions to fund the gap through grants rather than loans and free of crippling conditions.

"The Bush administration and other governments have stated their commitment to eradicating global poverty, and the U.S. advocates that a large portion of international assistance to poor countries should come in the form of grants. We are telling President Bush to 'put your money where your mouth is' and help East Timor embark on its new nationhood free of debt," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN.

"The endless cycle of debt and cuts in social spending to which so many poor nations are condemned must not be repeated for East Timor. Grants for East Timor must be given without the strings of structural adjustment programs that further impoverish those who are already poor," continued Orenstein.

East Timor expects a $154-$184 million shortfall in the government's recurrent and development budget over the first three years of independence. East Timorese government officials and civil society have repeatedly stated that the government should not mortgage its future by incurring debt.

Centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation have left East Timor one of the poorest countries in the world.

"East Timor is literally rebuilding itself from ashes. The Indonesian military exited East Timor in 1999 by destroying 75% of the country's infrastructure." stated Orenstein. "The money East Timor needs is a mere drop in the bucket in international terms."

"East Timor has a government committed to alleviating poverty. The United States and other industrialized countries should seize the opportunity to put their stated principles into action," said John M. Miller, Media and Outreach Coordinator for ETAN. "Otherwise, they will be doomed to repeat failed policies and practices, and it will be the East Timorese people who suffer."

"Governments like the U.S. actively aided Indonesia's genocidal occupation of East Timor with weapons, military training and political support. The least they should do is provide East Timor with a chance at financial and economic independence," added Miller.

Gathered at the International Conference on Financing for Development are dozens of heads of governments and states and hundreds of finance, trade, foreign and other ministers. The conference is discussing ways to better finance established development goals, including halving the number of people who live in extreme poverty, lack access to safe drinking water and suffer from hunger; reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters; and assuring universal primary education by 2015.

According to international agencies, East Timor's annual per capita gross national product is just $340, life expectancy is 48 years and the infant mortality rate is 135 per 1000 live births. At 890 per 100,000 live births, the maternal mortality rate is twice that of other countries in Southeast Asia or the Western Pacific according to the World Health Organization.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, and justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN has 26 local chapters throughout the U.S. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).


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