NATIONAL, DILI, Uncategorized

TL must spend its petroleum fund wisely before it runs out

TL must spend its petroleum fund wisely before it runs out

Photo Tatoli/Francisco Sony

DILI, 12 march 2023 (TATOLI) – Civil Society and Academics urge the government to spend Petroleum Fund wisely to benefit the poor, not the richest and those in power. 

“We have spent half of our petroleum fund (US$15b), but no significant progress has been made to increase the country’s domestic revenues. For example, the quality of our education is still poor, we still have problems with water and sanitation, etc.,” Lao Hamutuk researcher, Celestino Gusmão made the comments in an inclusive interview, at Tatoli, in Dili. 

He said that Timor-Leste has spent about US$15 billion of its petroleum fund, but saying the money has not been spent wisely for the benefit of the people.”

Of the US$15 billion, the country has managed to generate only US$1 billion in return.

“The government has always made it public that people are always at the center of its policy, unfortunately, the budget allocation for productive sectors is still very low,” Gusmão said.

He said that sooner or later, Timor-Leste will run out of its Petroleum Fund, saying, therefore, the leader should execute it wisely for the benefit of the people and not for the interest of the elites: “The remaining Petroleum Fund should be spent wisely for a sustainable economic development of the country.”

Timor-Leste is said to be running out of oil and gas at the Bayu Undan field by May 2023, which the country has heavily relied on for State revenues since 2004.

“The government needs to ensure that the remaining petroleum fund has to be spent on improving rural roads, electricity, water and sanitation, basic education, malnutrition, and basic infrastructure, etc.,” he emphasized.

Gusmão said that there was nothing wrong with oil and gas fields, adding that the country should change its lifestyle in terms of spending petroleum funds: “It doesn’t matter if we find five or six more oil and gas fields. But, if we continue with our current lifestyle of spending the fund, then we will continue to have the same problems.”

“Again, if we don’t use the remaining petroleum fund wisely, and in a very strategic way, we will have no money left by 2034. When we no longer have petroleum funds, that means there will be no budget for electricity, wages, salaries, etc.,” he warned.

At the same place, Teodoro Mota, an academic from the Dili Institute of Technology (DIT) suggested that the government should find other alternatives to sustain Timor-Leste’s economy before it runs out of petroleum funds.

“The Bayu-Undan field would be dismantled in the very near future if the production is ceased. Therefore, the development of the Greater Sunrise gas field would be the next alternative to support the nation’s economy,” Mota said. “The government should look for international oil companies (IOCs) that have the financial and technological capacity to accelerate the development of the Sunrise field.”

According to the report of the Central Bank of Timor-Leste (BCTL) released in november 2022, Timor-Leste’s petroleum fund fell to US$16.9 billion in the third quarter of 2022, compared to the previous quarter with US$17.84 billion.

“The government should seriously consider investing in the productive sectors – agriculture and fisheries and tourism to contribute to national development and increase state revenues,” he stressed. 

In october 2004, the Timor-Leste Ministry of Planning and Finance held a public consultation on the concept of creating a Petroleum Fund for Timor-Leste, which would receive petroleum revenues. 



Journalist: Filomeno Martins

Editor: Nelia Borges


One Comment

  1. Politicians just don’t want know about these wise measures you’ve mentioned. They go about what is popular to win elections. 15b gone with the wind!
    As timorese living abroad for the past 50 years I can’t comprehend why you have and are eager to follow the western society. Life is about happiness, living it the simple way. Western society has all the luxury most of you chase, but it does not make it better or bring happiness, it just brings a tone more problems.
    The simple things in life are often the best!

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