From Boom to Bust: the Environment Ministry Tempers Funding Expectations

From Boom to Bust: the Environment Ministry Tempers Funding Expectations

The State Secretary for the Environment was in for a budget increase - but that's since been revised. (Image/UN//Martine Perrett)

DILI, 15 January 2019 (TATOLI) – Timor-Leste’s Secretary of the Environment (SEA) said a 15 per cent reduction in the department’s expected 2020 budget will have ‘no impact’ on planned programs, because of inflows from donors.

The Timor-Leste government last month announced it had redrafted the 2020 general state budget (OJE) to $1.67 billion — down significantly from the last year’s $1.95 billion proposal.

Related news: Parliament Passes a ‘Temporary’ Budget for January as 2020 negotiations drag on

Environment Minister, Demétrio do Amaral de Carvalho. (Image/Egas Cristovão)

SEA Secretary Deométrio do Amaral said his department will receive a total of $1.85 million in the revised OJE, a reduction of around 300-thousand dollars, and that will require some adjustment, he said.

“There could be a cut in salary and wages… [We had proposed] to do internal promotion for…our 27 employees. But after talking to the Public Service Commission (KPP), the budget for this is reducing, [and] the Prime Minister has decided to not do any more recruitment,” Secretary Amaral said.

In a submission to parliament concerning the revised budget, government watchdog La’o Hamutuk said the cut has “implications” for the establishment of environmental laboratories and other important programs.

“We recognize that in October the Government proposed a 39% increase in allocation to the SEA, resulting in a total proposed allocation of $2.2 million. Unfortunately in the December 2020 State Budget proposal, this allocation was reduced by 15.2%,” the submission reads.

Under the revised OJE, the SEA’s budget for salary and wages is reduced from $667,000 to $573,000; goods and services from $1.46m to $1.2m, minor capital works from $49,000 to $45,000. There is no allocation for major capital works, or public transfers.

But Secretary Amaral said support from the UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF) will begin to flow in 2020. The program, which aims to create “more resilient rural infrastructure” as the global climate changes, will spend some $1.8 million in its first phase, he said.

“With these funds, we think [there will be] no big impact to programs and plans for SEA this year,” he said..

The Secretary said in addition to the climate resilience projects, biodiversity conservation, controlling pollution, streamlining environmental license applications, expanding environmental education and working towards the governments’s ‘plastic neutral’ target remain the major focusses this year.

A four million dollar hit in a time of need

The much-larger Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAP) also expects to share in the government’s 300 million dollar cuts. MAP was set to receive $21.6 million in the first proposal. Now the total is $17.3 million, a reduction of 20 per cent.

Fisherman João Canto, pictured, estimates 200 deer perished from a lack of water and feed last dry season (Image/TATOLI)

The cut comes at a time MAP is under pressure for failing to fund frontline services. In Lautem, up to 200 local deer perished from a lack of water and feed on Jaco Island, and local fisherman, park rangers and even MAP’s District Officer, Edmundo da Costa, said funding was the problem:

“We want to provide water to our fisherman [to take to] the island of Jaco, [but] we have no money to buy water, and pay them to carry it there,” he told TATOLI in December.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Joaquim José Gusmão, said the revised $17m budget will consist of:
– Salary and Wages: $3.78m;
– well and services: $9.82m;
– public transfers $694,000;
– and smaller capital development $2.78m.

He said MAP’s priorities for 2020 are agriculture, rice and corn production, and expanding the cultivated land in Timor. However, Minister Gusmão admits the budget reduction will make it difficult to deliver all of the planned programs.

“But we have to manage the budget that we have. With this limitation we want to involve also our development partners and also involve the private sector to think about the development of agriculture,” he said.

Journalists: Florencio Miranda Ximenes, Evaristo Soares Martins

Editors: Robert Baird; Maria Auxiliadora, Xisto Freitas

Translation: Nelia Borges


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