East Timor: Government has spent 58.7pct of Covid-19 Fund so far – ministry

East Timor’s government has so far executed 58.7% of the budget of the Covid-19 Fund, which was created to respond to the effects of the pandemic in the country, according to the transparency portal of the Ministry of Finance.

If commitments and obligations are also taken into account, the rate of execution rises to 76.1%, with only $52.65 million (€42 million) of the fund’s total $33.2 million value yet to be executed, the portal indicates.

The amount shown as actually implemented to date is $194.69 million.

The figures show an increase in execution in December, with the most recent periodic report by the Ministry of Finance on the Covid-19 Fund showing that the government had between 17 April and 30 November the government spent a total of $126.4 million – or 38% of the total value of the Fund.

The report shows payments for the prevention and mitigation programme totalling $107.4 million, or 35% of the final programme budget, with a further $2.1 million spent on the programme to increase production and productivity in a sustainable manner.

In addition, $16.9 million (EUR 13 million), or 93% of the amount budgeted for this purpose, was spent on the marketing and food security programme, conducted through the National Logistics Centre (CLN).

By the end of November around $10.4 million was spent that had been earmarked for the payment of “additional remuneration to the front lines” of the fight against the pandemic and to other public servants, police officers and civil defence staff.

Specifically, the government allocated $9.7 million in supplementary remuneration to 4,016 officers of the East Timorese National Police (PNTL), 2,005 civil defence personnel, 2,006 members of the Defence Forces of Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) and 5,818 officials at the Ministry of Health, with an average spend per head of over $700.

Total spending at the end of November was lower than it was in October “due to the return of $3.9 million not distributed from the Suco Accounts by the National Bank of Commerce of Timor-Leste (BNCTL) regarding the payment of $100 per month to households,” the government report states.

The Covid-19 Fund was set up in April last year with the aim of financing expenditure on measures to prevent and combat Covid-19 and social protection, including economic support programmes, the mitigation of the economic and social effects of the pandemic and the subsequent economic recovery.

Its total value of $333.2 million was approved by the Timorese parliament in two tranches in April and August last year, of which $219.5 million had already been transferred from the Petroleum Fund by the end of November.

It covers three separate programmes, the largest of which, with a total allocation of $310.26 million, is for “prevention and mitigation of covid-19”, with almost $230 million for “social support and economic recovery” being the most important part.

“The total budget of the Social Support and Economic Rescue sub-programme for the population affected by the activities of Covid-19 is significantly larger because it is intended to ensure the payment of subsidies to families and the introduction of economic stimulus measures, which in turn has contributed to greater budget execution of the Fund until 30 November 2020,” the report states.

Then there is the “access to food, non-food and services” programme, with an allocation of around $18 million, and finally the programme for “sustainable increase in production and productivity” , with around $5 million.

The planned programmes and sub-programmes cover a total of 32 different activities.

One of the most significant components of expenditure already made has been the $200 support payment given to more than 321,000 families across the country, with a total expenditure of $61.5 million.

Some $16.3 million was also spent on economic support programmes, including a credit moratorium, private sector employment support and electricity subsidies.