National Parliament approves amendments to the RAEOA and the Legal-Administrative Qualification of Ataúro Island

The National Parliament approved today, November 20th, 2023, in a final overall vote, the proposed legislative amendments relating to the Special Administrative Region of Oe-Cússe Ambeno (RAEOA) and the Administrative Division of the Territory concerning the legal-administrative qualification of Ataúro island.

The law proposals were approved with 41 votes in favour, 4 abstentions and no votes against.

Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Agio Pereira, representing Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, accompanied by the Minister of State Administration, Tomás do Rosário Cabral and the Vice Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Adérito Hugo da Costa, participated in the debate in the National Parliament.

In his speech, Minister Agio Pereira explained the main objectives of the third amendment to the Law establishing the RAEOA and considered “that this is a huge opportunity to move forward! To improve! To promote legal certainty and a culture of rigour in the RAEOA”.

The Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers reiterated that “the 9th Constitutional Government does not want to hinder the economic and social development of the country”. “Quite the opposite”, the 9th Government “wants to allow this economic and social development to reach everyone, and it is, therefore, necessary to establish legal instruments that enable the Government to intervene in more disadvantaged areas and to make this intervention for the population and with the population”.

“A regime in which people are at the centre. A model that combats social exclusion with a democratic and participatory dimension. A place where goods are produced and job-creating services are provided that have a significant economic and social impact on the community,” he added.

Agio Pereira also assured that the Government “intends to establish a model that can be adopted in different parts of the national territory” because “a Special Zone should not be exclusive to a given part of Timor-Leste’s territory” “but should be able to be adopted in different parts of the national territory to combat regional asymmetries. A model of special economic development zones specific to Timor-Leste that considers the specificities of our country’s different regions.

The Government also emphasised that “the amendments proposed by the 9th Constitutional Government to the statute of The Special Administrative Region of Oe-Cússe Ambeno are governed by criteria of economy, effectiveness and efficiency to grant that territory of the country the necessary and indispensable legal instruments to promote the economic development of the enclave and the well-being of its population”.

Regarding the proposed amendment to Law No. 3/2014, which established the RAEOA and the Special Social Economy Market Zone of Oe-Cússe Ambeno and Ataúro, the aim is to improve the RAEOA’s status, updating it to reflect changes in the management of the National Public Administration and Public Finances. The relationship of supervision and oversight that the Government exercises over the region has also been adjusted, with the strengthening of control mechanisms and the budgetary and financial autonomy of the RAEOA. All references to the Special Social Economy Market Zone of Oe-Cússe Ambeno and Atauro have also been removed to make it possible to establish a model that can be adopted in different parts of the national territory, with the definition of the special economic development zones being delegated to a separate piece of legislation.

As for the proposed amendment to Law 11/2009, which approves the Administrative Division of the Territory, the aim is to extinguish the municipality of Ataúro and establish a new first-level administrative division called “Ataúro”, in line with the special administrative and economic treatment provided for in Article 5 of the Constitution of the Republic. This amendment aims to lay the foundations for a new organisational and operating model for Ataúro’s local administration, which will have the means and the appropriate and necessary legal framework to drive forward the process of infrastructure development in that territory, ensure the provision of essential goods and services to local communities and trigger economic growth and the well-being of the population in Ataúro.