East Timorese losing confidence
The Associated Press

Washington, D.C. — Post-independence confidence in East Timor has declined, with nearly 40 per cent of East Timorese saying they feel worse off now than under Indonesian rule and less than half optimistic about the future, according to a survey.

However, most of the 1,561 surveyed by the non-partisan International Republican Institute voiced confidence in their government, with 90 per cent describing the presidency as good or excellent, and positive appraisals of 75 per cent for the courts, 67 per cent for Parliament and 53 per cent for the prime minister’s office.

The poll comes as East Timor is wrestling with a stagnant economy and doubts over the government’s ability to run the country after the United Nations departs next year. The survey is based on a representative national sample with an error margin of 2.6 per cent.

“Things aren’t perfect here,” Deborah White, the institute’s country director, told The Associated Press. “People have said there are problems with this and that,” she said. “But when they rated institutions, people overwhelmingly rated them good or excellent. It says to me that there is still confidence in these institutions. People are willing to give the government a chance to solve these problems.”

According to the US-funded annual survey, 42 per cent of respondents felt East Timor was better off since the country became independent in 2001, while 38.9 per cent felt it was worse off. Another 17.2 per cent felt the country had not changed.

More significantly, the percentage of Timorese who voiced optimism about the country’s future dropped from 75 per cent last year to 48 per cent this year. However, only 30 per cent felt the country was headed in the wrong direction.

Respondents said their concerns about the future were fuelled by unresolved problems, with 65 per cent saying corruption had worsened since independence and 43 per cent saying the economy had deteriorated.

However, Timorese said that freedom, security and the educational system had improved since independence.

Indonesia’s brutal 24-year occupation ended in 1999, prompting Indonesian troops and their proxy militias to rampage through the country, killing 1,500 people and destroying much of the infrastructure.

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