A Country Model for
© 2006 Joseph George Caldwell. All
rights reserved. Posted at Internet web
sites http://www.foundation.bw and http://www.foundationwebsite.org
. May be copied or reposted for
non-commercial use, with attribution. (1
May 2006; minor edits
I am currently working on a short-term consulting assignment
Here is a short description of the country’s beginnings, as
described in the BBC News article, “Timeline:
A chronology of key events:
1600s - Portuguese invade
1942 - Japanese invade, fighting battles with Australian troops. Up to 60,000 East Timorese are killed. Japan in control until 1945.
1974 - Anti-Fascist revolution in
1975 August - Portuguese
administration withdraws to offshore
1975 October - Five foreign
journalists killed along border with
1975 November - After brief civil
war, Fretilin (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor) declares
1975 December -
Strong resistance to Indonesian rule followed by repression and famine in which 200,000 people are thought to have died.
1981 - Xanana Gusmao becomes leader of Falintil (Armed Forces of National Liberation of East Timor), the armed wing of Fretilin.
1992 - Setback for the resistance as Gusmao is captured near Dili. In 1993 he is convicted of subversion and given a life sentence which is later reduced.
1993 - Groups of East Timorese
enter foreign embassies in
1995 - 20th anniversary of the
Indonesian invasion marked by protest by 112 East Timorese and sympathisers who
enter Russian and Dutch embassies in
1996 - Acting Bishop of Dili, Carlos Belo, and resistance leader Jose Ramos Horta jointly awarded Nobel Peace Prize, raising international awareness of the East Timorese independence struggle.
1998 - Indonesian President Suharto
resigns. Replaced by Habibie who suggests territory may be given special status
1999 January -
1999 February-April - Gusmao moved
1999 May -
1999 August 30 - Almost 99% of 450,000-strong electorate votes in UN-organised referendum.
1999 September - Result of referendum shows 78% voters favoured independence.
Violence erupts as
anti-independence militia helped by the Indonesian military resume campaign of
terror, leaving up to 1,000 dead. A quarter of the population flees, mainly to
Australian-led peacekeeping force
arrives, gradually restores order. Many militia members flee to
1999 October - Gusmao released. UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) established.
1999 December - International
donors at a
2000 September - UN evacuates staff
2001 July - East Timor, Australia
sign memorandum of understanding over future revenues from oil, gas fields in
2001 August - Election of 88-member Constituent Assembly; Fretilin party wins, taking 55 seats.
2002 - January - Truth and reconciliation commission opens to try and heal wounds of past.
2002 January -
2002 February -
2002 February -
2002 April - Xanana Gusmao wins presidential elections.
2002 20 May - UN Security Council sets up UN Mission of Support in East Timor (Unmiset) to help East Timorese authorities.
2002 20 May - Independence: VIP guests including former US president Bill Clinton and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri join celebrations in Dili.
2002 September -
2004 January -
2004 February - Production at offshore gasfield begins; Bayu Undan project is expected to earn $100m a year.
2004 November - End of two-year
process under which 18 people were tried by Indonesian court for human rights
2005 April - East Timor, Indonesia sign landmark border agreement during Indonesian President Yudhoyono's first visit to Dili since coming to power.
2005 June - Remaining Australian peacekeepers leave.
2005 August - Truth commission, set
2006 January - East Timor,
Australia sign a deal to divide billions of dollars in expected revenues from
oil and gas deposits in the
Report on alleged atrocities during
2006 March - 600 soldiers - more than one third of the defence force - are sacked after going on strike.
[End of BBC New article.]
Last week was an exciting one in
Here is the BBC News report on last Wednesday’s rioting:
Hundreds of former East Timorese soldiers have rioted in protest at their dismissal from the army.
On the third day of demonstrations in the capital Dili, soldiers and their supporters threw missiles at buildings and market stalls.
Nearly 600 soldiers went absent without leave last month to protest against their working conditions and what they called favouritism in promotions.
The government sacked them all - about a third of the total defence force.
Hundreds of police from nearby towns were called in, he told the Associated Press, and five people were arrested.
It was not clear if they were soldiers or civilian protesters.
Some of the demonstrators invaded houses, the AFP news agency reported.
"I was with my sleeping child when the house was suddenly attacked by people, some wearing fatigues," homeowner Lorenca Miranda said.
"I also saw three policemen in the area run away when the attack was taking place," she said.
The soldiers - many of them from western districts of the country - originally left their posts because they believed they were missing out on promotion to colleagues from the east, according to protest leader Gastao Salsinha.
Many of the troops, who are
veterans of the 25-year fight for independence from
The dismissal of nearly 600 soldiers is a serious blow to the army, which numbers only about 1,400 personnel.
A recent UN report said that
[End of BBC News article.]
The essence of the problem leading up to last week’s
demonstrations is the fact that the members of the resistance movement have never
been recognized or properly rewarded for their wresting control of the country
It would be an easy matter to resolve the problem, since the numbers of people involved is so small. For example, each veteran of the resistance movement could be given a small plot of land (sufficiently large to raise food for one family) and a pension. It is not clear why nothing like this has been done. On Friday, the demonstrations were brought to an end after the government promised to set up a commission to address the demonstrators’ grievance.
On Friday afternoon and Saturday, I was confined to the
hotel (since it was not safe to go out), and I spent some time reading. Another hotel guest loaned me a copy of the
United Nations Development Programme publication, Timor-Leste Human Development Report 2006: The Path out of Poverty;
Integrated Rural Development (UNDP, UN House,
The Report describes the current situation in
The really amazing thing about the Timor-Leste Human Development Report (“TLHDR”) is the fact that, although extreme population growth is the most significant factor affecting the country’s development, population growth is hardly mentioned in the Report, and population policy is not mentioned at all. Here follows the discussion of population growth, presented in a small box on page 8 of the report:
Box 1.2 – The population of Timor-Leste
In 2004 Timor-Leste’s estimated
population was 923,198. In November 2005
it was estimated to be around 1,011,000.
The roots of the people are Melanesian or Malay-Polynesian, mingled with
smaller groups that trace their ancestry back to
Around 24% of the population are urban with 14% residing in the major urban centers of Dili and Baucau. More than half the population are to be found in the Central Region, 27% in the Eastern Region and a little more than 20% in the Western Region. The people are predominantly young: over half are under 15 years of age and more than two-thirds are under 25. One-fifth of the population are under 5.
Fertility rates are high – more than 7 children per woman of childbearing age [sic: erroneous definition]. And this, combined together with a low rate of contraceptive use (7%), contributes to a 4% population growth rate – with serious implications for employment and for the demand for public services.
[End of box.]
The numbers presented in the box are somewhat different from figures presented earlier by the UN. According to data available from the UN website a few months ago, the total fertility rate was 7.8 in 2003 and 7.6 in 2004; the population growth rate was 5% in 2003 and 5% in 2004; and the population was 500,000 in 1960, 805,000 in 2000, 790,000 in 2001, 795,000 in 2002, 820,000 in 2003, and 880,000 in 2004. The box cites 923,198 as the population in 2004 and 1,011,000 as the population in November, 2005. If the population is growing by 60,000-80,000 per year, the annual growth rate is substantially larger than the 4% figure quoted in the box.
The Report is 95 pages long – 8 pages of introduction, 50 pages of main text, three pages of bibliography, and 34 pages of annexes (notes, definitions, tables). It goes on an on with proposals for economic development, completely ignoring the impossibility of economic development in a poor country with an exploding population.
The Report’s Executive Summary summarizes the state of human development in Timor-Leste in the areas of health; education; poverty; food insecurity; gender disparities; infrastructure and communication; and environment. After summarizing the situation in each of these areas, the Report goes on to say that the way to address the problems is through sustained economic growth. Never once does the Report mention, however, that the ultimate source for most of the problems is a high population density. Rather than embarking on a program of ambitious economic growth, which will eventually lead to a higher population and increased degradation of the environment, a far better alternative is to seek ways to reduce the population. There are already so many people in Timor-Leste that the average size of the landholdings in this predominantly rural agricultural society is around 1.2 hectares. If the population were reduced by one-half, for example, (i.e., to the level in 1960) the landholding size could be doubled.
The exploding population is contributing to rapid deterioration of the environment. The Report states, “Most Timorese are critically dependent on the state of the natural environment. Unfortunately this has been deteriorating rapidly. ‘Slash and burn’ agriculture, combined with decades of unsustainable logging and forest fires, have [sic] exposed the land, and rapid water flows have washed away soil. This is exacerbated by the gathering of fuel wood: the major source of energy for rural residents. This also harms people’s health: inefficient burning of wood in poorly ventilated kitchens in a significant factor in respiratory diseases.” Once a low-technology rural society has reached the point where it cuts down live trees for firewood, instead of collecting only deadfall, the population has clearly passed the point where the land can support it. All of the environmental problems cited are caused by overpopulation. The small, mountainous island nation of Timor-Leste simply cannot support a population of a million people – or even several hundred thousand – without causing serious environmental damage.
The total land area of Timor-Leste is 14,919 square kilometers, of which only a very small fraction is suitable for agriculture. The area of arable land is about 700 square kilometers (UN data). The population density relative to total land area is 67 persons per square kilometer, and the population density relative to arable land area is 1,429 persons per square kilometer. These densities are extremely high, and unsustainable. They have been enabled and supported only by relying on massive energy inputs from fossil fuel, or by farming severe slopes, which can be done only for a few years before the land disappears. When global petroleum reserves exhaust (worldwide, by 2050), the population of Timor-Leste will fall back to the levels that are supportable on a sustainable basis by solar energy. Timor-Leste’s land can support, long-term, only about 25,000 people on solar energy at a low level of living, and only about 250 people long term on solar energy at a high level of living.
Given the seriousness of Timor-Leste’s crushing overpopulation problem, and the significance of overpopulation in causing many of the country’s human development problems, it is, on the surface, amazing that the Report does not address population policy in any of its recommendations (I say “on the surface” because there is in fact a very strong reason for this fact). It suggests only economic development for an already unsustainable population that is growing at breakneck speed.
The Report presents four basic options for tacking rural poverty. Quoting from the report, “The way forward will probably be through a combination of one or more of four basic options:
In none of these options is population policy mentioned as a factor.
The HDRTL report contains much material related to the UN Human Development Index and Millennium Development Goals. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite measure of quality of human life that includes consideration of income, life expectancy and educational attainment. The Millennium Development Goals are the following:
The approach to improving quality of life for Timor-Leste is related to these Goals, as well as to the nation’s National Vision.
The HDRTL report prescribes a process for development based on economic growth. This approach to human development has been demonstrated to be a complete sham. After four decades of this program being promoted worldwide, the number of people on the planet living in desperate poverty has grown from two billion to five billion, and the planet’s environment has been seriously damaged – large human numbers and industrial activity cause the extinction of an estimated 30,000 species every year. Despite the demonstrated failure of the approach, the UN, World Bank, and other development organizations continue to tout it, because it makes money for the world’s wealthy elite, who control them. The fact that this approach leads ultimately to the complete destruction of the planet’s biosphere in a few years, and that it leads directly to massive increases in the number of people living in abject poverty, is not of the least concern to these people, who live only for the moment and only for themselves.
The only real issue to address is what the state of the environment of Timor-Leste will be in 2050, after the end of the Petroleum Age and the collapse of global industrialization. If Timor-Leste pursues a program of development based on economic growth, its population will continue to explode, the environment will be completely destroyed, the country will be deforested, the rural people will migrate to the urban areas, and most of them will live in urban slums in grinding poverty. The UN “economic growth” development model will have generated billions of dollars for the planet’s wealthy elite, and another country will have been totally destroyed as a result of following this development model.
In 1975, I supervised a tax policy analysis study in
The Human Development
Report 2006 Timor-Leste (HDRTL) report is a presentation of exactly the
same failed policies and programs that were prescribed for
And “more” is never enough. As long as the population keeps exploding, there are continuing opportunities to sell goods and build infrastructure. That is why population policy is not mentioned in the HDRTL report. The world political system is guided by “growth-based” economics, which seeks to maximize economic activity by any means and at any cost – and one of the best contributors to continuing economic growth is a growing population. All world political leaders are calling for increased standards of living for their populations, and for increased economic activity, despite the fact that this is destroying the planet’s biosphere. The people proposing economic growth as a solution to Timor-Leste’s development situation are the “Merchants of Death” who will be pleased to sell Timor-Leste goods and services all the way to its grave, where it will join Haiti and a host of other destroyed states who listened to the UN and World Bank proponents of economic development as a path to a better life for their citizens. Rapid population growth will keep demand for economic goods and services high. The fact that it is destroying the environment of Timor-Leste and the quality of life for its residents is not a concern to those in the “development” business. “Economic development” is a false promise of material wealth to the poor – it enriches only the wealthy elite. It is a wicked temptress, promising a high level of material life / standard of living to the poor who would pursue it, but delivering only a destroyed environment and increased numbers of people living in poverty and misery, while enriching the wealthy who promote it and profit from it.
Timor-Leste is in a unique position. The Indonesians destroyed virtually all the
infrastructure in their unsuccessful campaign to subdue the population. The country is essentially starting from
scratch. It is the poorest country in
I have written much material on the subject of planetary
management (presented at http://www.foundationwebsite.org
), and some of it may be relevant to the situation in Timor-Leste. Essentially, I view that the destruction of
the planet’s biosphere being caused by large human numbers and industrial
activity will likely continue until global petroleum reserves are exhausted
(which is estimated to occur by 2050), or some other global catastrophic event
occurs, such as global warming, global nuclear war, or biospheric collapse from
human-caused mass species extinction. No
matter which of these alternatives occurs, the global human population, which
has exploded to unsustainable levels because of access to fossil fuels, will
drop back to pre-fossil-fuel levels of at most a few hundred million people on
the planet. At that time – during and
after the collapse of the industrial world – there will be a unique opportunity
for the survivors to institute a new system of planetary management – a
rational, long-term-sustainable system of planetary management in which the
probability of extinction of the human species and all other species of the
biosphere is kept very low. For this new
system, I have suggested a “minimal-regret” population consisting of a single-nation
high-technology population of five million and a globally distributed primitive
population of five million hunter-gatherers as a feasible alternative. The purpose of the high-tech society is human
population control – to ensure that the size of the high-tech and low-tech
populations does not increase. The
purpose of the low-tech society is to reduce the likelihood that a local
catastrophic event would cause the extinction of the human species. The proposed minimal-regret population
eschews economics as a guide for social management, and rejects the notion of
global industrialization, which is so damaging to a planet’s biosphere. (For more details, see my book, Can
The minimal-regret population is not based on democracy as a form of government, but on synarchy. Synarchy (not to be confused with synarchism) is a system of government proposed in the late 1800s by the French philosopher / political scientist / mystic Marquis Joseph Alexandre St.-Yves d’Alveydre. It is similar to the system of government discussed in Plato’s The Republic. Unlike the anarchic, laissez-faire system currently in place, which is rapidly destroying the planet’s biosphere, it is a mission-oriented approach for planetary management in which the planet is viewed as a spacecraft (“Spaceship Earth”), and the role of the leaders is to maintain the viability of its human passengers by ensuring the viability of the entire planetary biosphere. Synarchy is a governmental system that is appropriate for managing a planet on a long-term sustainable basis. The current anarchic system of over 200 sovereign countries, all champing at the bit to out-produce each other – and destroying the planet in the process – is not.
The forces of economic development are very powerful. Through their global industrial empire, they have succeeded in throttling the entire planet in a death-grip strangle-hold, which is unlikely to be loosened prior to the end of the Petroleum Age and the end of “cheap energy” on which global industrialization feeds. It is unlikely that anything significant can be done with respect to establishing a rational, long-term-sustainable system of planetary management until the collapse of the industrial world occurs. Nevertheless, it is of interest to speculate whether a long-term sustainable society might be established in a single country, such as Timor-Leste, prior to the eventual and inevitable collapse of the industrial world.
I generally employ the methodology of systems engineering to
determine the solution to complex problems, and that approach would work well
in this instance. (As an example of the
application of systems engineering to a social problem, see, e.g., my book on
tax reform, A New Tax System for the
The cantons would not be permitted to develop economically,
other than as a primitive-agriculture plantation (growing coffee or other crops
that leave the forest intact). This
arrangement would avoid the Garrett Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons”
phenomenon, in which common areas are invariably overexploited and eventually
destroyed. It is imagined that each
canton would be a single plantation, but it may be that some allowance for
single-family farms, such as those established by the Germans in
Each canton would be responsible for its own population-control mechanism, and would be free to employ whatever scheme it desired (e.g., birth control, abortion, infanticide, feud, pitched battles, skirmishes, war). The plantations would not be permitted the use of any modern technology, such as electricity. If a canton opted for a hunter-gatherer existence rather than a plantation, the society would be similar to that of the American Indians or the Africans before the arrival of the Europeans. Cantons would be permitted to wage war on neighboring cantons.
There would be a single high-technology center, in Dili,
which would monitor each of the cantons and ensure that none of them developed
economically, or caused any significant destruction of their forest resources
(e.g., by human overpopulation). Any significant
economic development or other degradation of the forest would be terminated by
the Dili center. Trade would be allowed
only among neighboring cantons, or with Dili.
The Dili center would be responsible for all contact with the outside
world, including defense agreements with larger nations, such as
The proposed scheme is similar (except for the Dili
high-tech center) to the agrarian societies set up in the New World by Spain
and Portugal in Latin America and by the English plantation owners of the US
“Old South.” It is an ecologically
friendly approach, based on “wood” technology (as existed prior to the
industrial revolution (cf. Jeremy Rifkin’s discussion in his book, Entropy). It is a feudal system, with aspects of
republican government à la
The UN Mission has been present in
If Timor-Leste wishes to avoid this fate – total destruction of its environment, with most of its population living in abject misery in a destroyed rural area or in hellish urban slums – it must reject the UN’s economic-growth-based approach to development. By 2050, by which time global petroleum supplies are exhausted, the entire industrial world will collapse. Human population will fall to a small fraction of its current size. The only significant issue to address is what the ecological state of the biosphere will be after the end of the Petroleum Age and global industrialization. By 2050, most countries of the world, following the paradigm of economic development, will have destroyed their environment, and their few surviving descendents will inherit wastelands. Timor-Leste does not have to follow in this path. Instead, it can choose to adopt a different approach to human development – one that preserves the natural environment and ensures a high quality of life for everyone, not just for the wealthy elite.
But time is running out for Timor-Leste. Recent developments (last week’s street
demonstrations) illustrate the increasing restiveness of the population relative
to the increasing deterioration of their quality of life and environment. This year may be the year of Timor-Leste’s
“last stand.” The population is
exploding so fast that most indicators of social progress are doomed to
worsen. If Timor-Leste continues much
longer with the UN “economic development” paradigm for human development, it
will soon enter the “black hole” of no return, into which
I will close this article with a quote from my book, Can
Economics is the driving force that has corrupted mankind and is destroying the planet. Economics – the dismal science. As mathematician John Maynard Keynes observed (in his 1930 essay, “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren”) in commenting on the fatal limitations of economics as a long-term basis for human society:
“Some day we may return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue – that avarice is a vice, that the extraction of usury is a misdemeanor, and the love of money is detestable. But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little while longer.”