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Special Economic Zone in Oecusse

Zona Ekonómiku Espesiál iha Oecusse

11 July 2014.   Updated 31 July 2014, with addendum Feb. 2017

This information is several years out of date, and ZEESM has done and spent a lot more since 2014.
Informasaun iha pájina ne'e tuan ona, no ZEESM halo no gasta barak liu tan ona dezde 2014.

Contents of this page

Konteúdu pájina ne’e

Click on any image to see it larger
Kliik iha imajen atu hare imajen ho boot

On 30 January 2013, Timor-Leste's Council of Ministers appointed Mari Alkatiri to lead discussions about a Special Social Market Economy Zone (Zona Especial de Economia Social de Mercado - ZEESM) in Oecusse. Although the project had not been detailed in the 2011-2030 Strategic Development Plan or included in the proposed 2013 State Budget, the Portuguese Fundação Lusitânia para o Desenvolvimento had already been working on it for some time. One week later, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão told the National Parliament:

The Government has decided to start a Special Economic Zone pilot project in Oecussi, to be called, under the new benchmark, a 'Social and Market Special Economic Zone'.

     Being a member of the CPLP and part of the Economic Forum of Macau, as well as close to entering ASEAN, which is debating the subjects of 'common market' and 'market chain', the Special Economic Zone of Oecussi should be a trade and industrial centre directed to the market but also with social concerns regarding the ‘atoni’ population and consequently the whole of Timor-Leste.

     With the agreement of the President of the Republic, the Government has decided to appoint Dr Mari Alkatiri as the representative of the State in this initiative of studies, reviews and contacts with the CPLP countries and – why not? – the ASEAN and Pacific countries. This strategically relevant program will then be expanded to Ataúro and other parts of the country.

Parliament quickly amended the budget to allocate one million dollars for ZEESM operational expenses in 2013.

Iha Janeiru 2013, Konsellu Ministru Timor-Leste hili Mari Alkatiri atu lori diskusaun kona-ba Zona Especial de Economia Social de Mercado (ZEESM) iha Oecusse. Maske projetu ne’e la detallu iha Planu Estratéjiku Dezenvolvimentu Nasionál 2011-2030 ka inklui iha proposta Orsamentu Jerál Estadu 2013 nian, Fundação Lusitânia para o Desenvolvimento hosi Portugal servisu ona ba asuntu ne’e durante tempu balu. Semana ida hafoin ne’e, Primeiru Ministru Xanana Gusmão hateten ba Parlamentu Nasionál:

Governu deside ona katak Oe-kuse sei sai alvu ba projetu-pilotu ida kona-ba Zona Ekonómika Espesial, no paradigma foun ne’e sei hanaran ‘Zona Espesial ba Ekonomia Sosial de Merkadu’.

    Nudar membru CPLP, no halo parte mos iha Forum Ekonómiku, Macau nian, entre CPLP ho Xina no tama daudauk iha prosesu adezaun ba ASEAN, iha nebé hala’o hela debates ba temas, hanesan ‘common market’ ho ‘market chain’, Zona ekonómika Espesial Oe-kuse nian, tuir ita bele haré, bele sai hanesan entrepostu komersial no industrial ida, ho hanoin ba merkadu maibé ho abranjênsia sosial kle’an liu, hodi fó impaktu boot ba populasau n ‘atoni’ no, konsekuentemente, ba Timor tomak.

   Ho konkordânsia husi Prezidente da Repúblika, Governu deside hili Dr. Mari Alkatiri, hanesan Reprezentante Estadu iha inisiativa ida ne’e, ba estudus, análizes no kontaktus, ho paízes CPLP no, tan-sá lae?, ho paízes ASEAN no Pasífiku, ba Programa ida ke iha nia relevansia estratéjika, nebé sei habelar mos ba Ataúro ho partes seluk, iha ita-nia país.

Parlamentu halo amandemen lalais ba orsamentu hodi aloka dollar tokon ida ba despeza operasionál ZEESM iha 2013.



Social Market Economy was invented by the German Christian Democratic Union in 1949. It combines market capitalism with social welfare. The state manages the private sector to some extent, but most decisions are left to the free market. (adapted from Wikipedia)

Apparently, private companies in ZEESM will be less regulated than they are in the rest of Timor-Leste.

Fifteen months later, Timor-Leste's National Parliament passed a Law to create a Special Administrative Region (SAR) in Oecusse and establish a Special Zone of Social Market Economy, which President Taur Matan Ruak promulgated on 16 June 2014. It was published in the Jornal da Republica (Port.) as Law No. 3/2014 and became effective on 19 June.

In May and June 2014, Timor-Leste's President, Prime Minister and other top leaders broke ground for ZEESM. However, concrete information has been difficult to find, although it is essential for Timor-Leste to use its limited petroleum wealth wisely to develop the long-neglected Oecusse enclave. If this project is to benefit the 65,000 people who live there, it will take more thought than has been evident to date. Spending billions of dollars, most of which will go to foreign companies, does not automatically improve people's lives.

La'o Hamutuk has not had enough information or human resources to analyze this project in depth, and this article does not conclude whether it will benefit the people of Oecusse or Timor-Leste. Nevertheless, the project involves a lot of money, significant economic and political risks and opportunity costs. It must create its own legal, financial and governance systems. Unfortunately, most of the available information and media coverage has been to promote and socialize the project concept, rather than describe what it will actually be and do. Therefore, we are asking a few important questions, and look forward to sharing the answers.


Ekonomia Merkadu Sosiál kria hosi Uniaun Demokrátiku Kristaun Alemaña iha tinan 1949. Sistema ida ne’e kombina merkadu kapitalizmu ho seguransa sosiál. Estadu regula setor privada uitoan, maibé desizaun barak liu husik ba merkadu livre. (adapta hosi Wikipedia)

Ami hanoin katak kompañia privadu sira iha ZEESM sei ladún reguladu kompara ho kompañia privadu sira seluk iha parte seluk Timor-Leste.

Depois fulan sanulu resin lima, Parlamentu Nasionál Timor-Leste pasa Lei ida atu kria Rejiaun Administrativa Espesiál ida (RAE) iha Oecusse no estabelese Zona Espesiál Ekonomia Sosiál Merkadu, ne’ebé Prezidente Taur Matan Ruak promulgate iha 16 Juñu 2014. Lei ne’e publika ona iha Jornal da Republica (Port.) nudár Lei No. 3/2014 no sai vigora iha 19 Juñu.

Iha Maiu no Juñu 2014, Prezidente Timor-Leste, Primeiru Ministru no lider alto sira seluk loke fatin ba ZEESM. Maske nune’e, difisil atu hetan informasaun konkretu, maske nune’e, esensiál ba Timor-Leste atu uza nia rekursu petróleu ho matenek hodi dezenvolve enclave Oecusse ne’ebé kleur ona la fó atensaun. Karik projetu ne’e mak atu benefisia populasaun 65,000 ne’ebé moris iha ne’e, entaun presiza hanoin barak tan kompara ho saida mak to ohin loron halo ona. Gasta biliaun dollar, ne’ebé barak liu sei selu ba kompañia estranjeiru sira, la’ós automatikamente sei hadi’ak povu nia moris.

La’o Hamutuk seidauk iha informasaun ka rekursu umanu ne’ebé nato’on atu analiza projetu ne’e ho kle’an, no artigu ida ne’e la halo konkluzaun katak projetu ne’e sei benefisia ka lae povu Oecusse ka povu Timor-Leste. Maske, projetu ne’e sei uza osan barak, ho risku ekonómiku no polítika ne’ebé signifikante no kustu oportunidade nian. Projetu ne’e rasik sei iha nia sistema legal, finanseiru no governasaun. Infelizmente, informasaun barak ne’ebé iha no mós kobertura media nian hanesan atu promove no sosializa konseitu projetu nian, duke atu buka hatene projetu ne’e atu sai saida no atu halo saida. Tanba ne’e, ami husu pergunta importante lubuk, no buka dalan atu fahe nia resposta sira.

Aiming high

La'o Hamutuk has not seen a clear analysis of the economic viability of this Market Zone. The project has many aspects -- infrastructure, industry, tourism, hospitals, university, airports, agriculture (and gambling?). What will be its focus?  Who are its customers?  What competitive advantage will it have over others seeking the same business?

The many pages of risk assessment in the Situation Analysis discuss exemption from national laws, incentives for investors, and subsidies, but leave out fundamental questions of economic feasibility. If ZEESM were a public service project -- spending public money to provide immediate benefits and services, such as water supply, health care or education -- that would be understandable, and it could be compared with other such projects to evaluate whether it would provide good value for money.

However, ZEESM has a longer-term goal of economic development. According to the Law, it will "prioritize activities of a socioeconomic nature to promote the quality of life and well-being of the community, namely:

  • Development of commercial agriculture;

  • Creation of an ethical financial center;

  • Creation of a free trade zone;

  • Increased tourism;

  • Creation of a center for international studies and research on climate change;

  • Creation of a center of green research;

  • Implement and develop industrial activities, for export and import;

  • Other economic activities that add value for the Region, as well as strengthening its international competitiveness."

To achieve a "model of development based on a new type of social market economy" which will provide a return to Oecusse people (as well as to investors) requires deeper analysis than we have seen. The list of projects in the law is varied and enticing, although not very specific or practical. It includes:

  • Tourism and agricultural development;

  • Industrial and commercial development, such as mining and quarrying, oil and gas, petrochemical, manufacturing, trade and other value-added industries;

  • Social development, such as public health, and hospitals, reference clinics, and medical research centers;

  • Cultural development to promote Timorese artistic expression, including ecumenical reflection centers, performance centers and recreational centers;

  • Development of human resources, including through a reference university teaching economics, engineering, medicine, mathematics and philosophy, including institutions of vocational or technical training and centers of excellence for research, teaching and training;

  • Territorial planning to create urban development zones and quality rural zones;

  • A green belt in suburban areas to supply local, domestic and export customers;

  • Infrastructure, through centers of investment and logistics, special economic zones, residential zones, real estate development and quality tourism.

Hanoin as

La'o Hamutuk seidauk hare analiza ida ne’ebé kle’an kona-ba viabilidade ekonómiku hosi Zona Merkadu ida ne’e. Projetu ne’e rasik iha aspetu lubuk hanesan infrastrutura, indústria turizmu, hospital, universidade, aeroportu, agrikultura (no kasino?). Saida mak sei sai fokus hosi projetu ne’e? Se mak atu sai projetu ne’e nia konsumidór? Vantajen kompetitivu saida mak projetu ne’e sei iha ne’ebé liu fali ho projetu seluk ne’e hare ba hanesan ho projetu ne’e?

Pájina barak kona-ba avaliasaun risku iha Analiza Situasaun nian diskute hela projetu ne’ebé ketak hosi lei nasionál, insentivu ba investidór no subsídiu sira, maibé husik sai asuntu fundamental kona-ba viabilidade ekonómiku. Karik ZEESM ne’e nudár projetu servisu públiku nian ida, hodi gasta osan povu nian atu fornese benefísiu no servisu imediatamente, hanesan bee mós, asisténsia saúde ka edukasaun, nune’e ita bele komprende, no presiza kompara projetu ne’e ho projetu seluk ne’ebé hanesan atu avalia loos ka lae projetu ne’e sei fó valor di’ak ba osan.

Maske nune’e, ZEESM iha nia target longu prazu ba dezenvolvimentu ekonómiku. Tuir Lei, projetu ne’e sei “prioritize atividade sosioekonomiku ida ho hanoin atu promove kualidade moris no komunidade sira nia moris di’ak, ne’ebé temi hanesan tuir mai:

  • Dezenvolvimentu agríkola komersiál;

  • Kria sentru finanseiru ida ne’ebé étiku;

  • Kria zona merkadu livre;

  • Aumenta turizmu;

  • Kria sentru ba estudu internasionál no peskiza kona-ba mudansa klimátika;

  • Kria sentru ida ba peskiza verde;

  • Implementa no dezenvolve atividade industrial, ba esportasaun no importasaun nian;

  • Atividade ekonómiku seluk ne’ebé atu aumenta valor ba Rejiaun, no mós haforsa nia kompetividade internasionál nian;

Atu atinje “modelu dezenvolvimentu ida ne’ebé bazeia ba tipu foun ida hosi ekonomia merkadu sosiál” ne’ebé sei fornese retornu ba povu Oecusse (no mós ba investidór sira), ita presiza analiza ida ne’ebé kle’an tebes kompara ho ida ne’ebé ita hare ona. lista projetu sira iha lei ne’e oi-oin no sei atrai ema nia interese, maske la espesífiku no pratika liu. Buat sira ne’e inklui:

  • Dezenvolvimentu turizmu no agrikultura nian;

  • Dezenvolvimentu indústria no komérsiu nian, hanesan mineiru, petróleu no gas, petrokimika, fábrika, merkadorias no indústria atu aumenta valor nian seluk;

  • Dezenvolvimentu sosiál, hanesan saúde públiku, hospital, klínika referral, no sentru peskiza médiku nian;

  • Dezenvolvimentu kulturál atu promove espresaun artistika Timorense, inklui sentru reflesaun universal relijiaun katólika nian no sentru aprezentasaun nian no sentru caravana;

  • Dezenvolvimentu rekursu umanu, inklui universidade referral ida ne’ebé hanorin ekonómiku, enjineria, medisina, matemátika no filozofia, inklui institutu vokasionál ka treinamentu téknika no sentru ba peskiza, hanorin no treinamentu ho kualidade;

  • Planu territorial atu kria zona dezenvolvimentu Urbana no dezenvolvimentu kualidade zona rural;

  • Zona verde ida iha area sidade ninin atu fornese konsumidór lokál, doméstika no esportasaun nian.

  • Infrastrutura, liu hosi sentru investimentu no lojistiku, zona ekonómiku espesiál, zona residensial, dezenvolvimentu bens e moveis no kualidade turizmu nian;

Many Timor-Leste laws don't apply

The ZEESM law creates an unprecedented degree of independence for the Oecusse Special Administrative Region (SAR). Although the SAR is created by RDTL and financed by the State, the Region is exempted from many RDTL governance and tax laws, which will allow the ZEESM Authority to create its own rules and systems. Although these should be consistent with the RDTL Constitution and general principles of national law and some require Government approval, the Government-appointed ZEESM Authority can enact policies, regulations and executive orders for the following areas:

  • Regulatory powers (Article 9)

  • Budget (Articles 10, 16, 35-36)

  • Planning (Articles 10 and 16)

  • Finances and tax system (Articles 11, 28 and 29) -- all revenues collected there stay there and the region is exempt from national taxes (28.4).

  • Managing state-owned property (Article 12(c))

  • Transparency and reporting, if any (not mentioned in the ZEESM law)

  • Land use and expropriation (Articles 26-27), in accordance with national laws

  • Making investments, including overseas (Article 28.2)

  • Procurement (Article 30)

  • Unrestricted financial market and trade (Articles 31 and 33)

  • Customs duties (Articles 32 and 38.3) and ship registration (Article 34). Goods for economic and social development are exempt from customs duties.

  • No prior contract and legislation reviews by the Chamber of Auditors (Article 41)

The Region shares responsibility with the RDTL Government for:

  • Personnel, civil service regime, pay scales (Articles 12(g) and 39)

  • Diplomacy and foreign relations (Articles 12(e and f) and 13)

The State of Timor-Leste, with support from development partners, has worked hard to develop systems for governance, financial management, revenue collection, transparency and planning during the last 12 years. Although some are not yet perfect or fully functional, they work. Discarding these for Oecusse means that the unelected ZEESM Authority must invent its own systems. It may also violate the Constitution and national laws, as well as creating complex administrative problems. For example, if different customs rules apply in Oecusse and Dili, will goods being transported between the two districts have to go through customs clearance?

Timor-Leste nia lei barak la aplika

Lei ZEESM kria tiha nivel independénsia primeiru ida ba Rejiaun Administrasaun Espesiál (RAE) Oecusse. Maske RAE ne’e kria hosi RDTL no finansia hosi Estadu, Rejiaun ne’e sei ketak hosi sistema governasaun RDTL nian no ketak hosi lei taxa nian, ne’ebé sei fó dalan ba Autoridade ZEESM atu kria nia regra no sistema rasik. Maske sistema no regra sira ne’e tenke konsistente ho Konstituisaun RDTL no prinsipiu jerál lei nasionál no buat balu presiza aprovasaun Govern nian, Autoridade ZEESM ne’ebé Governu hili bele halo nia polítika, regulasaun no orden ezekutivu nian ba iha area sira hanesan tuir mai:

  • Podér reguladór (Artigu 9)

  • Orsamentu (Artigu 10, 16, 35-36)

  • Planeamentu (Artigu 10 no 16)

  • Sistema finansia no taxa nian (Artigu 11, 28 no 29) – reseita tomak ne’ebé koleta sei iha nafatin iha Oecusse no Rejiaun ne’e ketak hosi taxa nasionál nian (28.4).

  • Jere propriedade estadu (Artigu 12(c))

  • Transparénsia no relatóriu, karik iha buat ruma (ne’ebé la mensiona iha lei ZEESM)

  • Uzu rai no expropriasaun (Artigu 26-27), tuir lei nasionál

  • Halo investimentu, inklui halo iha rai li’ur (Artigu 28.2)

  • Aprovizionamentu (Artigu 30)

  • Merkadu finansial no merkadorias ne’ebé labele limita (Artigu 31 no 33)

  • Taxa alfándega (Artigu 32 no 38.3) no rejistrasaun ró (Artigu 34). Sasán sira ba dezenvolvimentu ekonómiku no sosiál ketak hosi taxa alfándega nian.

  • Tribunál Superiór Administrativu, Fiskál no Kontas labele avalia kontratu no lejizlasaun antes (Artigu 41)

Responsabilidade ne’ebé Rejiaun entrega ba Governu RDTL mak:

  • Personalia, regime funsaun públiku, pagamentu ba eskalaun (Artigu 12(g) no 39)

  • Diplomasia no relasaun estranjeiru (Artigu 12(e no f) no 13)

Estadu Timor-Leste, ho suporta hosi parseiru dezenvolvimentu, servisu maka’as ona atu dezenvolve sistema ba jestaun governasaun, finanseiru, kolesaun reseita, transparénsia no planeamentu durante tinan 12 ikus ne’e. maske nune’e buat balu seidauk perfeitu ka funsiona loloos, maibé sira la’o hela. Hasai sistema sira ne’e atu la aplika iha Oecusse signifika katak Autoridade ZEESM ne’ebé la mai hosi prosesu eleisaun ne’e tenke inventa sira nia sistema rasik. Buat ida ne’e mós bele viola Konstituisaun no lei nasionál sira, no mós kria problema administrativa ne’ebé kompleksu. Ezemplu, karik regra alfándega nian ne’ebé aplika ba iha Oecusse no Dili la hanesan, presiza ka lae sasán sira ne’ebé transporte entre distritu rua ne’e atu tama ba iha sistema libertasaun alfándega nian?

Consulting the public

Meetings have been held all over the world about this project, especially with high-level politicians (such as former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair) and potential investors. There have also been many meetings in Oecusse. However Parliament enacted the ZEESM law hastily, without any public hearings, which is not a good sign for how it will be implemented.

The photo at right is on many ZEESM billboards in Oecusse. Perhaps it shows the real purpose of this project -- bringing opposition leader and former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri under the tent of current Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão. (Others in the photo, left-to-right, are Vice President of Parliament Adérito Hugo da Costa, Minister of Transport and Communications Pedro Lay, and Minister of Public Works Gastão de Sousa.) La'o Hamutuk thinks that an effective political opposition is essential for democratic decision-making, and we are disappointed that FRETILIN has been less active since the ZEESM project has been on the table. For example, Parliament passed the 2013 and 2014 State Budgets, the media law and the ZEESM law itself with no dissenting votes and little substantive plenary debate. We have been told that the President of the Republic promulgated the ZEESM law quickly because he is relieved that men who have been adversaries are working together, in spite of his concerns about the content of the law and the project itself.

ZEESM "consultations" focus on goals, dreams and the plethora of promising possibilities, rather than costs and benefits from the actual project, its commercial viability, who will be displaced, realistic local employment estimates, and other impacts on the community. (People living near the Suai airport construction site have seen virtually all the jobs, including unskilled ones like cleaners, going to Indonesians.) It is also unclear how people living in the upland interior, far from the coast where the project will be centered, will be affected by their new unelected Regional government, as well as how the SAR will interact with nationwide decentralization processes.

Konsulta públiku

Iha ona enkontru lubuk hale’u mundu kona-ba projetu ida ne’e, espesialmente ho polítiku nivel alto sira (hanesan eis Primeiru Ministru Inglaterra Tony Blair) no investidór potensiál balu. Iha mós enkontru barak iha Oecusse. Maske Parlamentu aprova ona lei ZEESM ho lalais, lahó audiénsia públiku, ne’ebé hatudu katak ne’e la’ós sinál di’ak ba oinsá projetu ne’e sei implementa.

Foto ida ne’e tau iha kuadru avizu ZEESM lubuk iha Oecusse. Dala ruma ida ne’e atu hatudu objetivu loloos hosi projetu ne’e – lori lider opozisaun no eis Primeiru Ministru Mari Alkatiri, iha tenda okos atuál Primeiru Ministru Xanana Gusmão (Sira seluk iha foto laran, hosi liman karuk ba loos, Vice Prezidente Parlamentu Aderito Hugo da Costa, Ministru Transporte no Komunikasaun Pedro Lay, Ministru Obras Públiku Gastao de Sousa.) La’o Hamutuk hanoin katak opozisaun polítika ida ne’ebé efetivu ne’e esensiál ba prosesu foti desizaun demokrátiku nian, no ami triste tanba FRETILIN ladún ona ativu dezde projetu ZEESM mosu mai. Ezemplu mak, Parlamentu aprova Orsamentu Estadu 2013 no 2014, lei media no lei ZEESM rasik lahó votu kontra ida no iha de’it substantivu uitoan durante debates plenária nia laran. Ami hetan informasaun katak Prezidente Repúblika promulga ona lei ZEESM ho lalais tanba nia apresia ba ema sira ne’ebé durante ne’e sai adversáriu ba malu atu servisu hamutuk ona, maske nia rasik preokupa kona-ba konteúdu lei no projetu ne’e rasik.

“Konsulta” ZEESM foka de’it ba objetivu, mehi no posibilidade ba promesa barak, duke foka ba kustu no benefísiu loloos hosi projetu ne’e, nia, viabilidade komersiál, see mak sei hetan eviksaun, estimasaun realistiku ba empregu lokál, no impaktu seluk ba komunidade. (Povu sira ne’e hela besik iha area konstrusaun aeroportu Suai hare ona servisu loloos ne’ebé iha, inklui servisu ba sira ne’ebé laiha skill hanesan hamoos rai ne’e entrega hotu ba ema Indonézia sira.) No mós la klaru oinsá ema sira ne’ebé moris iha foho leten, dook hosi tasi ibun ne’ebé projetu ne’e sei tidin, sei hetan impaktu hosi sira nia Governu Regional foun ne’ebé sira la hili, no mós oinsá RAE sei liga ho prosesu desentralizasaun Timor-Leste laran tomak.





Like many activities in Timor-Leste, consultation and socialization of ZEESM has included many more men than women (women have been excluded from some Suco Council meetings), and we fear that the project will not respond to women's needs and priorities. The Advisory Council defined in Articles 23-24 of the ZEESM law is likely to be male-dominated, since Lia Nian, Chefe Suco, and most higher-level security officials are male. These photos, a sampling of socialization meetings held in Oecusse in June 2014, given an indication of gender balance. Click on any of them to see them larger.

Hanesan iha atividade barak iha Timor-Leste, konsulta no sosializasaun ZEESM inklui mane barak liu duke feto sira (feto sira esklui tiha hosi enkontru Konsellu Suku nian balu), no ami ta’uk katak projetu ne’e sei la responde ba feto sira nia nesesidade no sira nia prioridade. Konsellu Assessorial ne’ebé define iha Artigu 23-24 hosi lei ZEESM hare domina hosi mane sira, hahú hosi Lia Nain, Chefe Suco, no ofisiais seguransa alto-nivel sira mesak mane. Foto hirak ne’e, nudár ezemplu ida hosi enkontru sosializasaun ne’ebé hala’o iha Oecusse iha Juñu 2014, ne’ebé hatudu indikasaun ida ba balansu jéneru. Kliik iha foto sira ne’e atu hare ho boot.

On 6 June 2014, fourteen representatives of the Oecusse NGO Information Network (REINO) wrote to President Taur Matan Ruak, translated and abridged as follows:

"As citizens of Timor-Leste, especially as citizens of the Oecusse region, we are proud of the effort the Government and Parliament have made to advance Oecusse's future. In addition, we are a little sad because we, as children of Oecusse, knew nothing about the whole process to establish this law. We ask the President to delay promulgating this law which Parliament already approved, because:

  • The entire Oecusse community doesn't yet know the contents of the law.

  • We ask Parliament and Government to consult with the Oecusse community before the President promulgates this law.

  • The people of Oecusse should feel ownership of this law. Therefore, the people of Oecusse need to be involved in the process of creating it."

Iha 6 Juñu 2014, reprezentante sanulu resin haat hosi Rede Informasaun NGO Oecusse (REINO) hakerek ba Prezidente Taur Matan Ruak, nia rezumu hanesan tuir mai:

"Nudar sidadaun Timor Leste liu-liu hanesan sidadaun iha rejiaun Oecusse senti orgulho ba esforsu tomak neebe Governu no Parlamentu halo ona hodi hatuur Oecusse nia vida iha futuru. Aliende ida nee ami sinte triste uitoan tamba prosesu tomak konaba estabelesementu Lei nee ami nudar Oecusse oan la-hatene. Ho ida nee, ami husu ba Sua Excia. Presidenti RDTL atu bele prolongga promulgasaun ba lei neebe Parlamentu aprova ona iha ho razaun hanesan tuir mai:

  • Komunidade Oecusse tomak sedauk hatene konaba kontiudu husi Lei ba Rejiaun Administrativa Especial de Oecusse Ambeno.

  • Husu Parlamentu no Governu atu halo konsultasaun ho komunidade Oecusse antes Sua Excia. Presidenti RDTL promulga lei refere.

  • Povu Oecusse maka sai nain ba lei ida ne'e. Tamba ne'e, presisa envolve povu Oecusse iha prosesu kriasaun lei refere."


La'o Hamutuk met with the ZEESM team eight months ago, and we have repeatedly asked them for additional information about the project. We shared a draft of this web page with them almost two weeks before we published it, asking for corrections and additional information, but they have not responded.  However, on 1 July, local newspapers reported on a recent meeting between President Taur Matan Ruak and ZEESM head Mari Alkatiri, as described in the articles at left ("Need to disseminate ZEESM to the public") and right ("Alkatiri: Intellectuals who don't know the program shouldn't talk"). We hope that the President's view, on the left, prevails. Click on either to see them larger.

La’o Hamutuk hasoru malu ho ekipa ZEESM fulan walu liu ba, no ami fila-fila husu ba sira atu hetan informasaun adisionál kona-ba projetu. Ami fahe ezbosu ida hosi pájina web ida ne’e ho sira besik semana rua molok ami publika sai, hodi husu atu iha koreksaun no informasaun adisionál, maibé sira la fó resposta mai. Maske nune’e, jornál sira iha loron 1 Jullu fó kobertura kona-ba enkontru foin daudauk ne’e entre Prezidente Taur Matan Ruak no xefe ZEESM Mari Alkatiri, hanesan hateten iha Artigu iha liman karuk no iha liman loos. Ami espera katak Prezidente nia hanoin, ne’ebé hakerek iha liman karuk ne’e, sei prevaleze. Kliik atu hare ho boot. 

Spending and/or investment

Oecusse district, separated from the rest of Timor-Leste, has often been ignored, and poverty and health statistics show the results. Lately, however, it has been getting attention, even before the Special Zone is really underway.

The 2013 General State Budget was the first to appropriate money for Oecusse regional development from the Infrastructure Fund, and $3.8 million of the $10.6 million appropriated  for that year was spent. The 2013 State Budget also appropriated one million dollars for "operational expenses" for ZEESM, of which $925,213 was spent.  The largest amounts went for consultants ($294,000), renting an office in Timor Plaza ($223,000), travel ($78,000) vehicle purchases ($67,000).

Gasta no/ka investimentu

Distritu Oecusse, ketak hosi distritu sira seluk iha Timor-Leste, no dala barak la hetan atensaun, no rezultadu pobreza no estatístika saúde nian hatudu ida ne’e. Maske nune’e, ikus mai, distritu ida ne’e hetan tiha atensaun, molok Zona Espesiál ne’e atu akontese.

Orsamentu Jerál Estadu 2013 mak primeira vez aloka osan ba dezenvolvimentu rejional Oecusse hosi Fundu Infrastructure, no tokon $3.8 hosi tokon $10.6 ne’ebé aloka iha tinan ne’ebá gasta hotu ona. OJE 2013 mós aloka dollar tokon ida ba “despeza operasionál” ZEESM, ne’ebé $925,213 gasta ona. Montante boot ba konsultador sira mak ($294,000), aluga eskritóriu ida iha Timor Plaza ($223,000), viajen ($78,000) sosa karreta ($67,000).


According to 2014 Budget Book 6, the State plans to spend from the Infrastructure Fund for the Oecusse Region as shown at right, in millions of US dollars:

Tuir Livru 6 OJE 2014, Estadu planeia atu gasta hosi Fundu Infrastructure ba rejiaun Oecusse hanesan iha liman los, iha dolar tokon Estadus Unidus:


These projects include the Tono irrigation system, a reference school, power station, roads and market. Additional money is allocated for other infrastructure in Oecusse, including public buildings, a border post and water supply.

However, the largest financial allocation for Oecusse in the 2014 RDTL budget is $20.5 million as a public transfer to the SAR Authority, which was added by the closed-door Komisaun Eventual a few days before Parliament approved the budget. This amount, most of the $22.9 million for ZEESM within the $27.2 million budget of the Minister of State for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, is projected to increase every year. Public transfers are not under procurement, tender or reporting rules, and the ZEESM authority will decide how to spend it. According to the Transparency Portal accessed on 30 June, $184,700 had been spent on ZEESM between January and June 2014, all for Goods and Services in the "National Region," including $79,100 for operational expenses (including office security), $31,500 in cash advances, $24,200 on overseas travel and $22,100 on professional services (website and consultants) and $18,500 on utilities.

The spending described in the previous paragraph is to plan and promote ZEESM, not actually to implement or build parts of it. According to the Situation Analysis, "This designated zone would require an estimated $4.11 billion ($4,110,000,000) of investment over a 20 year period, of which 67% or approximately $2.75 billion will be private sector investment and the remaining 33% or $1.36 billion will be contributed by the public sector." We hope that these precise numbers come from a detailed cost analysis, and that there will be clarity about who will pay for the losses if the investments are not as profitable as predicted.

Projetu hirak ne’e inklui sistema irrigasaun Tono, eskola referral ida, sentrál elétrika, estrada no merkadu. Iha mós osan adisionál ne’ebé aloka ba infrastrutura iha Oecusse, inklui harii edifísiu públiku, postu fronteira ida no bee mos.

Maske nune'e, alokasaun finanseiru boot ba Oecusse iha OJE 2014 mak tokon $20.5 nudár transferénsia públiku ida ba Autoridade RAE, ne’ebé aumenta hosi Komisaun Eventual ho diskusaun taka ba públiku iha loron balu molok Parlamentu aprova orsamentu. Montante ida ne’e, maioria tokon $22.9 ba ZEESM ho tokon $27.2 iha orsamentu Ministériu Estadu ba Prezidensia Konsellu Ministru, ne’e projekta atu sa’e kada tinan. Transferénsia Públiku la halo tuir aprovizionamentu, tender ka regra relatóriu ida, no Autoridade ZEESM sei deside oinsá osan sira ne’e atu gasta ba. Tuir Portal Transparénsia ne’ebé asesu iha 30 Juñu, $184,700 gasta ona hosi ZEESM entre Janeiru no Juñu 2014, hotu ba Bens e Servisu iha “Rejiaun Nasionál,” inklui $79,100 ba despeza operasionál nian (inklui seguransa ba gabinete), $31,500 ho osan ne’ebé selu uluk, $24,200 ba viajen estranjeiru no $22,100 ba servisu profisionál (website no konsultador sira) no $18,500 ba uzu nian.

Gastu ne’e hateten iha parágrafu ikus ne’e atu planeia no promove ZEESM, la’ós atu implementa ka harii buat ruma. Tuir Analiza Situasaun, “Zona dezignadu ne’e sei rekere investimentu estimadu hanesan US$4,11 billaun durante períodu tinan 20, ne’ebé kompostu hosi 67% ka maizumenus US$2,75 billaun hosi investimentu sektór privadu no 33% resik ka US$1,36 billaun hosi sektór públiku." Ami espera katak númeru sira ne’e mai hosi analiza kustu ida ne’e detallu, no tenke klaru kona-ba sei mak sei selu ba lakon bainhira investimentu sira ne’e labele fó lukru hanesan ita hanoin.

Ongoing developments

After the ZEESM law was promulgated on 18 June 2014, things began to move faster.

New contracts were awarded quickly, and the ZEESM project disbursed $276,000 in June and July, including $15,000 for a ceremony in Jakarta and $194,000 for an advertising supplement in a Singaporean newspaper.

On 7 July, the Finnish company Wartsila, supplier of the Hera and Betano diesel generating stations, presented a proposal for an LNG terminal and gas-fueled power plant for Oecusse to ZEESM and the Secretary of State for Electricity. ZEESM leaders were optimistic that they could decide among the three competing companies in one or two weeks.

On 8 July, the Council of Ministers enacted a Decree-Law "to create a special procurement framework which allows to expedite the process of procurement of infrastructure essential to the region."

Eventu tuir mai

Hafoin Lei ZEESM promulga ona iha loron 18 Juñu 2014, ZEESM aselera duni.

Kontratu sira hetan aprovasaun kedas, no projetu ZEESM gastu ona $276,000 iha fulan Juñu no Jullu, inklui $15,000 ba lansamentu iha Jakarta no $194,000 ba publisidade iha jornál ida iha Singapore.

Iha loron 7 Jullu, kompañia ida husi Finlándia naran Wartsila, fornesidor ba sentrál elétrika uza mina iha Hera no Betano, aprezenta proposta ida ba sentrál elétrika iha Oecusse bele uza LNG ba ZEESM no Sekretáriu Estadu ba Eletrisidade. ZEESM sira hakarak hili kompañia ida husi kompañia tolu fó proposta is semana ida ka rua oin mai.

Iha loron 8 Jullu, Konsellu Ministru aprova Dekretu-Lei ida "atu kria rejime espesiál ida ba aprovizionamentu ne’ebé fó dalan atu halo lalais prosesu kontratasaun públika ba infraestrutura sira" ZEESM nian.

On 10 July, at a well-attended presentation at JL Villas in Fatuhada, Dili, ZEESM and UNDP leaders announced a three-year, $275,000 agreement to support ZEEMS's institutional framework. In addition to showing the beginning of the ZEESM film, ZEESM's Arsenio Bano and UNDP's Noura Hamladji gave a presentation (also PDF), followed by speeches by Jose Ramos-Horta, Mari Alkatiri, and UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Director Haoliang Xu. The agreement itself could not be signed because President Taur Matan Ruak has not yet formally appointed Mari Alkatiri as President of the ZEESM Authority.

Iha loron 10 Jullu, ZEESM no UNDP anunsia akordu ne’ebé sira sei asina atu apoiu ZEESM nia enkuadramentu institusional, ho $275,000 durante tinan tolu. Arsenio Bano husi ZEESM no Noura Hamladji husi PNUD/UNDP fó aprezentasaun (mós PDF), tuir ho diskursu husi Jose Ramos-Horta, Mari Alkatiri, no Diretór Rejionál UNDP Azia-Pasifik Haoliang Xu. Sira seidauk bele asina akordu tanba Prezidente Repúblika Taur Matan Ruak seidauk nomeada Mari Alkatiri hanesan Prezidente Autoridade ZEESM.

The President of the Republic formally appointed the President of the Regional Authority (RAEOA) on 25 July, and President Alkatiri was sworn in at a well-attended ceremony 5 days later, where the President wished the project success (Port.) and Dr. Alkatiri encouraged Timor-Leste's political leaders to join him in creating a new model "to build and enhance the entrepreneurial and creative capacity of the entire society."

La'o Hamutuk welcomes more information from all sources.

Prezidente Repúblika ofisialmente hili Prezidente ZEESM iha loron 25 Jullu, no Prezidente Alkatiri hetan tomada de posse loron lima tuir mai, ho diskursu husi Prezidente Taur Matan Ruak. Dr. Alkatiri nia diskursu konvite lider sira Timor-Leste nian atu servisu hamutuk atu kria no aumenta kapasidade emprezárial no kreativu no iha sosiedade tomak.

La’o Hamutuk prontu atu simu informasaun tan hosi fonte tomak.

This page represents the situation in mid-2014, and La'o Hamutuk is working on a comprehensive update.  Spending on ZEESM and RAEOA escalated rapidly after that, totalling more than half a billion dollars by the end of 2017:

2013: $    5 million
2014: $  22 million
2015: $133 million
2016: $218 million
2017: $172 million

Nearly all of this money was transferred directly from the national treasury to the Regional Authority, so little information is available about how it was actually disbursed.  However, recent State Budget documents include a Tetum-language book on ZEESM each year, which can be accessed here for 2015, 2016, rectified 2016 and 2017. La'o Hamutuk hopes that the audit requested by Prime Minister Alkatiri in February 2018 will make more information available.

Pájina ida ne’e reprezenta situasaun iha tinan 2014 nia klaran, no La’o Hamutuk daudaun ne’e dezenvolve hela atualizasaun ida ne’ebé kle’an liu. Despeza ba ZEESM no RAEOA sa’e maka’as liu hafoin 2014 no to’o iha 2017 nia rohan, total orsamentu ne’ebé aloka ona hamutuk liu metade dolar biliaun ida:

2013: Dolar Amerikanu tokon     5
2014: Dolar Amerikanu tokon   22
2015: Dolar Amerikanu tokon 133
2016: Dolar Amerikanu tokon 218
2017: Dolar Amerikanu tokon 172

Maioria hosi osan ida ne’e transfere diretamente hosi konta tesouraria nasionál nian ba Autoridade Rejiaunal ne’e, ho informasaun uitoan liu kona-ba lala’ok despeza ba osan ida ne’e. Maibé, dokumentu sira hosi Orsamentu Estadu nian iha foin lalais ne’e, inklui livru ida iha lian Tetum kona-ba ZEESM iha kada tinan, 2015, 2016, retifikativu 2016 no 2017 no bele hetan iha ne’e. La’o Hamutuk hein katak pedidu auditoria ne’ebé Primeiru Ministru Alkatiri halo iha Fevreiru 2018 foin lalais ne’e sei aprezenta informasaun barak liu-tan ba públiku.


Documents (in reverse chronological order)

Some information, mostly about promotion and socialization of the ZEESM concept, is on the project's website, YouTube page, Facebook group and Facebook page, as well as on the website of the Portuguese Fundação Lusitânia da Desenvolvimento, which is heavily involved in this project. We have also collected a few key materials here:

Other materials

Dokumentu sira (hahú hosi ida ne’ebé foun liu)

Iha informasaun balu, maioria kona-ba promosaun no sosializasaun ba konseitu ZEESM, iha ona iha website projetu nian, pájina YouTube, grupu Facebook no pájina Facebook, no mós website Fundação Lusitânia da Desenvolvimento, hosi Portugal ne’ebé sei envolve maka’as iha projetu ida ne’e. Ami mós koleta ona material xave balu iha ne’e:

Material seluk



The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
Rua D. Alberto Ricardo, Bebora, Dili, Timor-Leste
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste
Tel: +670-3321040 or +670-77234330
email:    Web:    Blog: