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2018 Timor-Leste Update: At the crossroads?

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Hedley Bull Building

Fellows Road

Acton, ACT 2601

Australia

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Full event details on the ANU website.

Timor-Leste goes to the polls on 12 May to elect a new parliament, only 10 months since its last parliamentary elections. In the wake of those elections, the cooperative relationship between the parties that had characterised the previous parliamentary term broke down, the minority government that took office two months after the election failed to win parliamentary support for its five year program and supplementary budget, and parliament was dissolved on 26 January after months of political wrangling. The Update coincides with the anticipated installation of a new parliament and formation of a new government.

Whichever party, coalition or alliance forms the next government, it will confront pressing policy challenges. Recent reports from the IMF and the World Bank warn of the risk of a downstream ‘fiscal cliff’ and call for bold fiscal and structural reforms. Existing petroleum revenues are depleting, and prospective revenue from new developments is many years into the future. Options for significantly curtailing public spending are daunting, with large segments of the population – veterans, the elderly, vulnerable women and the large public sector – dependent on public outlays and nationalistic sentiment driving expansive infrastructure development. While a swollen cohort of young people struggles to find employment in a labour market unable to absorb them, much of the population is still dependent on subsistence farming and undernutrition rates are amongst the highest globally. The hard-won stability underwritten by a generous peace dividend could be jeopardised should the population see their prospects narrow, leaving the new government caught between the opposing forces of fiscal rectitude and social harmony.

The 2018 Timor-Leste Update will focus on future directions for Timor-Leste across the political, economic and societal domains. It will address such questions as: has the political landscape shifted fundamentally over the last year; what are the prospects for the development of the non-oil economy and the agrarian sector in particular; and what kind of social contract is emerging in Timor-Leste and what does this mean for prospective stability? In a final session, the Update will also reflect on the signal event of the signing of the Maritime Boundaries Treaty which has been hailed by both states as marking “the beginning of a new era in the relationship between the two neighbours”.

The full conference program will be posted in late April.


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Hedley Bull Building

Fellows Road

Acton, ACT 2601

Australia

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