Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lao Hamutuk asks on the east-timor list "Why are TL VIPs in China?"

After spending all last Monday in Parliament successfully defending his placing Timor-Leste's "national interest" above legal and Constitutional limitations, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão -- together with the Ministers of Finance, Infrastructure, and Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of State for Natural Resources, and the head of Timor-Leste's armed forces, headed to China to participate in a Western China trade fair and visit a shipyard (see press release below).

This is a high-level group for a relatively unimportant activity, but there are other reasons to go to China.

Perhaps the visit is related to the new Budget and Financial Management Law which Parliament passed on 24 September. In addition to outlining how the State Budget is to be approved (the General State Budget for 2010 will be sent to Parliament this week), this law allows the Minister of Finance to borrow money from governments like China, without any Parliamentary or public oversight of the terms or repayment of the loan (see NGO commentary at ).


La'o Hamutuk doesn't yet have confirmed information that the six high Timor-Leste officials went to China to borrow money, but the timing of the visit, together with the demonstrated policies of this government to spend far more than the sustainable level recommended by the Petroleum Fund law, give us reason for concern.

If they have more time, the Ministers can look into the apparently stalled $385 million Heavy Oil Power project, awarded last year to Chinese Nuclear Industry Construction Company #22. Much of this year's $85 million budget line for this project has been reallocated to the Referendum Package of small local infrastructure projects. However, if the flagship power project of the government "year of infrastructure" is ever to be realized, something must be done. (See .)

La'o Hamutuk welcomes more information about these issues from any source, and encourages people to pay close attention.

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