Subject: World Bank eyes infrastructure as priority for East Timor

World Bank eyes infrastructure as priority for East Timor

SINGAPORE, Nov 23 (AFP) - Some 70 million US dollars is expected to be channeled into rebuilding East Timor's infrastructure next year, when pledges from donor countries of the World Bank come through, the bank said Tuesday.

The 70 million dollars is part of a 300 million dollar trust fund the World Bank hopes to raise for East Timor at a consultative meeting on December 17 in Tokyo, said Lucy Oh, spokesperson for the bank's Joint Assessment Mission to East Timor.

The World Bank is to work closely with relief efforts to ensure a smooth transition to development projects that would take place in the near-term, she said.

"I believe the relief efforts will be within the next six to nine months, and then we'll be taking over more of the development longer-term objectives," Oh told a news conference here.

The Tokyo meeting is to be co-chaired by the World Bank and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.

Participants will include some 100 delegates from multilateral aid agencies and governments including Portugal, Australia and Japan. East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao will also attend, Oh said.

Klaus Rohland, World Bank director for East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, has said that the 300 million dollars will be collected over three years.

The Joint Assessment Mission to East Timor noted in a report last week that the country had to be rebuilt from scratch, after the "systematic destruction" that came in the wake of East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia.

The damage resulted in a drop of up to 45 percent in East Timor's gross domestic product for 1999.

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