Pumpkins and skyscrapers

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Finally some back and forth on the issue of oil revenue spending and oversight between CNRT and Fretilin. With only days to go, the inter-related issues of poverty reduction, governance, transparency and the use of Timor’s unrenewable mina-rai are taking center stage.

The CNRT announces at Lao Hamutuk’s debate on oil revenues that its plan to deal with transparency and accountability relating to oil revenues is to decentralise power. What this means is unclear. Devolve all development monies to district offices? Is there minimal capacity for budget planning and execution at the district level? The CNRT’s program online hints at District legislatures. Is what Timor needs thirteen times more elected officials?

Or do they have in mind a construction procurement office in Betano, agricultural development in Lospalos and Auditor General in Fatumaca?

Perhaps this is why they have suggested that Xanana will be the President of Parliament. There he can keep tabs on things and grow pumpkins at the same time.

Decentralisation is just a word. Like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy.’ But it needs to be thoroughly thought through and elaborated. All CNRT has to do is look to similar processes in (ahem) Mozambique and other African countries to know that it is no panacea.

Moreover, I’m not sure if the skyscraper banners that CNRT has put in Dili really convey very well the idea of ‘decentralization.’ Especially given Ramos Horta’s early wish to put Timor on a Singapore-like trajectory.

I like many never bought the Fretilin theory of a four year capitalist-imperialist cabal against them. But I do believe they constitute the only party with the experience and strategic vision of sovereign development.

(That said, their idea for Petrotil should be questioned and open for real public debate. And of course, I entirely reject that those guilty of crimes last year be pardoned.)

Here’s to hoping that next year there will be vigorous debates, not pumpkins, in parliament.

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