Timor-Leste: Economic Development and Integration Challenges


About the Webinar

Emerging from decades of conflict and strife, Timor-Leste became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century in May 2002. Since then, it has made great strides in securing lasting peace and stability. As an economy in transition, Timor-Leste continues to face major challenges on the development and integration fronts, however. There is an urgent need to diversify the sources of economic growth and reduce the heavy reliance on government spending and revenues from natural resources. While it pursues long term structural change, the more immediate challenge is to translate resource rents into sustained improvements in living standards by investing in improving competitiveness. Developing skills and other soft infrastructure, as well as improving connectivity will be key. Timor-Leste has also applied to join ASEAN and the WTO as part of its push to integrate with the regional and global economy. As the only Southeast Asian nation that is not yet a member of these two organisations, what barriers remain in realising these ambitions? These are some of the issues that the webinar will try and address.

About the Speaker

David Freedman is the IFC’s Resident Representative in Timor-Leste. Originally from the UK, he trained as an economist at the University of Nottingham and University of British Columbia. David was awarded the ESRC, Universitas-21, and Law and Social Science scholarships for outstanding students and completed B.Sc and M.Sc degrees in Economics with distinction. He was an Overseas Development Institute Fellow in Papua New Guinea from 2011-2013 and has spent the past decade working on economic policy and private sector development in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Before joining IFC, David worked for the Asian Development Bank as Country Economist in Timor-Leste, and as Head of Economics, Strategy, and Programming in Cambodia.

About the Discussants

Maria Martins da Silva currently serves as an Economic Adviser, Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs (MCAE) through an Australian Aid Program, PROSIVU (Partnership for Inclusive Prosperity), she provides support for Timor-Leste’s WTO Accession process. She is responsible for matters related to coordination between MCAE and relevant entities that take part in the negotiating team for the accession. She is also the main contact person between WTO Secretariat in Geneva and Timor-Leste at the technical level. Maria is also a Working Group Member for Timor-Leste’s ASEAN core team. Maria has been working as an Economist for the Government since 2015, while she had also completed an internship at the WTO Secretariat between 2017 and early 2018. Her education background is as an agriculture economist, and holds a post-graduate degree in Agriculture Economics from SOAS – University of London.

Hal Hill is the H.W. Arndt Professor Emeritus of the Southeast Asian Economies at the Crawford School, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University (ANU). His main research interest is Southeast Asian economic development. He serves on various boards and committees, including the Honorary Board (Dewan Kehormatan) of the Bank Indonesia Institute, the Council of the East Asian Economic Association (of which he was President in 2020-21), and boards at the ANU, Macquarie University, and Monash University. He is the author/editor of 20 books and about 170 journal articles and book chapters. He has a PhD in Economics from the ANU.


This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

Please register here to receive your unique link for joining the webinar.


May 12 2023


10:00 am - 11:30 am