Ramos-Horta out to bring RI money to Timor Leste

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Visiting Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta promised improvements in his country's security situation, and held out the prospect of a simplified tax system to help woo Indonesian investors back to their old stomping ground.

Speaking to members of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) and diplomats Tuesday, Ramos-Horta said that all of Timor Leste's political leaders had vowed to work together to guarantee the security of foreign investors and businesses in the neighboring country.

"The situation has been very much stabilized. We are asking you to look at our country as a trading partner and a place for investment, besides being just a political partner," he told the gathering.

Ramos-Horta said that Indonesia was Timor Leste's most important trading partner as more than 70 percent of the country's consumer and capital goods came from here.

He also rejected suggestions that the current sporadic violence and shootings could escalate into nationwide disturbances, and disrupt the upcoming parliamentary elections -- seen as crucial for Timor Leste's political stability.

Ramos-Horta was sworn in as Timor Leste president on May 20 after he won a landslide election.

But the June 30 parliamentary elections are seen as being much more crucial as it is the parliament that will select the Timor Leste prime minister, who holds more power than the largely ceremonial presidency.

Ramos-Horta also promised that as soon as the new government was formed, he would launch tax reforms, and vowed that the new tax system would be as open as any in Asia, including Hong Kong.

He said Timor Leste would launch a major infrastructure program, and had allocated some US$400 million for this purpose.

Ramos-Horta invited Indonesian businesspeople to bid for the projects, saying that a number of Indonesian firms had already won tenders in the telecommunications sector.

Kadin chairman M.S. Hidayat said that the association would send a delegation to Timor Leste to evaluate business opportunities there.

"Some of our businesspeople have expressed an interest in investing in Timor Leste. The country has great potential in several areas, particularly coffee, and oil and gas. I think we can focus, at least, on these sectors," he said.
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