delivered at the Opening of the Extractive Industries Transparence Initiative Conference, Dili, 25 August, 2012. 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends.

Thank you for being here with us today. It is a honor to host so distinguished guests. A special word of welcome for DR. Sri Mulyani. Her keynote address enriched us all. Transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of democratic government and I look forward to the debate and contributions of this conference on Timor-Leste transparency model. I wish you a pleasant stay.

You come to Timor-Leste at a particular exciting time and for this, too, I think, this conference is aptly named Beyond EITI. Just two months ago Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão launched the National Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030. Next year, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Restauration of our hard won Independence, Timor-Leste will hold scheduled Presidential and Legislative elections, after which the current UN mission in our country will end.

We look forward to develop our economy and improve the welfare of our people in an atmosphere of stability and peace as we feel that our country has come a long way in a fairly short time, from a post-conflit society emerging from fragility to the demanding tasks of building solid institutions and effective public services.

Thus, it is a reason for celebration that we were granted compliance status by the board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Iniciative on July last year. At the time, we were only the third country in the world to have been granted that status and we felt particularly pleased for acceding EITI because for us transparency matters.

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste was born out of the blood and sweat of our people and we honour their sacrifices by being transparent and accountable in the service of the Nation. Transparency and good governance are always a work in progress in any country – and more so in our Nation emerging from a long drawn out conflict.

We are in the process of establish solid state institutions and financial system. Despite the well meaning expectations of some of our friends in countries with well established public institutions, the truth is that we must walk before we can run. But make no mistake, we can also sprint as we proudly found out in the Dili Marathon when our compatriot Ms. Juventina Napoleão became the first woman athlete to cross the finishing line.

I am confident that a little creativity and innovation and a fair shsre of hard work will help us overcome the challenges we face. Concrete steps like Timor-Leste Transparency Portal or tomorrow’s Procurement Portal come to my mind as they can be considered ultimate tools in the pursuit of transparency.

We see EITI all along as a cornerstone of our institutional framework to ensure transparency. We are commited to proper management and safeguard of our natural resource wealth. I recall with pride that the work on EITI started with enthusiasm by the previous FRETILIN government and has continued with excellence and diligence under the current AMP government… even as the two of them often say they are never in agreement…

But the celebration of EITI compliance is also important because we recognise the principle that the country’s natural resource wealth belongs to the Timorese people. Our State and society are united on the principle of Transparency of the state wealth.

Colonised for centuries and occupied for 24 years, we understand the value of ownership and one does not have to look far to be aware of the powerful role that oil, gas and other natural resource wealth play in geo-politics. The government is the steward of our national wealth and sees that it is used for the good of our people. I would say that EITI whilst covering only the start of the process has afforded us the best of beginings.

Finally, the recognition of EITI compliance has been for us a cause of celebration because the use of our natural resources wealth will have a strong bearing on the shaping of the country’s future.

Back in 1999, we received a country in ruins, our national infrastructure destroyed, the fabric of our society, as a crafty wooven tais, was deeply torn. We start rebuilding from the wreckage and rubble, our hearts heavy with sadness as much as quickened by hope.

In 2011, Timor-Leste is on a trajectory to development as highlighted by social and economic indicators. As some of you may have noticed, the recently released UNDP Human Development Report accords Timor-Leste a Human Development Index for 2010 that jumped to the value of 0.502, placing our country in the medium human development category. In 2005, Timor-Leste’s Human Development Index was 0.428, and at independence was 0.375.

Since 2005, life expectancy at birth in Timor-Leste increased by more than two years and now averages 62.1 years. Average annual growth has exceeded 10 percent for the last four years and real non-Oil GDP growth remain strong as we speak. According to forecasts by The Economist, Timor-Leste is among the nine fastest growing economies of the world in 2011.

School enrolment jumped from a modest 63 per cent in 2006 to 90 per cent now for basic Education, according to the 2010 National Census. More than 100,000 adults have also graduated from illiteracy to functioning literacy in the last couple of years. Illiteracy will be eliminated by 2015.

Infant mortality and child mortality under five, as well as post-birth mother mortality, have been halved. Incidences of malaria, dengue and poverty have decreased significantly in the last four years. With less than one case of leprosy per 10,000 people, Timor-Leste is now considered by the WHO to be free from this centuries-old disease.

As we feel proud of our achievements thus far we are mindful that we have a long way ahead of us.

Poverty has seen significant reduction as its prevalence declined from 49% in 2007 to 41% two years later according to estimates by the World Bank. But this means poverty is still high and remains a major challenge.

Like most of our g7+ colleagues it is unlikely that we will meet all our Millenium Development Goals. The g7+ is now leading the international community towards a recognition that key Peacebuilding and Statebuilding goals are necessary conditions to achieve the MDGs.

Our good economic growth figures are still primarily driven by Government spending and in time this has to give way to solid growth driven by a strong, sustainable private sector.

Timor-Leste’s National Development Plan establishes the priorities for major investments required to fully rebuild our infrastructure and develop capabilities and training of our human resources and, in the short term, these investments will have to be funded primarily from the Petroleum Fund. The effective and transparent use of the fund is, thus, critical to continue to move us along the development path.

The granting of compliance status by EITI was an occasion to celebrate within a journey that continues day by day.

Ladies and Gentlemen: may we also celebrate this particular occasion – the first Asia Pacific Regional Conference of the EITI. Timor-Leste is commited to being a good regional partner and this first conference in our capital city, Dili, is a symbol of our pursuit of transparency and accountability on the path to improving the welfare of our people and also a token of our willingness to learn from each other’s experiences.

I have always been known to be outspoken and specially so on matters concerning the opressed and the vulnerable. The g7+ group that Timor-Leste is now chairing represents 350 millions of the most vulnerable citizens on the globe, living in fragile, conflict affected states, many of which are resources rich. The EITI partners – governments, enterprises, civil society non-profit organizations and international global institutions – all stakeholders engaged in the natural resources industry, we must change the ways we do business, both to ensure the better possible deal for our peoples and a sustainable development that doesn’t exclude anyone. We cannot change the past but we can certainly change the future for the better and, inspired by our female marathon winner Juventina, I suggest that towards our common goals we sprint on our way to a better development path!

Thank you very much.