For definitions of the words in bold, click on the word to see its definition in the glossary.
Every country needs to administer public financial resources and make decisions about monetary policy, such as managing the exchange rate, setting interest rates and other decisions regarding a country’s currency. In addition, all governments need financial services: to collect taxes, pay salaries and make payments for materials purchased on behalf of the public. Governments also need to regulate financial institutions like banks
The BPA was formerly known as the Central Payments Office (CPO). The CPO was created early in 2000 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) following the invitation by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the IMF to participate in the Joint Assessment Mission in September 1999, and to take responsibility for the design and construction of East Timor’s financial institutions. The IMF identified and employed people to create and operate the CPO and the Central Fiscal Authority (CFA) which became the BPA and the Ministry of Planning and Finance. The IMF also wrote the UNTAET regulations creating and defining the duties of the BPA. The BPA regulation in East Timor is the same as the regulation which the IMF wrote for the Banking and Payments Authority in Kosovo, which is not an independent country.
The BPA includes a banking and payments department, bank licensing and supervision department, and statistics and economics division. The accounting and budget division writes quarterly and annual reports for the governing board and external auditors as well as managing the BPA’s budget. The BPA also has an administration department and an information technology (IT) division.
Financial services to the government
The BPA provides banking and financial services to the government. All government financial resources are managed by the BPA, which performs all the functions of a bank except that it cannot lend money to individuals or businesses except for commercial banks. It can only invest money in other national governments or central banks. The BPA regulation states that the government is not legally permitted to keep public money in any bank other than the BPA. This is to ensure public funds are managed by the public, not a private institution like a commercial bank.
As part of its banking services to the government, the BPA makes payments for the government, such as salaries to government employees or payments to foreign or domestic businesses which have provided good or services to the government. When the government needs to make payments it instructs the BPA to do so on its behalf.
Currently people can pay taxes and fees to the government through the Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU). This is because the BNU was operating in East Timor before the BPA came into existence, and agreed to receive tax payments in an informal agreement with UNTAET. The UNTAET regulation which created the BPA also stated it must be the only recipient of public funds, which made it illegal for the BNU to receive tax payments. Therefore the BPA opened a separate account with the BNU for each government tax. For example, a separate account was opened for income tax, excise tax and so on. Each day the BPA transfers the funds out of the BNU and into the BPA. The BPA has the same arrangement with Institução de Microfinancas de Timor Leste (IMTL), and in the future people will also be able to pay tax at Bank Mandiri and the Australia New Zealand bank (ANZ).
In addition to the government’s and banks’ accounts
Each bank in East Timor — the ANZ, BNU and Bank Mandiri — is legally required to open two accounts with the BPA. One account is a general account for payments between banks. There is no minimum amount for this account and the balance is determined by the bank. Banks also have collateral accounts which are used to guarantee interbank transactions. The minimum balance is US$50,000, and the BPA pays interest on these accounts, totaling $260,000 in the last financial year (2002-2003).
All financial transactions (transfers of money) between banks in East Timor are processed through the BPA. As most transactions here are in cash, there are not many transfers.
The BPA is also responsible for supervising all banks and foreign exchange dealers operating in East Timor. It also supervises the IMTL but not microfinance projects run by international and national non-governmental organizations. All banks and foreign exchange dealers need to obtain a license from the BPA to operate in East Timor. The BPA’s governing board decides whether or not the BPA should issue the license. Licensed financial institutions are then registered with the BPA.
All financial institutions have to submit to regular examinations by the BPA, including both on-site and off-site examinations, which are a monthly report from the institution to the BPA. The BPA analyses all reports and compiles monetary statistics which it publishes in the newspapers and its own bulletin every quarter.
Every quarter each bank has to submit a consolidated report on its overall financial status, since all of the banks operating in East Timor are from other countries. The on-site inspection is an annual audit
The BPA can check the financial condition of a bank but it cannot interfere with a bank’s operations. For example, it cannot limit the $2.00 per month some banks charge their depositors.
The BPA has a management team which consists of the General Manager from Portugal, the Deputy General Manager for Payments from New Zealand, the Deputy General Manager for Supervision from East Timor and the Chief Accountant from Uganda.
The IMF recruited and pays the salaries jointly with the UNMISET of the General Manager and Deputy General Manager for Payments. These managers do not have to meet all of UNMISET’s reporting and evaluating requirements, and are not likely to be terminated once UNMISET’s mandate ends in June 2004, as these positions are part of the BPA management structure. UNMISET pays for the Chief Accountant and the Senior Economist.
The legislation governing the BPA gives the General Manager a lot of authority within the BPA and consequently with a lot of influence over East Timorese monetary matters. According to the current General Manager, East Timorese leaders asked the Bank of Portugal to recruit someone, and the Bank then asked the IMF to identify and recruit this position. The Bank of Portugal also pays the IMF half his salary. The General Manager is therefore evaluated by the Bank of Portugal, the IMF and the government of East Timor. The General Manager evaluates the other managerial staff on the basis of the work they do at the BPA. If an international adviser performs poorly, it is the General Manager (not the IMF) who decides whether he or she continues working at the BPA.
The BPA has a governing board which is supposed to consist of three executive members (the General Manager of the BPA, the Deputy Manager for Payments, and the Deputy Manager for Supervision), and four non-executive members from civil society. The governing board is responsible for deciding policy and monitoring its implementation. It is also the oversight body of the BPA.
Currently the governing board consists only of the three executive members (two internationals and one East Timorese), although the BPA regulation, promulgated in November 2001, states at least four members of the governing board must be East Timorese. No civil society members have yet been appointed. Consequently there is no effective oversight body.
Who pays for the BPA?
The BPA has its own income. It earns money by charging fees for the banking services provided to the government and agencies which have accounts with the BPA. For instance, banks are charged 0.6% on each cash withdrawal from the BPA. The largest portion of its income last year (41%) came from fees paid by the government, amounting to $562,401.
The BPA also earns interest on the funds it invests overseas (see diagram at right). Most of the capital
The BPA earned $1,371,710 from all its activities over the 2002-03 financial year (see pie chart below). Its expenses include staff salaries, administration, interest on funds it keeps in its accounts and costs incurred importing new US dollars The total expenses amounted to $910,935 over the same period. The BPA’s income exceeded its expenses by $460,775. This surplus is placed into reserve accounts which are used to cover potential losses in the future. If the BPA’s net income in a given financial year exceeds five percent of the total amount in bank accounts held by the BPA, the excess can be transferred into the national government budget.
As East Timor uses the U.S. dollar, the BPA cannot influence the exchange rates. The BPA has not set limits on interest rates. Interest on loans is currently very high (17% per year) because the lack of regulation concerning insurance and land registration increases the risk of loans and reduces the certainty of collateral. When insurance and property can be used to guarantee loans, banks will charge less interest for loans because they will be less risky. If the BPA set limits on interest rates below the current level, the banks would not lend any money as they would consider this too risky.
The BPA is responsible for ensuring that there are enough notes (dollar bills) in East Timor to cover all cash transactions, but it cannot print currency. Therefore, it manages the importation and distribution of U.S. dollars. Many dollars leave East Timor as payments for imports
The IMF created the BPA and is still involved through regular missions. The IMF continues to provide technical assistance if needed. The managerial staff together with the IMF are responsible for deciding if and when technical assistance is necessary. This has addressed the immediate needs of providing a system of making payments for the government and a means of licensing and regulating banks.
The BPA will become the independent, central bank of East Timor once the new banking law is passed by Parliament. As East Timor uses the US dollar, the BPA is more an independent means of providing payment services and regulating banks rather than a means of formulating monetary policy, where it is limited to giving policy advice to the government based on the statistics it compiles.
For central banks in developed and developing countries with their own currencies, formulating monetary policy has proved very problematic. Currency speculators who trade in currencies have caused massive economic problems in particular. This is one result of the deregulated global economy promoted by the international finance institutions and the world’s most powerful economies.
Account. An arrangement between a depositor and a bank for the bank to hold money.
Assets. Property or money which is owned by a person or institution like a bank or business.
Audit. An examination of accounts by an independent person or company. An audit can also verify the efficiency of the institution keeping the accounts.
Balance. The amount of money kept in an account.
Bank. An institution which provides financial services to individuals, groups and businesses. These services can include storing money in accounts, transferring money overseas, making payments on behalf of the account holders, providing currency exchange services and lending money. Banks earn money by charging fees for their services, investing money and charging interest on their loans.
Capital. Property or wealth.
Collateral. Money or property used as a guarantee. Usually people need to give a bank collateral before the bank will lend them money. For example if a person wanted to borrow money to start a business they could use their house as collateral. If the business failed the bank would take and sell their house, returning any money above the amount borrowed to the person.
Creditor. A person or institution who is owed money by another person.
Currency. The cash notes and coins (example, U.S. dollars and Timor centavos) which can be exchanged for goods or services.
Devalue. Reduce the value of a currency relative to other currencies.
Economics. The study of how goods (food and clothing) and services (education, health care) are produced, distributed and used.
Exchange rate. The value of one currency in relation to another. The values of different currencies are constantly changing. The exchange rate is used to determine how much of one currency you can buy with another currency. For example, one U.S. dollar might buy 8,500 Indonesian rupiah.
Exports. Natural resources like oil, agricultural products like coffee and other goods and services which a country produces and sells in other countries. For example, East Timor exports coffee.
Foreign exchange dealer. Someone who buys and sells different currencies.
Imports. Goods and services produced in other countries which are brought into a country and sold. For example, some of East Timor’s imports include diesel fuel and Gudam Garam cigarettes.
Inflation. An increase in prices of goods and services. This can happen when the supply of money increases or when the demand for a limited number of goods increases. In East Timor, inflation occurred when a large number of internationals were highly paid by UNTAET.
Interest. A charge or payment for using someone else’s money. For example, a bank pays interest on money kept in an account because it can use the money for investments. If a bank lends money it charges a higher rate interest to the person, group or business which uses the money.
Interest rate. The percentage of the amount in an account or loan which is paid or charged in a given time period. The BPA can set interest rates, although it doesn’t do so at the moment in East Timor. Interest rates have important impacts. If interest on loans are high, fewer people take out loans. If interest rates are lower, more people will borrow money. By setting interest rates a bank can influence people to spend more money than they have.
Monetary policy. A set of actions or decisions about the national currency. These decisions can be about the foreign exchange rate of the national currency, or setting limits on the interest rates banks can charge.
Statistics. Information regarding numbers. The BPA is concerned with the collecting information about the prices of goods and services in East Timor. The BPA uses the statistical information to make decisions regarding monetary policy.
In early October, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) held the initial meeting of its Committee on Poverty Reduction. ESCAP asked Focus on the Global South to organize civil society input, and Focus invited Thomas Freitas from
We the representatives of non-government and people’s organizations, gathered here in Bangkok from 14 countries in the Asia Pacific region for the Asia Pacific Civil Society Forum, 6-8 October 2003, to give inputs into the inaugural meeting of the UN ESCAP Committee on Poverty Reduction.
We have the following concerns and recommendations to make:
We challenge the Committee to adopt a more comprehensive understanding of poverty and hunger and intensify its work towards poverty eradication urgently.
La’o Hamutuk, Timor-Leste
Focus on the Global South, Regional
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia), Regional
The Womyn’s Agenda for Change Project-Oxfam Hong Kong, Cambodia
Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education & Advocacy (ECREA), Fiji
Center for Organisation Research and Education (CORE), India
Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia
Institute of Global Justice, Indonesia
Federation of Indonesian Peasants Unions (FSPI), Indonesia
Third World Network, Malaysia
Rural Reconstruction Nepal/South Asia Poverty Eradication Network, Nepal
Partners With Melanesians Inc., Papua New Guinea
Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines
Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), Sri Lanka
Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN)
Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Regional
CARE International, Vietnam
Assembly of the Poor, Thailand.
La’o Hamutuk staff: Cassia Bechara, Simon Foster, Tomas (Ató) Freitas, Selma Hayati, Mericio (Akara) Juvinal, Yasinta Lujina, Inês Martins, Charles Scheiner, João Sarmento, Jesuina (Delly) Soares Cabral
Translation for this Bulletin: Xylia Ingham, Nino Sari, Pamela Sexton
Executive board: Sr. Maria Dias, Joseph Nevins, Nuno Rodrigues, Pamela Sexton, Aderito de Jesus Soares
La’o Hamutuk (Walking Together in English) is an East Timorese non-governmental organization that monitors, analyzes, and reports on the principal international institutions present in Timor Lorosa’e as they relate to the physical, economic, and social reconstruction and development of the country. La’o Hamutuk believes that the people of East Timor must be the ultimate decision-makers in this process and that this process should be democratic and transparent. La’o Hamutuk is an independent organization and works to facilitate effective East Timorese participation. In addition, La’o Hamutuk works to improve communication between the international community and East Timorese society. La’o Hamutuk
In the spirit of encouraging greater transparency,
La'o Hamutuk, The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis
P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia)
Mobile: +(670)7234330; Land phone: +670-3325-013
Email: email@example.com; Web: http://www.laohamutuk.org