By DOUGLAS KAMMEN Counterpunch 11/08/2009 - Since coming to power in September 2007, the new Parliamentary Majority Alliance (AMP) government of East Timor has made rice a central instrument of state policy. The government has spent millions of dollars on the purchase of imported rice. Free rice has been distributed to civil servants, a constituency recruited under the previous Fretilin government and hence of questionable loyalty.
Free rice is part of the incentive offered to encourage the tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) to vacate the camps and return to their places of residence. Subsidized rice is being sold to the populace at large. Lacking a distribution mechanism, the government has also granted the right to sell this subsidized rice to selected veterans, who represent another politically sensitive group.
Intended to address East Timor’s chronic food insecurity, these side-payments, triggered a host of accusations and scandals. There are widespread allegations that government rice contracts were granted without proper tendering processes and involved collusion. Read the full story...
Image: Rice distribution in East Timor