| UNITED NATIONS
UNITED NATIONS Feb 19 Oil-rich East Timor can
maintain double-digit economic growth in 2009 because falling
prices for commodities should reduce spending on imports, East
Timor's president told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.
"Our economy is doing very well with more than 10 percent
real growth at the end of 2008. With a 2009 budget of $680
million and $200 million in donor programs, I believe we will
be able to maintain two-digit growth in spite of the
international financial crisis," said President Jose
Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
East Timor's dependence on imported goods, from basic foods
to cement and steel, meant it suffered greatly from the
2007-2008 food crisis when prices soared globally.
"While our petroleum revenues will be significantly
reduced, so will our import bill as commodity prices fall,"
Amid the global financial crisis, economic growth in the
developed world is contracting and dragging down growth in
emerging markets, which were largely unscathed until six months
East Timor is rich in oil resources, but it is just
starting to develop them. The country has an average income of
just 50 U.S. cents a day. Over 40 percent of its population of
roughly 1 million is unemployed.
Ramos-Horta said spending from the country's petroleum
savings fund, worth more than $4 billion, will allow the
government to invest in strategic sectors of the economy and
"fuel economic growth and relative wealth."
The price for a barrel of crude oil surged to a record high
above $147 in July 2008, but the global economic downturn has
since pulled it below $40.
The fledgling nation, which was invaded by its neighbor
Indonesia in 1975, has experienced uprisings and unrest since
gaining full independence in 2002 after a period of U.N.
Ramos-Horta was shot and wounded in February 2008, the same
day Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was attacked.
Since then the security situation has "strikingly
improved," the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said
on Feb. 9.
That contrasted with news reports in late December 2008 in
the Australian media that said East Timor was on the brink of
collapse, citing a leaked U.N. peacekeeping briefing.