In late 1999, about 70% of the economic infrastructure of East Timor was laid waste by Indonesian troops and anti-independence militias, and 300,000 people fled westward. Over the next three years, however, a massive international program, manned by 5,000 peacekeepers (8,000 at peak) and 1,300 police officers, led to substantial reconstruction in both urban and rural areas. By the end of 2005, all refugees either returned or resettled in Indonesia. The country faces great challenges in continuing the rebuilding of infrastructure, strengthening the infant civil administration, and generating jobs for young people entering the work force. The development of oil and gas resources in nearby waters has begun to supplement government revenues ahead of schedule and above expectations – the result of high petroleum prices – but the technology-intensive industry does little to create jobs for the unemployed, because there are no production facilities in Timor and the gas is piped to Australia. The parliament in June 2005 unanimously approved the creation of a Petroleum Fund to serve as a repository for all petroleum revenues and preserve the value of East Timor’s petroleum wealth for future generations. The mid-2006 outbreak of violence and civil unrest disrupted both private and public sector economic activity. Real non-oil GDP growth in 2006 is estimated to have been negative. The underlying economic policy challenge the country faces remains how best to use oil-and-gas wealth to lift the non-oil economy onto a higher growth path and reduce poverty.
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