FRETILIN PARLIAMENTARY GROUP
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF TIMOR-LESTE
STATEMENT BY FRETILIN PARLIAMENTARY LEADER, ANICETO GUTERRES MP, DURING OPENING OF DEBATE ON PROPOSED NATIONAL STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN
(Translation from Tetum)
11 July 2011
Good morning Mr. President.
In 2007 when we all gathered in this noble chamber to hear the government present its five-year governance program, we first heard from this de facto government that the 2001 National Development Plan would be updated. A Plan that had been compiled in 2001-2002 after a lengthy public consultation process that involved a national dialogues process with over 30,000 people. Almost four years after having heard that, we have just received for our consideration a week ago this document entitled the National Strategic Development Plan.
Prior to us members of parliament having received this document a week ago, we had access to an early draft, which was only in English.
It took the de facto government four years, at a cost of three and a half millions US dollars paid to a private consultant from Indonesia, but members of this parliament were only given a final version in Portuguese to analyze and approve one week ago.
Nobody doubts that our people, our nation, need a development plan. It is FRETILIN that reminds this parliament almost on a weekly basis of the need to govern with a plan, programs, and not just ad hoc governance or governances from one’s dreams as has been the case with this de facto government for four years now.
After having paid millions and after four years, with a large team of varied advisors and consultants to help them, the de facto government pushed this document onto this national parliament, where members do not have any advisors or consultants to help analyze this document, for speedy approval, because it has to be taken quickly to the development Partners meeting to be held later this week.
Nor have our people been given the opportunity to fully know what is contained in this document, because the so called public consultation that is said to have taken place last year through the sub-district capitals of the nation, was more like a political campaign, controlled and restricted as to who could attend and who could ask questions or air criticisms to Big Brother on the plan that Big Brother was presenting to them.
When it first began in Lautem and Baucau these sessions were open to all, but when it became evident that there was a great deal of interest by our people to attend and air their views on this plan and the de facto government’s governance, the “public consultations” in remaining districts were open only to people who enlisted prior to the meetings and listed the questions they were going to be asking. This was not a genuine public consultation by any measure of the concept.
This Plan purports to enhance national development until the year 2030. Then why not give the opportunity even for civil society to study it carefully and comment on it? Why not consult with the de facto opposition parties?
FRETILIN wants to remind all members of this house of their constitutional responsibility under article 92 of the Constitution to represent all of Timor-Leste’s citizens. We would like to remind all of you of our role as members of parliament to oversee the government’s governance proposals and execution or proposed execution of the people’s money. We are not here just to be a rubber stamp for any Big Brother who wants us to or to merely vote on individual or personal interests.
FRETILIN believes that a document of such importance should be seeking to open the path for equitable and just development for all our people, especially those of our very poorest people who are getting poorer every month. A document such as this deserves, in fact demands from us the obligation as the representatives of our people, to properly hold a dialogue with our people directly so as to establish their aspirations and views on what is proposed in this document that has been sent to this parliament.
FRETILIN will not sit by and allow this parliament to simply rubberstamp what has been publicly referred by some to as being simply the de facto Prime Minister’s dream.
It is for this reason that the FRETILIN parliamentary group demands that this proposed Strategic Development Plan be remitted to the respective parliamentary committees for their analysis and report back to the plenary with regard to the impact on the individual development sectors.
The FRETILIN parliamentary group is very certain that we must look at this document as the result of a human effort, and not as some have tended to view it, as an unalterable Sacred Biblical text. This document has many weaknesses that have already been identified by FRETILIN and others such as civil society, just on the cursory glance that time and other constraints have permitted. So, it is indispensable that the parliamentary committees sit down and look at the document carefully.
If other members want to proceed to vote on an approval of the resolution, they can do so, and FRETILIN will at a future point in time reveal precisely the mistake they have made in doing so, but FRETILIN will not partake in any such vote to approve this document. It will then be those who have approved it who will have to explain to our people why they have approved this document without properly analyzing it beforehand.
However, we will briefly point out some points that are of concern to us about this proposed Plan that members opposite are so keen to rubber stamp today.
Firstly, the proposed Plan is based on a number of false assumptions. Just one is that the Plan is too heavily based on the development of the petroleum industry. What will happen if no further substantial reserves of petroleum are discovered, reserves in the magnitude of Bayu-Undan or Greater Sunrise? What will happen if Greater Sunrise does not proceed? This indicates a tendency to rely far too much on revenues that are not yet assured.
However, the macro-economic data relied on in the plan are also out of date and have a tendency to mislead the real economic situation in the country, especially with regard to the exact rate of inflation and the precise dependence of our economy on oil and gas revenues.
Secondly. The plan does not place a sufficient emphasis on job creation especially for our burgeoning numbers of unemployed youth. In 2023 we will likely have more than 30,000 school leavers joining the job market annually. This proposed plan has no concrete plan for how these jobs can be created, because the types of infrastructure projects being planned will not generate anywhere near the necessary jobs. We have already seen this from the current types of infrastructure investment programs being implemented such as the heavy fuel electrification project.
What we have seen is mostly foreign workers being imported to do the job. How will we ever reverse this trend if the proposed plan seeks to head in the same direction with the same development formula?
The FRETILIN parliamentary group can also see clearly in this plan that the people in our remote mountain communities, such as Ainaro, Aileu and Manatuto, and others, will not benefit substantively from this proposed plan. It is as if they have been taken out the development equation.
FRETILIN will point out in greater detail why we believe that these remote mountain communities have been denied a part in this development plan, but we will not do that today.
Suffice to say that any national development plan should have our people at its centre, at its core, not to the periphery of the process, away from participating in the decision making process, becoming just pawns in someone else’s plan to be moved around as desired. It is clear that, despite mouthing platitudes on the needs of our people, this proposed plan actually removes our people from the core of the process. It will have, if implemented the effect of marginalizing and alienating them from the development process, especially when we consider the lack of attention given to development of the agricultural sector.
There is ample evidence throughout the world that shows that countries that are rich in oil and gas, should be seeking development plans and programs that will give it a way out of dependency on these resources. However, this proposed plan would make us more dependent on these resources. There is no focused alternative credible economic development plan being proposed in this document. What everyone that is informed is asking is “what will happen when the oil and gas runs out in 20-30 years or less?” What will happen also if oil and gas prices plummet?
Of more serious concern is that this proposed plan only cursorily refers to the de facto government’s plans to borrow money and nationally indebt us in the process of implementing this plan. What sort of plan fails to even address the issue of how the proposed debts are to be paid? This too we will debate in this house in greater detail one day soon.
We have all heard in the media comments as to whose “dreams” this proposed plan represents. Some say it represents the de facto Prime Minister’s “dreams”, whereas others say it represents our peoples’ “dreams”. However, FRETILIN is very certain that it represents the dreams of foreigners, because this plan will open the way for those foreigners with a slight of hand and a quick hand to take away our peoples’ money; given what the de facto Finance Minister herself told this parliament late last year, that from every dollar invested into the economy, seventy cents flows straight out because of our heavy reliance on exports. This is the basic problem with this proposed strategic development plan, for whom is it strategic? FRETILIN has no doubt that it is strategic for everyone except for our peoples’ and nation’s development.
FRETILIN is extremely conscientious that our country needs a National Development Plan, but one that reflects our peoples’ aspirations as to how development should occur, and one that should be inclusive and sustainable for the long term.
From our point of view the government should have written and delivered a strategic development plan that was an integrated package inclusive of policy strategies, strategic sectoral plans and a detailed guide to implementing these. In our view what it should have done was to establish what has to be done to achieve our peoples’ collective vision between now and 2030.
FRETILIN accepts and assumes that all of our people have aspirations to have poverty reduced, have investment in sound infrastructure that promotes equitable economic growth, access to quality education, access to health and improved living conditions for all, but FRETILIN questions the means in which this proposed plan seeks to convert these aspirations into a plan to achieve them. In essence the content of this proposed plan raises more questions than provides answers for our peoples’ preoccupations on development.
Finally, FRETILIN requests that this Strategic Development Plan be submitted to the normal parliamentary proceedings according to article 100 of the Parliament’s Standing Orders to enable parliament to also hold adequate and board public consultations to ascertain what our peoples’ aspirations are, including the following sectors of society:
• All political parties
• Civil society, including church and religious confessions
• Development partners
• Timorese academics and development advocates
• Civil servants who will have to implement the plan
Such a broad public consultation will be essential so that the strategic development plan can attain the greatest possible national consensus and legitimacy, and so that it can secure all our participation and solidarity when it is implemented in future.
Thank you Mr. President.