The world's youngest nation, the offspring of surly parents Indonesia and Portugal
and delivered by a proud Australia midwife, celebrates 100 days of
However after the rape of the nation, the bloody birth, the celebrations, and
then the sudden withdrawal of the United Nations groups, they are now simply
languishing in poverty.
One of the major problem is that the fledgling nation decided to adopt Portuguese as
the national language - a language which hardly anyone in the country (or even
outside the country) speaks.
The common people speak their local dialect, their largest neighbor speaks
Indonesian, and the international community speaks English. The only people
in East Timor who speak Portuguese are the elites - the people who want to
lock themselves into power, and lock the commoners out. Much the way the
English Aristocracy used to speak French to differentiate them from the working classes.
If the East Timorese had adopted English, a similar thing would have
happened, but the next generation would have learned English at school,
enthusiastic do-gooders from English speaking nations would have volunteered
their time as teachers, and the the trade advantages would have meant that the
vast majority of the people would know English within one or two generations.
This is the model roughly adopted by Philippines.
But as a result of the East Timorese laws (and the law courts) being limited to
Portuguese, the process of making and enforcing laws is almost
unworkable. Things just happen too slowly. In particular, there are as yet no
workable private property laws - which makes people reluctant to invest. There
is little point building a home or a shop if some arbitrary government official
is going to take it off you because of a law which is not yet made -
particularly if that law is written in a language you can't even understand.
As a result, the the only thing the fledgling nation is producing is poverty.
And it's even exporting some of that - being dependent on foreign aid.
Foreign Aid of course is the transfer of money from poor people in a rich
country to rich people in a poor country. The elites will do well.
But at least the infant nation has a firm grasp on the welfare tit. It seems
destined to join its suckling sister country Papua New Guinea, and become a
permanent fixture to a proud, if patronizing, wet-nurse - Australia.