The UNDP official in East Timor considered today that the investments that the Timorese Government has made have not given priority to the fight against poverty, which affects almost half of the population, being essential to implement the announced policies.
“Timor-Leste has only 1.3 million inhabitants and when we see the type of investment that has been spent, we would think that people should be in more comfortable conditions. But that hasn’t happened yet, ”Munkhtuya Altangerel, the head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Timor-Leste, told Lusa.
“We need, the international community and the Government, to have an honest conversation, and not just to get around the issue. This requires trust between the international community and the Government ”, he considered.
In an interview with Lusa, Munkhtuya Altangerel analyzed the context of East Timor’s development, at a time when, despite a large public investment in the last two decades, the country continues to maintain high poverty indicators.
“Yes, investment is needed. When we look at how the state budget is allocated, we do not see that this type of investment is taking priority ”, he said.
“In the economic policy that the Government has developed, we see that money and resources must be directed to people. This is a good commitment, but in terms of ensuring that this commitment translates into money and concrete actions, much more needs to be done ”, he maintained.
Altangerel considers that “after 20 years of work” it is “unacceptable” for East Timor to continue to have 46% of its population living in multidimensional poverty, the highest figure in Southeast Asia.
“In this sense, it would be very important for the next 5 to 10 years to recover better, but recover with a human face. The recovery plan should focus on people who need to be lifted out of poverty. A green recovery, with green and sustainable jobs, ”he said.
As an example, it highlights the need to invest in young people, the vast majority of the Timorese population, with initiatives that stimulate micro-enterprises and help the future generation to reach their potential.
“In East Timor, only 38% of the potential of young people is being reached. And the rest? East Timor does not want to be the country that uses only 38% of its human capital. That is why it is essential to invest in young people and ensure that they have decent work opportunities ”, he emphasized.
The PNU official considers that “poverty reduction must be the main objective”, betting on sectors such as agricultural and rural development “, something crucial to advance in the” food sovereignty of the country “.
“We don’t know what will happen to the food supply network. With climate change we have to look at internal supply systems. This is urgent, ”he said.
Improving the water system, so that the population has access to water, sanitation and climate resilience and adaptation are other priorities, along with the consolidation of democratic processes and government stability.
“The time to act was yesterday. With each passing year we are losing opportunities to create these foundations, these bases ”, he said.
“The excessive politicization of everything is very bad in the current environment, because East Timor has to take a position vis-à-vis the international community and neighbors, decide whether it wants to be a beacon of light or a country of chaos,” he said.
With the Petroleum Fund’s “mattress” still feeding the nation, he said, the country must take advantage of the opportunities available and the “Government and partners have to prioritize some areas and then keep going, instead of doing 10,000 things ”.
Altangerel gives as an example the increasingly regular floods or other climatic impacts with high costs in terms of public infrastructure and in the lives of thousands of families, as occurred in the floods in Dili in March.
Situations, he notes, in which the efforts and money spent on recovery and emergency, “could have been spent and applied earlier, with measures of adaptation and climate resilience”, one of the most UNDP intervention.
“This requires planning and effort in the dry months. But we see that this does not occur in a structured way and that is why we have floods and many damaged infrastructure and affected families ”, he noted.
In this context, Altangerel highlights the recently signed project supported by the Green Climate Fund – with a contribution of US $ 22 million from UNDP and US $ 36 million from the Government – to improve environmental resilience in the country.
The project, he explained, focuses on initiatives to improve responsiveness in 130 communities in six municipalities vulnerable to climate change, using bioengineering to better protect public infrastructure and private goods.
“It is about identifying community assets, water, sanitation, social equipment, roads and bridges and carrying out an action to improve the climate, with bioengineering solutions”, he explained.
“We reinforce the existing infrastructure or build infrastructure to ensure that communities are protected from regular weather events,” he said.
Altangerel argues that, in this process, it is essential to ensure that projects are implemented using existing programs and structures, which also goes through the decentralization process.
“We have to ask ourselves why we are investing millions in recovery when that money can be spent on prevention,” he noted.
“For a country like East Timor, adaptation and resilience to the climate must be the main task. Without that, lives will be at risk, we may have more diseases and it is difficult to guarantee the functioning of the rest, health, education ”, he said.
The UNDP official also considers that, in this matter, less complacency from the Government is beginning to be noticed, with a desire to correct this issue, which, she explained, involves strengthening local institutions.
“There are regions that are tired of asking for emergency responses and want to act. Achieve fiscal decentralization to allow governments to have local budgets, ”he said.
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