The 7th ASEAN Media Forum in 2023 featured a panel discussion that shed light on Timor-Leste's journey towards becoming a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The panel, composed of distinguished individuals, including former Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN Sayakane Sisouvong, Director of Timor-Leste’s Water Public Utility Company Joao da Cruz Cardoso, and research professor at Research Center for Politics-National Research and Innovation Agency, Professor Dr. Dewi Fortuna Anwar, provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing Timor-Leste as it seeks to diversify its economy and move away from oil-dominated revenue streams.
Timor-Leste, a small but resilient nation in Southeast Asia, has been making significant strides towards its ASEAN membership. The panelists discussed key issues and strategies necessary for Timor-Leste's successful integration into the regional organization.
Diversifying Timor-Leste's Economy
One of the central focus of the discussion revolved around the necessity of diversifying Timor-Leste's economy, which has historically heavily relied on oil-based revenue. Joao da Cruz Cardoso underscored the significance of diminishing this dependence on oil income, as it presents economic vulnerabilities in the long term. Furthermore, Joao highlighted that the Timor-Leste government acknowledges that diversification is crucial not only for ensuring economic stability but also for fostering sustainable development within the nation.
Challenges in Infrastructure and Human Resources
Ambassador Sayakane emphasized the significance of infrastructure development for the effective hosting of ASEAN events. Joao da Cruz Cardoso further highlighted that substantial improvements in facilities, such as hotels and meeting spaces, were essential to meet ASEAN standards. Meanwhile, Dewi Fortuna Anwar emphasized the critical importance of developing human resources and education to ensure that the country possesses the expertise required for active engagement in ASEAN activities.
History, Rights, and International Relations
The panel discussion briefly touched upon Timor-Leste's history and its struggle for independence. It was emphasized that the nation's commitment to human rights and positive international relations was instrumental in gaining support for its accession to ASEAN.
The Road Ahead
Ambassador Sayakane was asked about the timeline for Timor-Leste's official membership in ASEAN. He indicated that it might become a reality in two years or coincide with Malaysia's chairmanship of ASEAN in 2025. The consensus seemed to be that the nation was on the right path and making commendable progress towards ASEAN membership.