Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Journal of Political Ecology
Title The development eraser: fantastical schemes, aspirational distractions and high modern mega-events in the Oecusse enclave, Timor-Leste
Volume 22
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 299-321
URL http://jpe.library.arizona.edu/volume_22/Yoder2015.pdf
The array of challenges to durably improving rural peoples' lives in remote regions is so daunting that it can
be tempting to erase what is there, and to seek a blank slate. This tension is being played out in the OecusseAmbeno
enclave of Timor-Leste, a region long familiar with geographic and political isolation. Residents
now encounter a new iteration of their unique status: rapid declaration of their region as a special economic
zone (ZEESM), with a new regional governance structure and an appointed leadership. The advent of this
new zone is meant to catapult Oecusse from its current state of chronic infrastructure and basic development
challenges to a booming economic center and a fount of national income in short order. Early emphasis is
placed on rapid, major coastal infrastructure construction deemed necessary for the November 2015
commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Portuguese arrival, with the hallmarks associated with high
modernism and mega-event preparation worldwide: spatial re-ordering and regulation; a strong orientation to
external inputs, resources, and services; and centralized control of rapid infrastructure change. This article
investigates the ideological underpinnings of these plans, and explores the irony of how the proposals and
their governance arrangement are a disjuncture with Oecusse as a historically important place. It concludes
with observations on this project's place in the national development context, and the likely costs and impacts
of development for the Oecusse population. Risks include further political and economic marginalization of
the mountain-dwelling and rural population, local residents' loss of productive agricultural land and access to
water, reduced protection through administrative exclusion from national political structures, and the
opportunity costs of misdevelopment's aspirational distractions

Related studies