East Timor Seeking Chinese Investment, Ramos-Horta Says

  • East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta
Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's president. Photographer: Daniel J. Groshong/Bloomberg
East Timor is seeking Chinese investment to help diversify its economy and rely less on revenue from oil and natural gas production, President Jose Ramos-Horta said.
“We want Chinese presence in our country in terms of investment,” Ramos-Horta said at a media briefing in Hong Kong today after speaking at an investors’ forum. Ports and roads are one area of development, he said.
East Timor, which became a sovereign state in 2002, depends heavily on offshore oil and gas for revenue and such projects have so far failed to spur onshore development of the industry and generate jobs, according to a handout distributed to reporters. The country needs infrastructure projects to boost employment and the economy, Ramos-Horta said.
East Timor has been in talks with the Chinese government and companies on getting loans to finance infrastructure projects, according to Ramos-Horta. He said the cost of borrowing from Chinese banks would be much lower than tapping the country’s Petroleum Fund, set up in 2005 to manage the revenue from oil and gas.
The country, formally known as Timor-Leste, doesn’t have suitable oil and gas projects for Chinese companies at the moment, he said. East Timor hasn’t found any onshore oil reserves yet and most offshore projects are in deeper water, which Chinese companies aren’t very interested in, according to Ramos-Horta.
The president said he is informally exploring the possibility of holding some yuan-denominated assets. Nothing is substantial yet at this stage, Ramos-Horta said.
East Timor ranked 120th of 169 countries in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, a gauge of life expectancy, literacy and standards of living.
To contact the reporter on this story: Guo Aibing in Hong Kong at aguo10@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Amit Prakash at aprakash1@bloomberg.net.

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