Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – Timor Leste Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak said at his grand ASEAN Summit debut on Wednesday that his country was on the right track to becoming a full member of the regional grouping.
"We will meet all obligations for a full ASEAN membership," Taur Matan Ruak, who is attending the Labuan Bajo summit as an observer, said in his opening statement.
"We have made the necessary steps to build the essential infrastructure and create the conditions that the agreed roadmap asks of. We believe we are on the right track," he told the other Southeast Asian leaders.
According to Taur Matan Ruak, works are already underway to improve Timor Leste's infrastructure. For instance, the expansion of the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in the capital Dili. It has invested in submarine fiber optic cables for secure communications networks. Timor Leste has also improved its hospitality at its places of commerce, restaurants, as well as conference venues to welcome country leaders and tourists.
In 2021, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Timor Leste agreed on a $135 million loan to expand the Nicolau Lobato airport. The expansion encompasses an extension of the runway and the construction of a new air traffic control tower.
Timor Leste and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) this February also inked a public grant agreement worth $37.5 million for a new passenger terminal, including the water supply system and supporting facilities.
According to the Timor Leste government's official website, Australia is also providing $73.4 million for the expansion, including the construction of the access roads to the new terminal.
The Timor Leste government has also allocated over $52 million for land acquisition and related compensations. This brings the overall budget of the first phase of the project to $297.9 million.
ASEAN last year agreed in principle to admit Timor Leste as its 11th member. The bloc also granted observer status to Timor Leste and allowed the country to participate in all ASEAN meetings, including the summit plenaries.