East Timor Overview
|Rep®≤blica Democr®Ętica de
||Tetum and Portuguese
|Form of government
||UTC + 9
|Telephone area code
East Timor (Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste) is
the northeastern part of the island of Timor, which lies
in the Indian Ocean and belongs to the Lesser Sunda
Islands (the western part of the island is the
Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur, West Timor).
The former Portuguese colony was annexed by Indonesia in
1975 and gained full sovereignty as an independent
country on May 20, 2002.
The country covers approximately 14,600 km². East
Timor is mostly mountainous, the highest elevation is
the Tata Mailau at approx. 2,960 m.
The capital Dili is on the north coast of the
Timor has a tropical monsoon climate with little
seasonal temperature fluctuations. The average values
are between 26 °„ C and 28 °„ C all year round. The
annual rainfall is between 2,000 mm and 3,000 mm, most
of the precipitation falls from December to March.
Tropical cyclones reach the island an average of three
to five times a year.
Flora and fauna
The rainforest on Timor is largely cleared. There are
eucalyptus and sandalwood trees and acacias. Savannah
can be found in the southern part of the island.
In contrast to the islands further north, there are
mainly Australian animal species on Timor, such as
marsupials such as the couscous. Reptiles, amphibians
and birds are found in great biodiversity. The birds
include numerous parrots, such as amadins and the
About a million people live in East Timor. Population
growth is 5.4%. This island - like many others in the
Southeast Asian and Oceanic region - has an ethnic
diversity, the population is made up of around 15 ethnic
groups. There are also Indonesians, Chinese, Arabs and
In addition to the old colonial language Portuguese,
T®¶tum and Bahasia Indonesia are spoken; in addition,
many minorities have their own dialects. Another
testimony to the long colonial past is the Roman
Catholic religion, which is practiced by a large part of
the population (98%). According to COUNTRYAAH, 1% Christian minority is made up
of Protestants. There are also Muslims, Buddhists and
Much of the settlement in East Timor was destroyed in
the course of the liberation struggle. There is still a
great shortage of social and health facilities. Life
expectancy averages 66 years. Over 40% of East Timor
residents cannot read nor write.
East Timor has been officially a sovereign country
and a parliamentary democracy since May 20, 2002. The
head of state is the President (since May 2012 Taur
Matan Ruak). He has primarily representative functions,
but is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
He is elected by the people for five years. The Prime
Minister is the head of the government (ex-president
Xanana Gusmão of the CNRT since August 2007).
The people's representation consists of a chamber
with different numbers of members (at least 52, at most
65 members). The people elect the deputies for five
years. East Timorese are allowed to vote from the age of
East Timor is divided into 13 administrative units.
East Timor is one of the poorest countries in the
world. After the independence referendum in 1999,
settlements and infrastructure in the country were
largely destroyed. The country has received intensive
foreign financial aid in recent years. It is a member of
the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the
World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Around
half of the population are either not or underemployed
and almost 40% live below the poverty line.
East Timor has rich oil and gas deposits off the
coast (Timor Sea), the exploitation of which began in
2004. Other mineral resources that have not yet been
extracted are copper, manganese, gold and coal.
Rice, maize, batatas, cassava and beans are grown for
their own use. For export, coffee, rubber, coconut trees
and cotton are cultivated on large plantations. Forestry
also plays a role in export.
The industry is poorly developed and focuses on food
processing, soap making and weaving. The few exports are
mainly delivered to the former colonial masters
Portugal, Taiwan and Germany. The imports (food, fuel,
machinery) come mainly from Indonesia, Singapore and
The currency is the US dollar.