Former Geelong mayor in East Timor drive

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por Christie Peucker - January 20th, 2010

FORMER Geelong mayor Peter McMullin will spearhead a delegation to East Timor next month to help establish a chamber of commerce.

Mr McMullin, as part of his involvement with Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has spent the past year assisting businesses and government departments in East Timor to prioritise the country's development projects.

``Historically, the business community is quite fractured but they need to grow,'' Mr McMullin said.

``We need to prepare East Timor's economy for the next stage when the UN leaves.

`We have something to offer East Timor mentoring businesses, skill development, capacity building.''

At a forum in March, attended by East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, a list of priorities were set by the country's business groups. The list will be formalised at a national congress in the coming weeks.

VECCI will act as a mentor and help with the appointment of a chief executive officer to the national chamber.

``We bang on about our bureaucracy in Australia, but it's very hard to implement decisions without it. They can't make decisions,'' Mr McMullin said.

``2012 is their next election, so now is an important window to consolidate a lot of these national institutions.''

East Timor produces almost $500 million a year from its oil and gas reserves, but its one million people are largely unskilled and the country has a high unemployment rate with 40 per cent of its population living below the poverty line.

Mr McMullin said that while much of Victoria's interest in East Timor stemmed from its peace-keeping efforts in the region and its large East Timorese population, it was not in Australia's interest to have a failed nation on its doorstep.

``The benefit to East Timor is then that it brings them into the international chamber movement, linking them to all types of business opportunities and economic development,'' he said.

in GeelongAdvertiser

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