Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Hope In East Timor

In the terrible aftermath of Sunday's earthquake and tidal waves there is a more hopeful piece in today's Guardian. John Vidal follows up an earlier report on efforts to rebuild the economy of East Timor, the world's youngest country. This year's Human Development Report offers some indication of what needs to be done. However, much of the $3 billion in aid that has gone to East Timor has not really benefited the poor. According to La'o Hamutuk, a local reconstruction watchdog: "Billions have been spent but very little has gone to help people. The vast majority has gone on international peacekeeping forces and the UN police. Highly paid foreign consultants, wages for international staff, foreign contractors and supplies procured outside the country account for most of the rest. The local people and economy has hardly benefited". This situation has sparked an important debate about what kind of development model East Timor should pursue in order to avoid another kind of dependency. Despite the problems there are also many signs of hope, borne out of the courageous struggle for independence and the enduring ethos of self-reliance. People are succeeding in building livelihoods from scratch. And the strength of enthusiasm is palpable. East Timor certainly needs all the help it can get - but this has to be emphatically on its own terms.

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