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Modern History: East Timor

Alright, what is this about? Well, I was looking through the list of countries sorted by per capita gross domestic product (GDP) recently. At the very, very bottom of this list I saw East Timor at a mere $400 USD per capita GDP. On this same list we have Luxembourg at $58,900, the United States at $40,100, Canada at $31,500, the European Union at $26,900, Russia at $9,800, and the World average at $8,800.

So, I was curious. What was this country that ranked below even the Gaza Strip ($600) or Samalia (also $600)?

Where is it?

East Timor is in Indonesia on the eastern half of the island of Timor, which itself means East. So yeah, it's East East or maybe the Far East (to quote Laurie). ;)

How did it come about?

In the 16th century, Portugal traded with the island. They skirmished there with the Dutch until 1859 when Portugal ceded the western portion of the island. During WWII, Japan held the island, but it this portion returned to Portugal afterwards. In late 1975, East Timor declared independence from Portugal. In 1976, it became the province of East Timor as part of Indonesia.

During the next twenty years, some 100,000 to 250,000 people were killed during a "pacification" process. In 1999, with the help of the UN, East Timor declared independence from Indonesia. During this time, nearly 300,000 people feld to West Timor. An Australian peace keeping force brought peace later in 1999. In May of 2002, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independant state.

This last part is part of why I find the whole thing fascinating. The country is barely 3 years old, although it's offical independence day is November 28, 1975. In any case, most history classes in school barely even get to Vietnam much less more televised things like the first Gulf War. This is such a minor area of the world and everything is so recent that unless you're really paying attention to the world news, stuff like this can just slip by.

So, it caught my attention and now I've written about it. Now I'm curious about all of the other world changes that hardly make the US World News. Even if it does, I'd probably miss it because I only really ever get my news online, if that. Although I have been listening to NPR lately, which gives me some of what I've been missing. Speaking of NPR, there was a commentary recently on just this: the fact that some people get their news online, but only get the news in subjects they want, such as sports or, in my case, gadgets.

The Money Part

It's population is anywhere between 800,000 and just over 1,000,000 people as of very recent estimates. With that many people and a GDP of only $370,000,000, one can see that it's very poor. This is likely due to being in war for most of the last 30 years; so long that it hardly even makes news.

However, the tax system brings in nearly $110 million and with only $8 million in exports compared to $167 million in imports means that little is left in the country, right? Well, not exactly. Between 1999 and 2002 over $2 billion in aid was given to the country. That nearly tripled the annual GDP.

On another note, it's TLD (top level domain) used to be .tp before 2005 and is now .tl.

Anyway, lots more fun facts here:

CIA - The World Factbook -- East Timor

I've looked around on the web for landscape pictures. Some can be found here. The Google Image search results show some nice landscapes, too.

In any case, maybe someone besides me will find this interesting. I've been calling it Modern History or Current History. It's not current events or anyhting like that. It is history. Just very new history, hot off the presses but long since gone from the news, if it was ever in the news to begin with.

Posted by Shane on June 20, 2005 9:36 PM |


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