Speech: Comment on “Major Choices” Plan and Rectified Budget for 2023

Jun 12, 2022 | Presidency, Speeches


Nicolau Lobato Presidential Palace, Dili, 13 June 2022

Today I have promulgated the law on the Major Choices Plan for 2023. This law is an indicative plan for the priorities of the current government and its respective budget projections from 2023 onwards. This means that it is no immediate impact on the current financial stability of the country.

The Government states in the law that this Plan is aimed at achieving the objectives set out in the Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030.

Depending on the priorities of any future Government, this plan can be amended at any time to reflect those same priorities.
According the to the law it is the function of the Government to set policy. The President may advise the Government and express opinions, public or private, on any policy that is in the public domain, but it is the role of Parliament and the Government to develop and implement public policies in our democratic system.

The President has the duty to act as one of the guardians of the Constitution, as the protector of our democracy and the Rule of Law, and to ensure, within the limits of the law, respect and compliance with constitutional rules.

In promulgating this law I wish to make it clear that there are aspects of the Government’s plan that I am not fully comfortable with.

Of the total planned budget of $3,155,715,306 for 2023, $1,000,000,000 has been allocated for the establishment of the National Veterans’ Fund. I fear that this allocation of funding is not equitable or proportionate. Perhaps a more detailed explanation of the strategy for the application of this Fund would reassure our society and myself.

There is no doubt that the veterans have rendered a priceless service to our country. We would not be here today without them. But this does not mean that the budgetary allocation to them in the recent Rectfied Budget is appropriate to achieve what the Government sets out to do in reducing the levels of poverty that currently exist in our country.

Providing 90% of the total Rectified Budget to assist 1.75% of the total population on its face does not appear fair and equitable to me. Nor does it seem adapted to achieve the stated goal of assisting those members of the population who have been, and are being daily, affected the hardest by the effects of natural disasters and the current global economic situation. I believe that it is precisely helping these people that this allocation should be focused upon, and not only on a
specific group of citizens, regardless of their historical importance.

I am sure that because of their patriotism and the role they have historically played in the fight for our independence and for a free and developed Timor-Leste, they will understand these concerns. Especially, when what may be at stake, besides social equality issues, is the economic and financial sustainability of this country they love and have fought so hard for.

For these reasons, I intend to ask the Court of Appeal to review the law on the Rectifying Budget. This is is a part of the democratic process of ensuring the normal and healthy functioning of the country’s institutions.

By appealing laws, that raise doubts, to be considered in an impartial manner, by judges of the Court of Appeal, is one of the ways provided for that enables the President to perform his function as guarantor of constitutional legality. The Court of
Appeal has the exclusive competence to decide on the constitutionality of laws.

If, in its assessment, the Court of Appeal considers that there are constitutional irregularitiesregarding this allocation of funds, this will necessarily require an amendment to the 2023 Major Choices Plan, and therefore I have no objection to its enactment.

Jose Ramos – Horta
President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste