Indications

It has not been a couple of good weeks for Timor in what relates to reports and opinions from the wise “international community.”

The World Bank’s Poverty Report was circulated in Dili, indicating that poverty has risen since independence, and is particularly bad in the more populated central, mountain districts. (It has yet to be made available officially.)

Then the US decides not to select Timor as a “compact” country of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a massive fund for bilateral aid created by the Bush administration. (Let me say, as a disclaimer: I have serious doubts about the MCC.) The MCC sets up multi-year “compacts” to pump in massive amounts of money, often for infrastructure programs, based on a country’s performance in governance and poverty reduction. The indicators for governance (called “Ruling Justly”) are taken from the World Bank Institute and the right wing think tank Freedom House.

Leaving out the Freedom House indictators, we can see that Timor dropped in from 07 to 08 in the World Bank Institute’s estimation.

2007

mcc2007

2008

mcc2008

President Ramos Horta lashed out at the World Bank recently, probably in response to these studies. He said that he was tired of “geniuses” and “einsteins” coming and measuring Timor. He said “We are always getting beat up for not implementing programs,” and that “sometimes more money is spent on evaluation than on programs.”

Ramos Horta asked reporters late last month, “And how much do they claim to have put here? Maybe it sums in the hundreds of millions, or I venture to say billions of dollars. Why is it that poverty continues to persist in our country?”

This follows a virulent attack by Xanana’s office against Oxfam Australia for its food security assessment released in October.

Something perhaps both the supercilious donors and Timorese elite should take on board: money cannot buy “development” or rule of law.

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