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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        7  February 2011

East Timor looks for investment

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Everything is available to be explored by businessmen, who can invest in a variety of sectors, from agriculture to electronics and textiles, President JoseRamos-Hortathe leader of the nine-year-old sovereign state said in an interview in the capital, Dili.

While the country formerly known as East Timor offers incentives that make its tax structure one of the cheapest for investors, Mr. Ramos-Horta admitted that red tape could become a barrier. "There have been some Thai businessmen coming here, but I have to confess that the bureaucratic system is very slow," he said.

Businesses from Singapore and China are active in various sectors of Timor-Leste's economy, while Thailand's investments are primarily in oil and gas.

Mr. Ramos-Horta said his country is rich in oil and gas.

"We have one of the biggest [deposits] in the world in terms of gas reserves. Our petroleum fund now has more than US$7 billion. We earn $200 million worth of oil and gas revenue from one field every month, and more fields have been found," said the president.

Although Timor-Leste has huge potential in revenue from oil and gas, it still needs a broader and more robust economic development plan.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thailand has agreed to send a team of social and economic development planners to help the country

"Timor-Leste now has revenue and savings from gas. We will help them plan the infrastructure and education system," Mr. Kasit said during a recent visit to Dili.

Mr. Kasit sees an opportunity for Thai contractors, who have long-term experience in infrastructure, to become concessionaires of infrastructure development projects, such as roads and housing.

Their expertise would complement the financial assistance that Timor-Leste has received from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to develop. East Timor or Timor Leste is expected to join Asean in 2012.

In addition, the country needs to increase development in human resources, medical science, education, business and trade. To this end, Thailand plans to introduce a royally initiated village development project.

President Ramos-Horta said Thailand could also help in agriculture and food security as well as HIV/Aids control.

"If Thailand can advise our government on agriculture and food security, we don't need it to pay for the cost of expertise. Timor can finance it, but we need rural development experts," said the president.

Mr. Kasit said Timor lacked expertise in growing of rice, cassava and sugarcane.

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