BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Chinese Vietnamese Burmese Thai Indonesian

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Asia-Pacific  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Monday, 20 May, 2002, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
East Timor gets down to business
Gusmao with his cabinet
East Timor's cabinet is facing some tough challenges
Newly independent East Timor has sworn in a new government to tackle the enormous task of rebuilding the country's ravaged economy.

President Xanana Gusmao, himself inaugurated shortly after midnight (1500GMT) on Sunday, swore in a 24-member cabinet in the capital, Dili, on Monday morning as the country awoke from an all-night party.

Former US President Bill Clinton at a flag-raising ceremony in Dili
Mr Clinton said the US was not 'sufficiently sensitive' in the past
The new territory quickly received an economic lift, with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri signing a lucrative oil deal with Australia under which East Timor will get 90% of the revenue from a jointly controlled area of the Timor Sea.

And at the parliament's inaugural session, Mr Alkatiri presented the programme of his new government, stressing that his main spending priorities would be health and education.

Over the next three years, he said, the amount spent on these essential services would increase to almost half the national budget.

Earlier, Mr Alkatiri also emphasised "the importance of the policy of national reconciliation as an essential base for national stability".

East Timor was terrorised by pro-Indonesian militias during the vote for independence in 1999, and President Gusmao wants to rehabilitate these former militia members into East Timorese society.

The legislature also voted to sign the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and become the newest member of the 189-strong world body later this year.

East Timor is already forging links abroad.

East Timorese residents wave the country¿s national flag during a parade in the capital of Dili
East Timor key facts:
  • Population of 800,000
  • Asia's poorest country
  • Languages include Tetum, Portuguese and Indonesian
  • 90% Roman Catholic
    See also:

  • China announced that it had become the first country to strike up diplomatic relations with the new country, as former US President Bill Clinton raised the stars and stripes at the new US embassy.

    Mr Clinton acknowledged after the ceremony that the US could have done more after Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975.

    "I don't believe America or any of the other countries were sufficiently sensitive in the beginning or for a long time," he told reporters.

    Desperate poverty

    East Timor's economy was seriously damaged by the violent Indonesian withdrawal in 1999 and by centuries of neglect as a Portuguese colony.

    International donors - particularly former colonial power Portugal - have made an extra $360m available to help in East Timor's construction.

    The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Dili, says that among the problems East Timor faces are its isolation, its lack of infrastructure and its poorly educated population.

    But if agreements are signed with Australia to cover the other oil fields in the region, East Timor could receive a windfall of billions of dollars over the next two decades.

    The BBC's Matt Frei
    "The nightmare is over"
    East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao
    "Two thirds of my trying to handle the responsibility"
    The BBC's Jonathan Head
    "Quite an extraordinary plan to spend nearly half of the entire budget on health and education"

    Key stories

    Independence day


    Key people


    See also:

    19 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
    19 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
    18 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
    17 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
    20 May 02 | Media reports
    17 May 02 | Business
    12 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
    13 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
    13 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
    26 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
    25 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
    13 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
    20 May 02 | Business
    Internet links:

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

    Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.

    E-mail this story to a friend

    Links to more Asia-Pacific stories

    © BBC ^^ Back to top

    News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
    South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
    Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |