The Asia Foundation holds roundtable to discuss Public Transportation in Timor-Leste


The Asia Foundation recently conducted a political economy analysis of public transportation in Timor-Leste.  On December 3rd, we hosted a roundtable discussion with key stakeholders including representatives from the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communication (MPWTC), the office of the Prime Minister, office of the President, as well as other agencies involved in the sector. 

Dili, December 7, 2015 – Gaining an understanding of the population’s movement patterns in Timor-Leste, particularly against the backdrop of a modernizing, urbanizing society, is key to ensuring that its citizens can access basic services and participate fully in public and private life.  Following a discussion with the Office of the President in late 2014, the Foundation embarked on a study to understand the existing modalities, challenges and opportunities posed by the transportation sector. 

This study explores the current services available in land, maritime and air transport.  The paper confirms that public transportation in Timor-Leste is currently functioning with low levels of government intervention and regulation.  Services are largely operated by privately owned vehicles on a for-profit basis.  Some of the main challenges, as identified by users of the system, include the lack of a published schedule, no ability to pre-purchase tickets, and concerns about safety, security and quality of service.

Using a mixed-method approach, the authors reviewed the current regulatory framework, as well as existing policies and operating procedures in so far as registration and route management.  Through key informant interviews with over 40 stakeholders in government as well as agencies working in the sector, the paper highlights existing mechanisms and explores where gaps exist.  To gain a first-hand understanding of the quality and complaints of the current system, the research team used a participatory and observational approach by riding a pre-selected number of inter-district routes.  Additionally, a rider survey of over 350 riders was conducted to highlight first-hand concerns and desires for improvement.

The roundtable on the 3rd of December was held at the Foundation’s office in Dili.  The proceedings were opened by Vice Minister of MPWTC Eng. Inácio Moreira, who noted the importance for stakeholders to come together and gain a better understanding of the needs and opportunities in this sector.  He encouraged further collaboration and exploration, and reiterated the government’s commitment to the sector.  Other attendees included the Director General for MPWTC, the head of Civil Aviation, the Operations Commander for the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL), and representatives from the Australian Embassy, Asian Development Bank, International Labor Organization (ILO), and Japanese Embassy. 

In her presentation, the Foundation’s Country Representative, Susan Marx, shared the future plans for the Foundation to further collaborate with the Asian Development Bank and the MPWTC to conduct a statistically relevant study in the first quarter of 2016. This future research will complement the recently-released report and contribute to the existing evidence base on land transportation services to further illuminate where and how to engage with the relevant stakeholders on reforms and opportunities.

Editor’s Note. This is repost from the Asia’s Foundation Press Release, with the permission from The Asia Foundation. As this is ia first step in understanding and analyzing the sector, TAF welcomes thoughts and feedback including suggestions from readers.