As a man who has lived his life for Timor-Leste I, like all of my compatriots, am no stranger to seemingly overwhelming challenges. Perhaps more than if I had led an easier life, I am aware of both the resilience my people can show, and the importance of leadership that is able to act with intelligence, vision, courage and audacity at times like these. Although we have so far avoided large numbers of people falling ill to COVID-19 in Timor-Leste, the economic and psychological impacts of the pandemic are already being felt. Our strategy in facing this challenge, which I have already begun advocating for with the national leadership, must revolve around two pillars: addressing the medical/humanitarian aspects of the crisis; and addressing its arguably as serious socio-economic fallout.
Below I set out some initial ideas about what this might look like. But first, consideration needs to be given to the creation of a national emergency fund. This fund should run to the order of US$2 billion and be used to facilitate programs relating to the prevention of COVID-19, and the care of any who may get the disease. It might also be drawn on to help ameliorate any impact of the global economic downturn that is likely to result from the pandemic. The help of foreign partners or financial institutions would be most welcome here.
Urgent response measures to COVID-19: medical/humanitarian
We have already made some progress in taking steps to prepare ourselves for the worst this crisis…