East Timor: Petroleum Fund loses US$1.8bln due to Covid-19

The Timorese Petroleum Fund (PF) has lost almost $1.8 billion (€1.63 billion) in value due to the behaviour of the international stock markets because of Covid-19, the governor of the Central Bank (BCTL) said on Friday.

“We had a very significant fall in the value of the Petroleum Fund,” Abraão Vasconcelos said in at a speech in the Public Finance Committee of the Timorese National Parliament.

“Even if the report is only published on 10 April I can share with you that until last week, the Petroleum Fund lost almost $1.8 million in value due to international markets,” he said.

Abraão de Vasconcelos appeared today with the interim minister of finance, Sara Brites, at a hearing of commission C which is considering a request for an additional withdrawal of $250 million (€226.8 million) from the FP to strengthen the treasury account.

Since its creation in 2005, the FP has had some negative moments, but, she said, nothing like now.

At the same time, the vice-governor of BCTL, Venâncio Alves Mariz, said that since 9 March the stock market has contracted 30%, a value identical to the decrease in the price of oil.

In February the FP accumulated losses of $343 million (€306.7 million) in a period in which there was no withdrawal from the Treasury.

Data from the monthly “pro forma balance sheet”, released today by the Central Bank, show that on 29 February the FP had a balance of $17.504 billion dollars (€15.66 billion).

This contrasts with a balance of $17.847 billion (€15.97 billion) at the end of January.

The situation has worsened in recent weeks with the fall in international stock exchanges and the price of oil

Cited by the Timorese agency Tatoli and, in another context, Abraão de Vasconcelos also referred to the impact of the ‘lock down’ in New York which “complicates the transportation of dollars from the United States to Timor-Leste”, a country that has adopted that currency as its official currency.

The BCTL decided, however, a policy to guarantee the distribution of six million dollars that it has in the safes of the central entity.

Timor-Leste has confirmed a case of Covid-19.

The new coronavirus, responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic, has already infected another 505,000 people around the world, of which around 23,000 have died.

After it broke out in China in December, the outbreak spread around the world, which led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a pandemic situation.