Jose Lobato, Timor Aid
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before we begin this conference, I would like to thank you very much for your presence at this opening ceremony. As we all know, this conference begins today the 25th of January, and will finish on the 31st of January.
The definition of sustainable development is development that can fulfil the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. I remember the expression that says that “the earth does not belong to us - we borrow it from our children”. It is something that we borrow and must give back in good condition.
Our natural riches must be handed on to our children and grandchildren. If we log rosewood, sandalwood and teak, we can make a lot of money. But if we sell all of our trees now, our children will not have any forest left – they will only have desert.
Today East Timor’s income is not high enough to run the country. In 2004 or 2005, when we start to receive revenue from the gas and oil in the Timor Gap, national income will be higher than the amount required for the national budget. We cannot however depend only on oil, as one the day the oil reserves will be depleted. We need to find other ways to generate income. We have the potential to develop sustainable industries for example; coffee, fishing, tourism, agriculture and forestry.
This conference has brought together East Timorese and international experts to discuss and reflect upon development issues in East Timor. The challenge over the coming days is to find solutions for East Timor in line with the principles of sustainable development. The results from this conference can be used by the transitional government and by the future government to plan for a sustainable future.