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Poverty in East Timor

East Timor continues to be one of the world’s poorest countries, with GDP per capita standing at $3,949 (2011).[1] It is ranked 147 out of 187 (2011) countries in the UN’s Human Development Index.[2]

As of 2015, Timor-Leste had a population of 1.17 million and an annual growth rate at 1.8%.[3] Based on the total population, 40.2% aged 15 years and above were employed.[4]


East Timor's poverty problem is a major after-effect of the independence struggle against Indonesia, which seriously damaged infrastructure and dislocated thousands of East Timorese. As a result of the conflict, 95% of schools were destroyed in 1999.[5] As of 2011, 37.4% of civilians live below the international poverty line of $1.25 (in purchasing power parity terms) per day and 40% of the population is malnourished. Life expectancy at birth is 62.5 years.[2]

Existence of poor governance, coupled with lack of accountability and transparency are reasons why East Timor has been unable to break out from this poverty trap. In the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, East Timor scored 2.5 (out of 10) and was ranked 127th out of 178 countries.[6] "Without a clean and competent governmental institution to provide a stable business environment, East Timor has failed to attract much foreign direct investment (FDI) which would help to improve the unemployment and poverty situations", as stated by Dionisio Da Cruz Pereira, a former staff of the United Nations and the World Bank group in East Timor.[7]

Development GoalsEdit

When East Timor gained its independence in 2002, the government initiated a National Development plan (NDP),[8] to work with international communities and aid agencies in its effort to reduce poverty and develop a sustainable economy aimed at improving the health, education and well-being of its people. This was aligned with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set for 2015.[9] 10 years on, progress has only been minuscule[citation needed] and East Timor is still heavily dependent on foreign aid. According to World Development Index, East Timor receives approximately US$185 million in aid per annum, which accounts for 33% of its gross national income.[citation needed]

Efforts to alleviate povertyEdit

The Poverty Reduction Unit of UN supports the Government of East Timor in designing development strategies and programs aimed at developing the rural areas of the country, including building proper rural infrastructure.[10] The government has also distributed tractors and seeds to rural farmers to boost agricultural production and provided affordable rice to communities both in urban and rural areas. It is also working to enhance banking literacy in rural areas by strengthening microfinance institutions through the development of pro-poor products and services. Furthermore, it has distributed scholarships to many East Timorese students to pursue tertiary education within and outside of East Timor.[7]


  1. ^ "World Economic Outlook Database, April 2012". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Timor Leste: Human Development Indicators". International Human Development Indicators. United Nations Development Program. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  3. ^ Asian Development Bank. (2016, April). Basic Statistics 2016. Retrieved 21, November 2016, from
  4. ^ Asian Development Bank. (n.d.). Poverty in Timor-Leste. Retrieved 21 November 2016 from
  5. ^ "Poverty in a New Nation: Analysis for Action in Timor-Leste". The World Bank. May 2003. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  6. ^ "2010 Corruption Perceptions Index". Transparency International. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  7. ^ a b Dionisio Da Cruz Pereira (19 March 2009). "The challenges for East Timor". On Line Opinion. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  8. ^ "The National Development Plan - Part 1". The National Development Plan. Prime Minister and Cabinet, Timor-Leste Government. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Millennium Development Goals". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Poverty Reduction and Achievement of the MDGs". UNPD Timor Leste. United Nations Development Programme, Timor-Leste Country Office. Retrieved 11 June 2012.