03 January 2013

New Year: New Hopes for Timor-Leste

Fundasaun Mahein 27/12/2012 - 2012 was filled with countless remarkable political occurrences. The events were sequentially begun with the high level visits of the Secretary General of United Nations, Ban Kin Moon, to the first historical visit of the Secretary State of America, Hillary Clinton. Both of them, publicly and officially, expressed their compliments and credits to the government and the people of Timor-Leste for their inexhaustible efforts to build a strong democracy and thriving economy.

The 2 rounds of Presidential election and Parliamentary election were the evident of a growing strong democracy. As a result, the government and people of Timor-Leste were commended for a successful, free and fair election. It wasn't only elevating the image of Timor-Leste from a conflict fragile state to a growing vibrant democracy. Moreover, it was setting a strong conviction and a plausible political will that Timor-Leste is able to govern itself. This assertion certainly unfolds the International confidence and trust to the government of Timor-Leste to administer itself without the supervision of UN Mission.

In the security sector, Timor-Leste has made vast improvement. After the political crisis in 2006, Police Officers from more than 40 countries arrived to help with police duties, restore order and conduct training under UN mission.

However, this mission came to an end. Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL) showed its readiness and willingness to be in charge of security issue. This readiness was ceremonially and operationally marked with the UN handed power back to Timor-Leste police. Although it still needs improvement in several areas notably discipline and professionalism, however, Timor-Leste National Police has made a daring move to be in command of its own security matter. Timor-Lest was trusted to host the Security and Defense Conference of CPLP (Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries) Military and Police and the CPLP Catholic Bishops Conference this year. It is the proof that security in Timor-Leste is moving forward in right direction.

2012 was undoubtedly a fairly successful political year. There are numerous instances to support this premise. However, nothing much has accomplished to solve the economic problems.  According to World Bank Report on Poverty, Timor-Leste is experiencing growing GDP 10, 6 % in 2011; however, the reality is quite adversarial. The government displayed somewhat sleazy economic policy in addressing the economic issues. The status quo is unfulfilling yet, with the skyrocketing of unemployment, limited job vacancies, poor infrastructure and poor quality of life. Much has said but little has done to address these issues!

The government of Timor-Leste is sanguine about the prospect for the better economy. The development assistance is now delivered under Strategic Development Plan which envisions a double digit annual GDP growth in the next two decades. Furthermore, government has acted boldly to borrow money from the Asian Development Bank to bolster economic growth. It is said the lease money will be utilized to build major infrastructures like roads, bridges, harbors and airports. This grand plan is aimed to boost Timor-Leste economy to a high-medium income country by 2030.

The end of 2012 is highlighted with the conclusion of UN Mission. The UN presence in Timor-Leste dates back to the Referendum of 1999. The UN has maintained its presence under different names and missions ever since the independence. Unlike UN mission in many countries, it is believed that the UN mission in Timor-Leste is exceptionally successful due to the commitment and the cooperation with the government and the people of Timor-Leste. The UN Mission occasionally went through rough ride and experienced difficulties; however, Timor-Leste examples are worthy followed. Despite UN concludes its mission with high mark, it leaves amount of challenge and problem that need to be addressed by the government.

It is our hope that 2013 will be brighter and better than previous years. First, Timor-Leste's ASEAN hopes rise. Timor-Leste envisioned in becoming a member of ASEAN. This vision is reflected by the seriousness of Timor-Leste government by appointing Mr. Roberto Soares, as Deputy Minister for ASEAN in the cabinet of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. Timor-Leste hopes to be the eleventh member of ASEAN before the ASEAN Economic Community beginning in 2015. If the government of Timor-Leste continues to show progressive works and able to convince the ASEAN Coordinating Council, it is our hope that Timor-Leste will be the eleventh member of ASEAN by the end of 2013.

Second, economic issue will remain as a cardinal focus of government. It is our hope that private sector will increase its participation to boost the economic growth. As we are expecting to be ASEAN member and ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, government should create favorable environment to encourage it to lead in raising investments and productivity while adopting a sound risk management practice and risk analyses. Thus, not only creating economic growth at home, it will enable us to participate in a highly competitive economic region based on a single market and production orientation. Education will affect our ability to compete in the regional level. Will we be ready to compete in the ASEAN market with our current education system that utilizing Portuguese as the education language?

Third, veterans issue remains as an unfinished and ongoing struggle. Government still faces difficulties in handling veterans' affairs. This issue is a slippery one, especially on how to recognize and reward those who fought for independence. The veterans have complained about the technical difficulties of government in addressing the issue. Granting them too much attention and recognition will further deter generational transfer of power. Given them too little attention will threat the national security. We hope that government will be able to resolve the veterans’ affairs. Thus, it will not impede the economic agenda that aim to realize in 2013.

Fourth, Timor-Leste has been commended for growing vibrant democracy. Through its vibrant democracy, Timor-Leste was able to change the perspectives of international community to positive one and gained its trust. However this growing vibrant democracy will only sustain if there is growing vibrant economy and security. Democracy will not progress if the country is still struggling with economic deprivation. Economic deprivation will further create social and political complication that undermine national unity and threaten internal security. Therefore, it is our hope that Timor-Leste will be commended for economic success in 2013.

Fifth, the security issue will remain as the vital focus. It was once undermined by the tragedy of internal crisis in 2006. The security condition is slowly but steadily progressing in recent years. The 2006 crisis undermined the credibility of security institutions like PNTL. However, it soon regained trust and credibility to conduct its police duty. There are problems in the police institution that need to be addressing for instance political intervention, lack of accountability and discipline. As New Year begins, the people of Timor-Leste certainly hope the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) will perform its police duty in a transparent, accountable and professional manner. There is no other way to uphold its credibility except these values mentioned above.

New Year is fast approaching. It means look at the past to plan and have new hopes for 2013. We believe Timor-Leste is hoping nothing more than a better economy, meaning every Timorese will enjoy equal access to decent job. Furthermore, Liberalization of telecommunication in 2013 will enable the economic growth, as many Timorese will have access to information. The vibrant growing economy is the only way to ensure democracy and security in Timor-Leste. It is our hope that the government will succeed in bolstering economic growth in 2013 under National Development Plan. Democracy will continue to grow, Security will continue to flourish, ASEAN hope will be realized if the government able to overcome the economic issues such as unemployment, creating job vacancies, providing good quality of life and building infrastructure in 2013. THESE ARE THE HOPE!

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