SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT TAUR MATAN RUAK TO THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ON THE STATE OF THE NATION

by Media Team Posted on

Dili, National Parliament, 20 September 2016

Mr President of the National Parliament,

Members of Parliament,

Your Excellencies,

Beloved people of Timor-Leste.

I embrace all who are here: distinguished members of the National Parliament—elected representatives of the citizens of Timor-Leste—members of all bodies of sovereignty, and distinguished guests who are with us on this formal opening session of the National Parliament.

I embrace the Timorese people throughout the country and abroad, who work each day to improve the living conditions for their families. The work of the sons and daughters of Timor-Leste—in the cities, on the mountains and on the fields—is our land’s greatest wealth.

I thank the President and Members of the National Parliament for the warm welcome I received. It is always with great pleasure that I come to this House of Democracy to convey my assessment of the development of the country to Your Excellencies and to our citizens.

Contact between bodies of sovereignty and cooperation between the institutions of the State are important for the good functioning of democracy.

I would also like to thank the President of National Parliament for inviting me to participate in the 5th legislative session of the III Legislature. This is the last time I present a speech in the opening session of the National Parliament as President of the Republic. This is also the last legislative session of your term in office as MPs of the III Legislature (2012-2017). It is the appropriate moment to tell you about my view on the state of the Nation, on the achievements of our people and the challenges of upcoming years.

When I took office as President of the Republic on 20 May 2012, I summarised the key priorities for strengthening national sovereignty and independence:

  • develop a sustainable economy, valuing national wealth;
  • develop education and training, valuing the country’s youth, farmers and human resources in general, increasing the capacity of the Timorese people to address to the development needs;
  • promote an inclusive economy, creating conditions to attract more external and internal investment, diversify the economy and create jobs;
  • decentralize the economy, creating development hubs, with the strengthening of national cohesion and developing the whole country in a balanced manner;
  • and finally, I have defended and promoted the need to permanently engage the citizens in the process of national development.

To achieve the inclusive and sustainable development that the country needs, there is a need to promote the participation of the sons and daughters of Timor-Leste in the economic development and in our society, and close the distance between the State and the citizens.

These priorities guide the exercise of my term in office and should be the standard against which to analyse to progress achieved in recent years and assess the state of the nation.

As I said on multiple occasions, we achieved important victories since the restoration of independence.

  • We consolidated peace. We were successful in a process of reconciliation that is exemplary in the region and in the world.
  • We built a democratic state with the rule of law. All citizens are equal before the law and choose freely and peacefully the members of parliament and other elected representatives.

The social and political stability that we built is a victory for us all, political leaders and citizens alike. Stability is essential to success in economic and social development. In regard to the process of development:

  • two strategic development plans were prepared;
  • ninety percent of the population now have access to electricity;
  • more than 200 kilometres of roads were built;
  • schools were built and a healthcare network is being developed, benefiting the population and improving the levels of health and education, especially for our children and youths;
  • steps were taken towards economic decentralization, and significant investments are planned for two large projects, in Oecússi and on the Southern Coast;
  • the government has recently assigned administrative duties to the municipalities so as to bring public services closer to people;
  • aid policies aimed at vulnerable groups helped alleviate poverty, addressing some needs, including the cases of grandparents, widows and orphans, veterans and others.

The help provided by the State to our brothers and sisters in need is an important achievement of the country since the independence. However, as I travel through the mountains and visit the most remote sucos and villages, I feel great sadness because, after 14 years of the restauration of independence, the assistance provided to vulnerable groups is often below the real needs—and poverty continues to afflict many sons and daughters of Timor-Leste.

The support of the country to our veterans is testimony to the recognition of the people who faced danger during the struggle and were brave in the service of the Timorese community. They are in our hearts! They gave direct or indirect support to each one of us present here today.

I embrace and salute the veterans and their families for contributing to peace and security in our land. I embrace the widows and the orphans for the sacrifices they made so that we have now have a better nation. The recognition of the veterans is an unfinished process. Some receive aid; others still do not. This has been causing divides even among the veterans. This situation must be brought to an end as quickly as possible. We cannot allow injustice to prevail among us.

The State is making a significant effort and, as I have said on multiple occasions, I am concerned about the sustainability of this project, which continues to drag, year after year, without being solved. I call on the veterans themselves to participate, helping the State to do justice, avoiding abuses, honouring this chapter in the country’s liberation history.

The system established by the Lifelong Pension Law is also cause for great concern. My intention is not to influence the National Parliament, because the Honourable Members of Parliament deserve my utmost respect as representatives of the country.

As President of the Republic, I merely feel that it is my duty to draw attention to a situation that I consider to be serious and unjust in our society.

As you know, since the time I was the Chief of our Armed Forces, I was and continue to be against the Lifelong Pension Law.

This law created a system that sets a poor example for the citizens. The Lifelong Pension Law, in some cases, is liable to create parasites, who receive large sums of money from the State each month, even if some of those individuals offer nothing to society in return for the generous support they receive.

A system like this is very unjust, compared to the situation of the veterans and the situation of the poorest people in our country[1].

The political parties know that the Lifelong Pension Law is unjust. Because they know this, the parties promise to review the law in the lead-up to elections. I recall those promises being repeated in 2011 and 2012. But four years have gone by and I am yet to see any proposals to repeal or amend that law. I ask myself why, as many of our Timorese brothers and sisters do.

I call on Your Excellencies and all national leaders with political responsibilities to regard the issue of this law as a priority and commit to its resolution.

I call on the National Parliament to open a broad, transparent, simple and clear public debate on the benefits and privileges provided for in Law no. 1/2007, of 18 January, on the Lifelong Monthly Pension for Members of Parliament and Other Benefits, and also on Law no. 14/2009, of 21 October, which establishes the wages for holders of political offices.

Listening to the opinion of the country and debating and amending these laws will increase justice in our society and the respect of the citizens for our democratic institutions.

I believe that the National Parliament’s legislative agenda for this final legislative session is very ambitious and should not represent an obstacle to the pursuit of the best technical solutions, the most consensual and politically solid solutions. Far-reaching legislative reforms near the end of the legislature entail an increased demand for consensus and extra care. This is true of legislative proposals under discussion in this house as decisive for the future of the country as the Lifelong Pension Law, the Land Law, the tax reform and the anti-corruption legislation.

 

 

Mr President of the National Parliament,

Members of Parliament,

Your Excellencies,

The progress made in the country’s international integration is worthy of special reference. The successes achieved by Timorese diplomacy attest to the dedication and quality of our diplomats—a quality that deserves to be acknowledged and praised.

The Timorese diplomacy since the restoration of independence was able to capitalize on and develop the image of seriousness and discipline of the Resistance diplomacy. The continuity of our diplomacy, before and after the restoration of independence, contributes to our country’s affirmation in the world stage.

The calls for peace that we and all veterans of the Armed Front made during the struggle were heard by the international community because of the knowledgeable and tireless work of the brothers and sisters in the Diplomatic Front.

The diplomacy of independent Timor-Leste has continued and reinforced that diplomatic tradition, helping consolidate the State and strengthen the conditions of the exercise of national sovereignty.

The multilateral and bilateral partnerships established with the United Nations and with our development partners were important to the achievement of our nation-building priorities. The aid provided by friendly nations continues to be important in many areas. I particularly highlight the support provided to our social development efforts, to the strengthening of the national production sector and to the diversification of the economy.

The success of the policy of peace and reconciliation contributed to the development and consolidation of excellent relations of friendship with our neighbouring countries—Indonesia and Australia. Family contacts and strong cultural, social and economic exchanges between our countries continue to grow.

The border cooperation between Timor-Leste and Indonesia contributed and will continue to contribute to increase trade and family contacts, with mutual advantages for the populations on both sides of the border.

All pending issues, within the scope of bilateral relations, with neighbour countries—including the maritime boundary dispute with Australia—should be resolved based on mutual respect and within the international law, without affecting the good relationship and friendship that our nations and our peoples established.

We expanded and strengthened relations with all ASEAN member states. We continue to take sure steps towards joining this organisation. The receptiveness of ASEAN member states may lead to the acceptance of our application for membership as early as next year.

Whilst waiting, I consider it convenient to reflect upon the challenges we have to face once integrated into the ASEAN. I refer here the questions of mobility, competitiveness and our effective participation in the full agenda that stamps from the integration into the ASEAN. As a sovereign country, we have obligations, yet we ought to take advantage of our insertion in the Region and in the world.

Timor-Leste wants to continue deepening and expanding its participation in the processes of bilateral and multilateral cooperation for the strengthening of regional stability and security and mutually beneficial development of the populations of the different countries.

We have solid relations of friendship and cooperation with Asian and world powers, including China, United States, European Union, Japan, Republic of Korea, Cuba and New Zealand, in addition, of course, to Portugal, Brazil, and other sister nations of the CPLP.

We are near the end of the Timorese pro tempore presidency of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. This presidency of the CPLP demonstrates how far our nation has come, from the struggle on the mountains and in exile to the presidency, for the first time, of this community of independent and brotherly countries. This presidency has been highly commended by the sister nations of the CPLP. This recognition should make us proud and encourage us to continue working for the future.

Indeed, CPLP became global with the formal admission of Timor-Leste into the organization.

With the formal entry of our country into the CPLP it became possible to host the 10th Summit of the Heads of States and Governments of CPLP in Asia, a region considered as the axis of the global economy.

For the first time, the economic dimension gained importance. Our country perceived the CPLP as a platform that allows several articulations that stamps from its multi-continental status. So, we held the Global Economic Forum and we had the opportunity to have the participation of the ASEAN.

Concerning the Portuguese language, we had the honour of hosting the 3rd International Conference of the Future of the Portuguese Language in the World System. We had the Asian participation in this International Conference.

However, not all events were carried out as planned. The international conjuncture that affected the Member-states impeded the realization of various initiatives under our rotating presidency, with the endorsement of our Community.

International law is the foundation of peace and the pursuit of more balanced conditions for the development and well-being of the peoples. The international integration of Timor-Leste is aimed at strengthening of a just international system, based on the rule of law, promoting stability, peace and inclusive and sustainable development.

 

Mr President of the National Parliament,

Members of Parliament,

The country’s achievements since the restauration of the independence are important. But it is equally important to acknowledge that we could have done more and better, and we must face the enormous challenges that still lie ahead—namely, the low labour productivity, unemployment and economic volatility—with determination.

In the past few years, I visited more than 90% of the sucos in our country. I listened closely and talked to the populations. One area that has caught my attention during these visits, and which causes me great concern, is the difference in living conditions between the city and the rural areas.

The economic options made by our country in recent years have not helped reduce inequalities—between regions and between families.

The policies of social support to vulnerable groups are important but not sufficient to correct and compensate the new factors of inequality.

Another concerning area is that the economy has been unable to generate sufficient jobs. There are few employment opportunities, especially in rural areas, where 70% of the population live.

This imbalance in terms of employment forces many young people to emigrate in search of a job. In the past 10 years, the country produced more than 30,000 young university graduates. But we cannot ensure economic inclusion for many of them.

We invest more in cement than in knowledge: the productivity of our economy continues to be very low and without capacity to compete. We continue to import more than 90% of the goods and services that we consume.

Your Excellencies know as well as I do that the quality of the construction work is often poor, forcing us to spend more in repairs and reconstruction. The accelerated depreciation of many infrastructures shows that the State Budget wastes too much money in poor-quality works.

Two major investment projects are ongoing, in Oecússi and on the Southern Coast. But as I speak to you right now, we all remain unaware of how the considerable investments made in these projects will actually benefit the living conditions and the social development of the populations of Oecússi, Covalima and Manufahi.

The data included in the report on National Accounts indicate that, after five years of development policies, between 2009 and 2014, the contribution of the various sectors of the economy to gross domestic product remains almost unchanged.

Construction and agriculture continue to be the two largest non-oil sectors of the national economy.

In 2014, the industry sector continued to contribute less than 1% to gross domestic product.

The sector with the most weight in the economy continues to be public administration, contributing 24%[2]. These are official government data.

With results like this, how are we going to diversify the economy and make the country less dependent on oil?

In regard to public administration, it is important to acknowledge that my repeated pleas, in recent years, on the need to bring the State closer to the citizens have produced some results. There are more central administration services in the country’s municipalities now than there were five years ago.

Since I was elected President of the Republic, I have been tirelessly defending the need for the State to listen to the citizens and include the communities in the resolution of local problems. I was informed that my pleas were not left unanswered. There are now more local development programs implemented with the participation of the beneficiary communities than there were before.

Nevertheless, I continue to be surprised by the priorities of some government departments.

Administrative systems that are already in place and in operation are frequently replaced, wasting the work put in by technicians, time and money, instead of the departments focussing on solving serious issues that require attention and strategic decision-making.

Administrative volatility, just like poor-quality construction work, almost always represents the squandering of public money. Often, it is simply the consequence of poor management.

The substandard functioning of public administration services pulls the country down. For example, companies that create jobs cannot continue to be penalised by delays in payment of money owed by the State.

It is impossible to foster the private sector with decapitalised companies and attract the investment of entrepreneurs when the State fails to pay them on time.

It is unacceptable that works that have been completed or services that have been provided by companies, verified in accordance with existing regulations, are then left waiting to be paid for months on end. For as long as companies, especially Timorese companies, continue to require recapitalisation because of the delay in payment of money owed by the State, it will be impossible for the weight of the private sector in the gross national product to grow.

An inefficient public administration adversely affects the productive sector as a whole and dissuades investment.

 

Mr President of the National Parliament,

Members of Parliament,

The degradation of the justice sector in our country has progressed far beyond reasonable limits. The judicial organisation provided for by the Constitution is very far from finished. In addition to the establishment of the courts provided for by the Constitution, there is still the need to approve legislation that is key to the functioning of the courts, such as tax and administrative procedure legislation. This legislation is a pre-requisite for the construction of the rule of law in Timor-Leste.

The divestment in the justice sector led to the paralysis of the Court of Appeal and to the freezing of career progression for district court judges, due to the absence of proper assessment and the lack of implementation of the protocols signed after the withdrawal of the international magistrates that supported the reform of the judicial system.

The lack of resources in the justice sector is an obstacle to the fight against corruption, which should involve us all. The police forces, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Public Prosecution Office and the courts need all our support in the fight against one of the greatest scourges of our society. The misuse of resources that belong to us all by a privileged few endangers social cohesion, affects the redistribution of wealth and decreases the country’s potential for development. I call on everyone to participate in a national effort to eradicate corruption in our country!

Mr President of the National Parliament,

Members of Parliament,

I hope that, contrary to what has been our practice, the preparation of the General State Budget for 2017 and subsequent years is profoundly altered and based on the reality of oil prices and of the Timor Sea oil reserves, which are uncertain.

Funding for the State Budget should come from four main sources: 3% of the Petroleum Fund’s Estimated Sustainable Income (ESI), as established by law, and the remaining from domestic revenues, from donations and loans, and from exports.

The State Budget is the governments’ key instrument for economic intervention. Its preparation must be made with careful, prudent and responsible planning, taking into account the present and the future.

Since the establishment of the Petroleum Fund, we have spent 7.3 billion dollars from the Fund, and what we achieved is not proportional to what we have spent.

We continue to live in an unsustainable society: the country imports almost everything we consume, and exports very little[3].

Waste in public administration means money spent for no good reason. This state of affairs is only possible because we are using the Petroleum Fund revenues to pay our bills: to pay for the huge trade deficit and pay for the operation of the State apparatus[4].

We know that oil will not last forever. When the oil runs out, what will we do?

Your Excellencies know as well as I do that the Petroleum Fund revenues have been dropping dramatically, due to the decreased production at Bayu Undan and to the sharp oil price decline in the international markets since 2014.[5]

In short, we all have the duty to ask and answer in all honesty: What is the future that we are building for our country?

Mr President of the National Parliament,

Members of Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The upcoming year is going to be decisive to the future of our nation, with several elections.

The most important challenge we all face is to ensure free and just elections, in which the people can express their sovereign will. The national liberation struggle will have been for naught if the people are not the ones governing through their representatives. We are all servants to the will of the people and there is no power than the power consented to by the people.

This is why, in due time, I spoke against the amendment of the Law on Election Administration Bodies, which culminated with the termination of the National Election Board’s mandate halfway through its term in office, such a short time before elections as important as these. I maintain the opinion that this choice represented a step backwards in the process of consolidation of the structures of the State in accordance with the democratic rule of law. It is my belief that, for this reason, it will be necessary to reinforce the teams of independent observers in next year’s elections in order to ensure they are held with the utmost transparency.

 

Mr President of the National Parliament,

Members of Parliament,

Following the key priorities for strengthening national sovereignty and independence, which I recalled at the start of this address, we can clearly see that the important policies implemented in recent years:

  • failed, because they did not reduce our dependence on oil and did not promote a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the Timorese people;
  • failed, because they did not sufficiently value the country’s human capital or promote the use of national resources;
  • failed, because they did not diversify the economy or contribute to create sufficient jobs for young people of working age;
  • failed, because they did not promote citizen participation in the economic transformation and nation-building process.

I have been informed on the Special Autonomous Region of Oecússi Ambeno and ZEESM. The information I got is encouraging. Yet, I would like to get much more information on the actions that place the people of Oecússi at the center of our national policy.

I will continue to pay attention to the developments on the South Coast, awaiting for more relevant information.

In short: in the last four years, after the withdrawal of more than four billion dollars from the Petroleum Fund, after the substantial expenditures of the four state budgets approved by this Parliament, the STATE OF THE NATION has not significantly improved.

I am not diminishing the successes of the country; quite the contrary:

  • I heartily salute the citizens and all leaders who, with political maturity and the profound wisdom of experience, contributed to the achievement of peace and reconciliation;
  • I salute all who contributed to create and consolidate the new institutions of our independent state, and all who, in 2001, 2007 and 2012, repeatedly reinforced the stability, the democracy, the security of the community and the peace of the country.

I salute the achievements of the country and of our people in the process of affirmation of the State and in the country’s successful integration in the international community.

I salute the farmers, the workers from the industry, trade, and tourism sectors, as well as from other private economy sectors, who produce and survive in an economy that is ill-founded.

I salute the entrepreneurs who invest in the development of the economy and the country and in the creation of jobs.

I salute the State officials, in Dili and in the decentralised services, who started to take the services of the State to the municipalities. Their work is very important to improve the quality of the public services’ performance.

As I was saying, I am not diminishing our successes. I am proud of what we achieved.

But, as the President of the Republic and as a citizen, I also have the duty to draw attention to the deficiencies, especially when they endanger the achievement of a better future for the country.

The generational replacement in a complex organisation is done when the new generation governs based on its own authority.

Our country is not yet at that stage. The new generation is not yet governing, or at least not on its own authority.

This is the explanation for the standstill in which the country finds itself—the paralysis of development—in which the country has been for several years, especially during the current legislature, 2012-2017.

Timor-Leste was blessed with historical leaders who had the capacity to unite the country and helped the people have confidence in themselves.

Together, we achieved some of our objectives, earning the admiration and respect of the world. The independence and construction of the State with the rule of law, with respect for the dignity of all Timorese people was the first chapter of our national aspirations.

But our national project does not end with the independence. The goal of the Timorese nation was always to vanquish the humiliation of poverty and build a better life for us all.

The historical leaders carried out the first part of the national desire with great capacity. The leaders, especially the ones from the older generation, achieved what they strived for. Our historical leaders have our utmost respect.

But the second part of our national objectives requires new motivation and a fresh look. It is important to pool efforts and foster the mobilisation and greater involvement of young people. Our country needs to value the national resources and its people: by including them in the economy and the national development process.

Independence must be used as a powerful instrument of citizen participation to end poverty and develop this land. The achievement of a country with more well-being for all is a job for the new generations.

It takes courage to know when to make way for the young. Education and training must become more focussed on addressing the needs of companies and on the implementation of an economy of knowledge, more productive and more competitive.

Timorese teachers also deserve better working conditions, and the students deserve better quality of education.

Solid preparation and greater mobility of Timorese human resources will do more for the future of the country, and may attract more internal and external investment, than many underused infrastructures.

Infrastructure works continue to be necessary, but we must waste less money and increase the investment in quality work.

We need to listen to the local populations so that the development of the sucos and villages can be achieved with the participation—and strong commitment—of the people, and thereby achieve better returns from the use State Budget’s investment capital.

We need to help families improve the economy, stimulating the initiative of household economy practices, instead of having the police stomp on the initiatives of those who want to work and increase their income and the income of their families.

We must give renewed priority to the empowerment of women in our society. Women have an essential role in the promotion of education, health and household economy. We must work more actively to ensure that the dignity of women is respected in society, as much as the dignity of men.

State and society must work together and create better conditions for the women of Timor-Leste to feel self-confident and perform a more active role, in all aspects, in the development of the nation.

We have to end all attempts by political parties to take advantage of the national institutions. The parties are very important for the good functioning of democracy: to monitor the activity of the Government through this National Parliament, as provided for by the Constitution, to help mobilise the citizens to participate in the construction of the economy and in the consolidation of the institutions.

The State institutions are separate from the political parties because the State exists to serve all citizens. The State institutions do not exist to serve the desires of the parties. They exist to realise the independence, ensure nation sovereignty, and provide quality services to all citizens.

Public administration is strengthened and consolidated through the competence and quality of its services.

Our State is the result of the people’s victory. Our future as a country will be the result of the commitment and participation of the citizens, so that together we may build a better life for all.

Thank you all for your attention.

May God bless you all and continue to bless the beloved land of Timor-Leste.

 

[1] I will never forget the case of a very old grandmother, from Quelicai, who died poor and alone; and the situation of this very poor old lady draws our attention to thousands upon thousands of poor Timorese people who persist in many of our country’s sucos.

[2] 24% of gross domestic product (GDP).

[3] In 2015, the country imported US$580 million and exported US$16 million.

[4] The Petroleum Fund finances almost 90% of the revenues in the State Budget.

[5] Oil-based gross domestic product (oil GDP) dropped 27.8% between 2013 and 2014.

[6] With unemployment rates between 12 and 15%.