Timor Leste seeks Brunei expertise in oil and gas sector

National 2 minutes, 34 seconds


TIMOR Leste is open to all areas of cooperation with Brunei as it seeks to cement its status as part of the ASEAN family, said Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao yesterday.

In an exclusive interview with The Brunei Times, Gusmao said Southeast Asia’s youngest nation is keen to learn from Brunei’s experience in developing large oil and gas reserves.

“Brunei has more experience in this area... We want to explore all the opportunities to see how we can work together.”

Timor Leste has a $15 billion petroleum fund — which accumulates surplus oil revenue year on year — and is now seeking parterships to develop oil refinieries and a liquified natural gas plant.

Since gaining independence from Indonesian occupation in 2002, the country’s rapid economic growth has registered double digits for the past seven years.

With plans to open a Timor Leste embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan in the coming months, the prime minister said the move would bring closer cooperation between the two nations.

“This would mean closer contact between us. Beginning with this visit we will see in what sectors we can work together. Being a country that also has a few places and sites of oil and gas, we can do something together,” he said.

The prime minister also met senior officials from the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEBD) yesterday, to explore potential areas of investment.

“We are trying to call FDI (foreign direct investment) to our country. Pushing areas that are not oil and gas areas such as agriculture, tourism,” said Gusmao, adding that he had invited BEBD to Dili to explore further opportunities.

Speaking publicly of his plans to step down as prime minister this September — well ahead of his term of office through 2017 — Gusmao said he will go on to head the country’s Economic Planning and Investment Agency.

“Yes, I will step down as prime minister, as head of government. I am of the 1974 generation, when Portugal told us ‘you can go to hell’ and we entered politics.”

Timor Leste, a former Portuguese colony of 1.1 million, was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years until it declared independence on May 20, 2002.

“What we could do for our country, we have done already. Now let them contribute to a new generation of leaders. Like BEBD, we saw confident men and women talking about the future of Brunei. Now we would like to have that also — a group of young people that can be experts of their own country,” he said.

A former resistance leader against Indonesian occupation, Gusmao became the first post-independence president of Timor Leste and its fourth prime minister since August 2007.

“I will be in charge of looking at how investors can come to our country, we will not interfere with the job of the government. (Stepping down) is to allow the young generation to be able to learn to run the country.”

Gusmao will depart Brunei today after a three-day official visit to the Sultanate.

For second part of our exclusive interview with Timor Leste’s Prime Minister, check out tomorrow’s edition of The Brunei Times.

The Brunei Times