East Timor, Economy
East Timor is one of the least economically developed countries in the world and depends heavily on foreign aid. The infrastructure of East Timor is underdeveloped. The country’s only major road extends eastward from Dili, linking towns along the northern coast. Although natural resources are limited, East Timor has offshore natural gas and oil deposits in the Timor Sea. Under an agreement between East Timor and Australia, East Timor is to receive 90 percent of the revenues generated from these deposits beginning in 2005, with Australia receiving the remaining 10 percent. This development is expected to significantly improve the economy of East Timor.
The gross domestic product (GDP) of East Timor in 2001 was $380,000,000. In 2000 services contributed 50 percent of the GDP, industry contributed 27 percent, and agriculture contributed 23 percent.
About 73 percent of the labor force is engaged in agriculture. Commercially produced crops include coffee, coconuts, cloves, and cacao. Coffee is the country’s principal export crop. Subsistence crops include rice, maize, cassava, and sweet potatoes. Tropical fruits, including mangoes and pineapples, are also grown. Many rural people continue to practice shifting cultivation (also called swidden or slash-and-burn agriculture) and use simple tools to grow their crops. Commercial forestry is viable in some areas.
The services sector—including trade, finance, and public administration—employs about 22 percent of the labor force. Most service-sector jobs are located in Dili. The industry sector employs about 5 percent. Industries include the manufacture of textiles, the bottling of water, and the processing of coffee.
The official currency of East Timor is the U.S. dollar. The Central Bank of East Timor has the sole power of issue.