FRENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE
Dili: January 20, 2009
80% of premature babies die while government triples MPs' salaries
Eighty per cent of babies born premature in Timor-Leste are dying because hospitals, including the national hospital in the capital Dili, still have no incubators, despite a massive increase in government revenue from petroleum reserves.
Mr Arsenio Bano, a FRETILIN MP, party Vice President and former Minister for Labour and Community Reintegration (Social Affairs), said today the health service would receive only 4.5 per cent of the 2009 budget compared to its 15–16 per cent share under FRETILIN governments from 2002 to 2007.
"The Gusmao government cannot find US$20,000 to US$30,000 for a single incubator to keep premature babies warm and ventilated, yet it is budgeting in 2009 to triple the salaries and benefits of MPs and Ministers to US$3,300 per month – equivalent to 38 times the average monthly income – and spend US$5.6 million on overseas travel for government members," Mr Bano said.
"The X-ray unit at Dili hospital cannot function on some days because the health service cannot afford essential supplies. Yet the government just spent over US$2.1 million to buy a luxury four wheel drive vehicle for each MP, and the 2009 budget proposes to spend US$600,000 to renovate the official residences of the existing Deputy Prime Minister, as well as the new deputy PM post proposed by the de facto Prime Minister.
"Dili Hospital, like other hospitals around the country, also suffers a severe shortage of medication, forcing patients to buy at expensive private pharmacies. Under the former FRETILIN government medication prescribed at the hospital outpatient department was available and free of charge."
In the parliamentary budget debate yesterday, de facto Prime Minister Gusmao argued against investing in education and health, saying they "gave no returns".
Mr Bano reaffirmed FRETILIN's decision to vote against pay rises for MPs when parliament debates the 2009 budget.
"These pay increases and other examples of obscene, selfish largesse are simply a ploy by the Gusmao government to buy the support of MPs to shore up its numbers in parliament," he said.
He said the 2008 budget of US$788 million was equivalent to the seven annual budgets available to previous governments, thanks to revenue from the Petroleum Fund established by the former FRETILIN government.
"There is something desperately wrong when so much money is available to the government but the people's basic health needs get such a low priority.
"This budget contains so much waste and the priorities are all wrong. Instead of improving people's health they propose to damage it by purchasing outdated, second-hand, high-polluting heavy fuel power stations.
"FRETILIN promotes higher spending in health, education, agriculture, water and sanitation and investment in public housing as priorities, because these will be key drivers in eradicating poverty, followed by targeted investment in important economic infrastructure.
"The de facto government's high spending, wasteful approach will only benefit a small minority who are already well off and privileged.
"Just look at the imbalance in direct investment into the districts. An analysis by our parliament's international advisors' team shows that 49 per cent of the direct investment budget of US$187 million is destined for Dili, which has 18 per cent of the national population. The remaining 51 per cent of the budget is distributed amongst 82 per cent of the population. Dili already has services and opportunities that people outside the capital only dream of, yet public investment is so skewed. We think this is wrong and we will oppose it," Mr Bano said.
For information contact: Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080
Image added by ETLJB - East Timorese new-born babies.
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