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In dire need of credit

East Timor’s only shot

Timor’s banking system is a reflection of its history. There are three banks with a presence, all foreign, one each from the country that colonized it (Portugal), occupied it (Indonesia) and helped liberate it (Australia): Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Bank Mandiri and ANZ respectively.

These banks are arguably seen as conduits for capital to leave Timor rather than helping to bring it in. "Apart from the Portuguese bank, the others are not giving any loans to people," says João Mendes Gonçalves, minister of economy and development. "They claim this is mainly geared to the risks associated with loans, and we understand all that – our legal framework is not complete yet." Instead, "they are in deposits from people, transferring money overseas, and getting commission from that".

ANZ itself, which set up in January 2001 even before Timor’s formal independence, says it supports "both international firms and a fast-growing Timorese client base", offering savings, transactional banking products and international services for personal customers, commercial clients and government and non-government organizations. A spokesman says ANZ "sees a number of opportunities... to play a strong role in the development of Timor-Leste as a nation," including facilitating foreign investment, lending and providing banking services to the public sector.

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