Monday, September 7, 2009

East Timor: Where's The Money?

A decade after tiny East Timor broke from Indonesia and prompted one of the most expensive U.N.-led nation-building projects in history, there is little to show for the billions spent.

The world has given more than $8.8 billion in assistance to East Timor since the vote for independence in 1999, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press from the U.N. and 46 donor countries and agencies. That works out to $8,000 for each of East Timor's 1.1 million people, one of the highest per person rates of international aid.

But little of the money, perhaps no more than a dollar of every 10, appears to have made it into East Timor's economy. Instead, it goes toward foreign security forces, consultants and administration, among other things.

In the meantime, data from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Food Program, U.N. Development Program and others show the money has done little to help the poor. In fact, poverty has increased. Roads are in disrepair, there is little access to clean water or health services, and the capital is littered with abandoned, burned-out buildings where the homeless squat.

The U.N. spent $2.2 billion on missions in East Timor between 1999 and 2009. Roughly $3 billion in donor aid -- the bulk of it from Australia, Japan, the European Union, the U.S. and Portugal -- was channeled through 500 not-for-profit groups and institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

The World Bank has expressed concern that too much is being spent on consultants, but could not provide a comprehensive figure. High-level Timorese government officials told the AP that millions of dollars have been wasted on projects that overlapped or were not completed, donor rivalry, mismanagement and corruption. They asked not to be named for fear of a backlash from donors. Excerpt from ANTHONY DEUTSCH Associated Press Writer article

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