The Donors such as AusAID, and others have begin to step on the brake on providing assistance to the most famous project in Timor-Leste. PDT has begun to get serious illness in funding and will cease its activities while the local businesses were groaning because of losing a guide in the rural marketplace.
On Friday afternoon, the Tempo Semanal received a press release from Peace dividend Trust stating, “effective 1 July 2010 the Peace Dividend Marketplace project, and the "Buy Local, Build Timor-Leste" campaign operated by the Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) will begin to phase out due to a lack of funding. Based on the observation, this project is a good one and, “have successfully redirected over $16 million to Timorese entrepreneurs, PDT will regrettably cease the activities later in the year unless additional donor support can be found.”
“AusAID and other donor organizations were most likely to spend money in the town by paying high salary to their people who worked as advisers, although often with no result, rather than to cooperate with NGOs which are working closely with the Timorese in the rural areas, said Antonino d. C. P. Ximenes, a student of UNTL.
“The donors always said that they wanted to help reduce poverty in Timor-Leste, while the NGOs which have made good contribution only received limited funding from AusAID and USAID. I have the suspicions that the Australians in Dili do not want this country to get better so that they can use as a project for its advisers,” said the student of the faculty of economy.
This suspicion might be true because within the last decade, the Australian government has spent A$820 million in grant and according to the plan, they will increase the amount for poverty reduction fund by A$600 from the Australians for the next five years in Timor-Leste.
In relation to the ineffective spending of money from the Australian aid to Timor-Leste, President Horta will speak with PM Kevin Rudd to ask his people in Dili to increase their productivity because there has been more spending but the people are still poor. It shall mirror from what the Chinese government has done. They have only spent a small amount of money but have constructed many new buildings. “I will speak with PM Kevin Rudd within next month when I pay a visit to Australia and will ask him to spend more money into projects which will give intensive work in Timor-Leste such as to make construction of the roads in the rural areas, agriculture, reforestation as well as improving the education in the rural areas by rebuilding the schools, which often being forgotten. Build health clinics, community centers, water and sanitation. I will also ask him to reduce technical assistance (advisers) because there has been lots of money being spent by AusAID to pay for advisers.”
The President wanted to see Australia, “to use more of its donation to the physical and concrete projects in this country to create more job opportunities and generating income for the people of Timor Leste.
Based on the report of The Daily Telegraph on 23/05/2010 that the Australian funding has been ineffectively allocated to pay for the consultants’ mega-salary and contracts which enrich private companies, such as in Dili, people are suspicious of GRM and said that AusAID has paid an adviser, Gerald Gahima, who is the former Rwandan Minister of Justice. “Beginning February 2008, he worked as a senior adviser for the justice sector in Timor-Leste for two years and was tax-free while his salary was paid by the tax-payers in Australia in a total amount of US$757,960,” published in the Australian newspaper.
In 2009, AusAID Dili received a funding allocation of $117 million, however, either with the lack of capacity in execution or of no good intention, AusAID Dili can only spend $94 million and the remaining was handed back to Canberra, meanwhile PDT and other organizations which are in need, were lack of funding and starts floating.
PDT informed, “Since its launch of operation in 2007, the PDT team in Timor-Leste has accelerated over $16 million ($16,463,294.21) of confirmed new spending to Timorese entrepreneurs. The estimated result is as high as $23 million ($23,060,000). PDT has facilitated more than 10,000 contracts through its matchmaking services with a total value of nearly $8 million. Of these nearly $7 million were directed into economically disadvantaged rural areas. The annual economic impact of the project is comparable to 0.41% of GDP in 2007; 1.51% in 2008, and 0.91% in 2009.”
The money from the donor countries are to support the people of Timor-Leste, however it is often only mentioned in number while the actual money remains in Canberra, Washington and London. “This project was launched to address the critical problem that only a small fraction of international money being spent to support Timor-Leste is actually spent on Timorese businesses. The vast majority goes to international companies and consultants. The Marketplace project fixes this by providing services that help drive donor spending into the local economy, which in turn generates wealth, creates jobs, and produces tax revenue,” said in the PDT statement.
PDT has provided five services to connect international buyers with Timorese suppliers.
Presently the project’s Business Verification team, in cooperation with the MTCI, has verified 2,700 businesses in Timor-Leste, and each has a unique business profile found at BuildingMarkets.org. The Timor-Leste site is due for an upgrade to a full Timor-Leste Business Portal in the next 3-4 weeks. This team has also generated key reports on the state of the private sector and the labour market in Timor-Leste, found here. Since its launch on 20 May 2008, Timor-Leste at BuildingMarkets.org has had 20,000 visits with business profiles being viewed 98,000 times.
“The project Matchmaking Team pro actively connects international and national buyers and domestic suppliers across the country. To date the Matchmaking Team has facilitated or created over 14,000 business transactions with a confirmed value of $8 million.”
“The Tender Distribution Service (TDS) pushes tenders via email, the web, SMS and hardcopy to businesses in Timor-Leste. It has provided support services to businesses in developing their bids. To date the TDS has distributed 496 tenders to 23,000 recipients (many repeat clients). The value of tenders won by PDT clients is over $8,000,000.”
Francisco de Asis, the second person in-charge of the Raflima Company which buys cattle in Covalima district to export to Indonesia, expressed his sadness and requested the donors to extend the life of this organization.
The company has officially started its activity in 2006. Either in July or August 2006, the Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) begins to provide them with information. “At that time, some PDT staff members have helped us with information regarding the cattle in some areas which we have not reached. We often only goes to the places that are nearby but they helped us by extending our coverage.” Fransisco de Asis told this newspaper on Friday (04/06).
He added, “There are some places that we did not cover in our search of cows that generates profit. However, they reached these places and collect the information which then we use to find the cattle we looked for. Since then, we have been a good partner.”
Just recently they are going to help us again. PDT will zinc for roofing and timber. That’s why we are so pleased with the assistance from PDT.
“But then we heard that PDT is going to be closed. This means that you (the donors and Government) are going to destroy the cooperation which we have created in order to build this country.”
“We are now working together with PDT. They often help provide information from other districts such as Same and Manatuto because they have staffs in every place that collects information for us. We often buy cows based on the information they provided. “
Indeed, if PDT is to close its operation, this entrepreneur from Suai feels like he has lost his other ear. “If PDT phase out, it will give a huge impact to our businesses because we will lose our source of marketplace information.”
Fransisco hoped that PDT will get a kind support so that it will remains operating in order to help creating linkages between them and the local products in the rural areas which they can buy and sell in the marketplace. “To an extent possible, we want them to exist because they have helped connect us with the products from the people in the villages and hamlets. They worked from door to door. Whenever they found the local products such cattle, candlenut or other products, they will quickly pass on the information to us and then we will buy it our self.”
We often could not reach all villages and the places that are distant. They are the one who have searched for the information and passing it on to us. According to Fransisco, whom, with the assistance of PDT, has been able to export cattle from Suai to Batam in Indonesia, since the 2006 crisis to date, he already forgot the total number of cattle collected with the information support from PDT. In one time the number of cattle was from two to three hundred per export. “We have just exported 190 cows.”
“We are satisfied with the information from PDT because it helps generate more income to our company,” Francisco ended.
The NGO’s Marketing and Advocacy Team manages the Buy Local Build Timor-Leste campaign, which creates awareness and knowledge about the project and the domestic private sector in general.”
PDT’s training activities were suspended in 2008 due to lack of funding, but 2008 saw PDT launch "Doing Business with UNDP" guidebooks in 2008, designed to assist local business win tenders with UNDP.”
Agusto Pinto, the director of Olobai Star carpentry in Viqueque feels sad with the situation PDT is facing. “There has been some times where we have lack of information on the market. However, the presence of PDT has generated income to us because they have helped linking us with the buyers in other places,” Agusto informed Tempo Semanal on Friday (04/06).
“For us, PDT is like a bridge. When the bridge is broken, we will be in the other side of the river while our clients were in the other end. So, we still need its assistance. Therefore we would like to ask the donors to help them so that they can help us delivering service to the poor. Since we are isolated and having lack of access to information, we have been able to sell our product with the assistance of PDT.”
“PDT is our voice by providing information to the clients. When we produced chairs, they are the one who helped us finding the market for the products and, at least, we earned some money from this.”
Agusto acknowledged that they have not had enough experience therefore he requested PDT to, “keep assisting us because we are still unable to stand alone in selling our goods in order to gain benefit.”
The director of the company which supplies chairs to Dili, including to some state institutions, made an appeal to the Government and the donors to support this organization which have acted as their eyes, arms and ears.“I would like to make an appeal to the Government and the donors, which have provided funding to PDT, to prolong their assistance. We have learned a little bit. We will get the impact if suddenly they were closed, especially for us to be connected with the buyers. All these are a process which takes time. Moreover it has internet connection and the channels or staffs which have been with us to go through all these progress.”
Alfredo Malibere, the coordinator of Hametin Estadu group from Bobonaro, has also expressed his dissatisfaction with the donors’ attitude for not giving importance to the good service delivered by an NGO. However, they are more likely to give assistance to the people who are only sitting in Dili and writing reports.
Meanwhile in Bobonaro, Justinho Luis from Loko Jaya Ltd. whose business activity involves buying cattle from Manatuto, Viqueque and Maliana to export to Indonesia via Mota-Ain border, said that his company still needs the assistance from PDT because he is currently processing his document in order to get permission from Indonesia to allow him exporting these cattle to Indonesia. “PDT is still assisting us and that we can move forward with their assistance. We will get stuck if they are closed,” Justinho expressed his sadness.
The President of the Republic, DR. Jose Ramos Horta who have gave his support to the NGO since 2009, expressed his sadness to this newspaper. “I am so upset with the donors who do not really provide their support to the work done by Peace Dividend Trust. If they (donors) often talked about supporting the local businesses, one of the ways is by connecting them with both the suppliers and buyers.”
The President of the Poor is so concerned with the children of the poor who will lose their job, therefore, on 06/07/2009 he recommended the donors to give more support to the PDT in its Matchmaking project in order to connect the businesses in the rural areas with those in the city and abroad, once again expressed his dissatisfaction with the donors’ work. “I am worried with the donors’ attitude which does not really supporting the work of the Peace Dividend Trust. If they often talked about supporting the local business, one of the ways to support them is by connecting them with the suppliers and buyers, “said Horta.
I am totally disappointed with some donors who does not show their firmness in providing support to Peace Dividend Trust as because it is an ONG which provide assistance to the development of local business and help them create links for buyers and suppliers, in particular to the small businesses in the rural areas who does not have information on the marketplace in Dili as well as the international marketplace. I am already discontent because the donors who often said to assist the local economy and support the private sector development withdraws from funding an NGO which actually has worked very well in developing the capacity of the small entrepreneurs. This really makes me surprised and discontented,” said Ramos Horta.
Nevertheless, Ms. Ali Gillies, the officer in-charge of AusAID Dili said that they will continue to support the project only by establishing the Business Directory. This shows that they are not listening and not supporting the concerns raised by President Horta regarding the Matchmaking which will give direct benefit to the businesses in the rural areas to help reduce poverty in Timor-Leste.
She said that AusAID has provided funding for three years with a total amount of A$2.63 million to promote business opportunities for the local suppliers. “We are glad that our support to the PDT has been successful in the development of local business directory and have facilitated many business transactions as a form of contribution to the private sector development in Timor-Leste,” said Ms. Ali diplomatically.
When questioned why shall reduce funding to other parts of the project, diplomatically Ali Gillies tried again to convince Tempo Semanal that PDT may be able get another funding as it has announced to reduce the number of staff by the end of July. Let’s see if AusAID will continue its support to PDT before July.
PDT works across Timor-Leste's 13 districts, assisting over 2,700 businesses, the Ministry of Tourism Commerce and Industry (MTCI) and other national partners. They stand to lose a useful service when the Marketplace project closes in July 2010.
The Peace Dividend Marketplace Timor-Leste project was launched in August 2007. It has field offices in Baucau, Covalima, and Viqueque and works with local businesses in each of Timor-Leste's 12 rural districts in addition to Dili.
PDT is grateful to the Ministry of Tourism Commerce and Industry (MTCI) for its partnership to date, and to its donors, AusAID, the Government of Norway, Eni, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and the Arsenault Family Foundation.