Speech of H.E. Rui Augusto Gomes, Minister of Finance
Timor-Leste and Development Partners (Ambassadors) Meeting
Dili, 30 April 2021
Excellences, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of State Administration, Secretaries of State, the UN Resident Coordinator, Ambassadors, good afternoon and welcome to you all.
Last time we spoke was nearly three weeks ago, at the time, the full picture of the devastation caused by the heavy rains and cyclone Seroja was not clear. Although data and assessments are still being conducted as we speak, the picture is becoming increasingly clear. This afternoon my colleague the Secretary State for Civil Protection will be providing us all with the most up to date information on the damage caused by the flooding, but so far, we estimate that nearly $245 million will be required for repairs to public infrastructure, nearly 5,000 homes have been destroyed, roughly 20,000 people have been displaced, and 41 people lost their lives.
To make matters worse, we are experiencing the first outbreak of Covid-19, leading the Government to declare another lockdown that is effective from today until the next two weeks.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a critical moment in Timor-Leste that will require swift action, support, and mobilization of resource. As you may be aware, the budget rectification has been approved in Parliament, unlocking nearly $55 million to help support our most vulnerable citizens. This will provide employment support, continue the credit moratorium, support students, provide additional resources to front line workers, increase funding for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation, and provide funding for the purchasing and distribution of foods.
The proposal to rectify the budget was developed and presented to Parliament on 30th March, so there was no way to change it. It is now in the hands of H.E. the President of the Republic for promulgation.
The Government of Timor-Leste has counted on the support of our development partners in the past and we hope to count on your support during this time of need. So far, we have been fortunate and grateful recipients of your generosity, nearly $10 million of additional funding has been mobilized. For instance, Australia pledged an additional $5.3 million to support our response efforts while redirecting much of its existing funding; New Zealand has pledged $1.8 million; meanwhile the ADB has signed a MoU with the Government of Timor-Leste for $1 million grant through its Japan-funded Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund.
We are eternally grateful for this and the other support that we have received from our development partners, not to mention the outpouring of goodwill that we have witnessed from private citizens in Timor-Leste and those across the world who hold a place in their heart for our people and our country.
We look forward to learning more about how the international community has and will continue to support our recovery efforts. To this end, the Honorable Ambassador of New Zealand, Phillip Hewitt, will present us with an overview of the response from the international community.
In addition, we are pleased to announce that we are working across Government institutions and with the United Nations to develop a Flood Response Plan that will include a concrete appeal to mobilize additional funding. Over the next weeks we will be coordinating with Government and our humanitarian partners to develop a consensus on what is most urgently needed over the course of the next 6 months for our recovery.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now entering the second phase of our humanitarian response and it is important that we plan accordingly, make the best use of our resources in the interest of time, and not lose sight of the urgency of our situation. Many of our affected people are still without a home, water borne illnesses will begin to increase, and COVID-19 is spreading within our communities faster than ever – not to mention that Covid-19 spread is now classified as Community Transmission according to WHO.
This is indeed a difficult time, but as long as we work together there is very little we cannot accomplish. Once more, on behalf of the Government of Timor-Leste and its people, I thank you all for your generous support during these trying times.