East Timor / Timor-Leste comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor and was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century, they invested little and withdrew in 1975 but Indonesia invaded within days of the Timorese declaration of independence. International pressure increased and finally persuaded Indonesia to allow an independence referendum in 1999. The Timorese suffered some of the worst atrocities of modern times, 100,000 people died as a result of Indonesia’s 25 year occupation.
East Timor became independent in 2002.
East Timor is one of the world’s poorest nations, 40% of the country’s population lives below the international poverty line (living on less than $1.25 per day) and about 50% of the population is illiterate. It continues to suffer the after-effects of a decades-long struggle for independence.
I didn’t spend long here but felt the poverty everywhere, riding through the countryside the only houses were wooden and the lifestyle felt ancient. In Dili, the capital the modern commercial businesses there seem to offer goods and services to support the many NGO’s and the businesses in run down / old wooden shacks support the local community.
The main road through Dili is busy with very old taxis which have long since fulfilled there use in Singapore and been sent here to see out the remainder of there life, they are held together with tape and stickers to cover up the damage.
I question whether the way NGO’s spend their money is the most effective way. Help and support offered to people that need it is good but I was shocked at how many new fully equipped Toyota Landcrusers were travelling the short distance between air conditioned offices and the new shopping mall where a variety of trendy cafes offer ‘Skinny Latte & Cheesecake’.
The Timorese people are very friendly and have wonderful smiles, they seem relaxed, laid back and in no hurry to progress into what we in the west would describe as a country progressing. There’s a lot of sitting around, laughing and chilling out. Come and spend your money here and support this wonderful country that needs all the investment it can get.