Poor People in Comoro Disappointed with President Horta’s Promise to Eradicate Poverty

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Asia Calling

November 17th, 2007 by Saul Amaral

After seven years of independence, Timor Leste is still the poorest country in Asia and the 27th most impoverished country in the world.
According to the 2007 Timor National Media Survey 82 percent of the population is still living in poverty.

To address this, President Ramos Horta is implementing a two hundred million US dollar program to reduce poverty and create educational opportunities for the unemployed.

Saul Salvador di Dilli finds out more.

I am here in Comoro District, Dili. The situation is daunting. Children do not go to school while most locals live on low incomes.

Like Miguel dos Santos aged 45 who only earns 25-30 USD a month.

He does not have a permanent job and is now a farmer. He says he’s struggling to make ends meet.

“I don’t have a job. I am a farmer right now and I’m suffering. Sometimes there’s no food and I live in a shack. Sometimes I don’t have a daily income. I think we spend 50 cents to a dollar day just to buy food. I get my money from selling cassava, flowers and corn that I grow in my garden.”

Other locals are also unhappy with the current situation.

Like 21 year old Agusto dos Santos.

He says he’s disappointed with President Ramos Horta, because he hasn’t fulfilled his promise to reduce poverty.

“As a young man and student, I feel sad and unhappy with what the president promised us before. They’re just empty promises.”

However President Horta says rebuilding Timor Leste’s struggling economy will take time.

He is implementing a 250 million US program that he claims with alleviate poverty.

Joao Zacarias Freitas Soares is the president’s special advisor on youth issues.

“The priority is that we provide clean drinking water for everyone, we build more schools that have chairs and tables particularly in rural areas. This is not aid for individuals but infrastructure building that we work to alleviate poverty in the long term.”

Some Fretilin parliamentarians, however, are concern that such a large project is being handled by the President not the government.

Joaquin Amaral argues it a bad sign for the separation of power.

“We can only hand a budget for a project to the government and not to the president. If we want to talk about how effective this program will be, there must be schemes or objectives. This fund has no objective and it’s difficult for us to measure its success.”

Un swayed by Fretilin’s opposition to the program the parliament approved the project and it’s going ahead.

“The parliamentarians from Fretilin do not want the president to help the poor people. My concern is that this country weak and new, let us make a contribution to decrease the poverty in this country.”

Joao Zacarias Freitas Soares says they will accept funding proposals from communities.

He claims the end poverty project will address young and old people as well as orphans.

“Our mechanism directly not divide the subsidy for them but we give the material which according to the their proposal which they submitted for us, and about this program not look for ages but including Youth, old people and also, for kids which their mother and father no power and very poor.”

He claims the end poverty project will address young and old people as well as orphans.

Meanwhile back in Commoro District, Maria Carvalho aged 32 says, they are still struggling to get by each day.

“There is not enough food and beverage, clothes and children can not go to school. It is hard life.”

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