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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
East Timor 'Asia's poorest nation'
Men barter over the price of live chickens at an open-air market in Dili
A third of East Timor's families live below the poverty line
East Timor is heading for hard-won independence, but also for the inauspicious title of Asia's poorest nation, according to a report released on Monday by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

UNDP findings
Average life expectancy of 57 years
More than 50% illiteracy
Per capita GDP is $478
Half the population earn less than 55 US cents a day
50% of infants are underweight
It said East Timor will rank among the world's 20 poorest countries, alongside the likes of Rwanda, Angola, Bangladesh and Mozambique.

The UNDP said the way that the new administration built a system of governance over the next two years would be crucial to the fledgling state's success as a nation.

East Timor has been under UN administration since it won independence from Indonesia in a 1999 poll. It will assume full autonomy on 20 May.

Promising resilience

"Through the long years of colonisation and occupation, the people of East Timor retained an unquenchable desire for freedom. That kind of courage and determination should serve them well in the years ahead," said the report.

UNDP East Timor director Finn Reske-Nielsen, after launching the report on the eve of a two-day meeting of foreign donors in the capital, Dili, said international support would be crucial.

The report underlined the dire economic effects of an unstable past.

Per capita gross domestic product is $478 and half the population is earning less than 55 US cents a day.

Very few people have received adequate education and more than half are illiterate.

The report said the way that the half-island used revenues from gas fields in the Timor Sea - which could earn it $180m a year, from 2006, would be a key to its success.

See also:

13 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor lines up foreign friends
25 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati 'to attend' E Timor ceremony
23 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor maps border with Indonesia
18 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor leaders look to future
17 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
E Timor warned of challenge ahead
04 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Gusmao calls East Timor refugees home
26 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australia pledges $3m to East Timor
25 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
E Timor, Indonesia sign accords
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