30 May 2012

How Timor-Leste got Ten Billion Dollars

... and how Quickly we will Spend it all.
La'o Hamutuk appreciates Timor-Leste's level of transparency about oil and gas revenues, and the information in this posting comes from published official sources.  We encourage everyone to read and understand these essential facts, so that you can be informed and involved in policy discussions and decision-making.

The balance in Timor-Leste's Petroleum Fund reached U.S. $10 billion two months ago, the unspent part of $13.3 billion which has been deposited into the Fund since it started in 2005. The graph at right (click on it to see it larger) has colored bars in the same sequence as the key above it and the list below. It shows where the money came from, in millions of US dollars not adjusted for inflation:

$    829m return on investing the Petroleum Fund
$        8m interest paid to ANP for delayed "profit oil" payments
$ 5,155m taxes paid by petroleum companies
$ 6,022m "profit oil" additional royalties from Bayu-Undan
$     24m royalties from Kitan oil sold at sea
$   277m royalties from Bayu-Undan gas (LNG piped to Darwin)
$   736m royalties from Bayu-Undan oil sold at sea
$     32m royalties from Elang-Kakatua oil sold at sea

The graph at right enlarges the five lowest bars on the previous graph to show the royalty (FTP -- First Tranche Petroleum) income from each field and product. Each payment is approximately 9% of the gross  revenue the companies received from selling that product during the previous month. This roughly follows the production from each field and the world market price for crude oil (red line).

Natural gas from Bayu-Undan is piped to Australia, where it is liquified and shipped to Japan. The money paid by Japanese buyers, which is linked to world market oil prices, is reflected in payments from the pipeline/LNG plant to the Bayu-Undan Joint Venture, and in royalties those companies then pay to Timor-Leste (90%) and Australia (10%).

With nonrenewable resources like oil and gas, the past does not predict the future. As the oil and gas in the Bayu-Undan and Kitan reserves are used up, production and revenues will decline. The graph at right uses oil price and inflation predictions used by Timor-Leste's Ministry of Finance, and shows that our total oil and gas reserves are only enough to support half the current level of State spending.

This could empty the Petroleum Fund by early 2022, two years before Bayu-Undan production stops, as we explained in a recent blog entry. Some people thought that our assumptions in that blog were too conservative, so we redid the calculations with more optimistic (less prudent) estimates of future oil prices.  The graph at right, based on the most recent "Reference case" projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), shows that the Petroleum Fund could be empty by 2023. That is five years later than recent policies would cause. However, the increased oil price projections over the conservative ones (average of EIA Low and Reference cases) used by the Ministry of Finance to calculate Timor-Leste's Estimated Sustainable Income extends the Petroleum Fund by only two years.

With luck, prayers, world crises and a strong global economy for the next few decades, oil sales prices might be as high as the EIA's "High case." Although we believe it would be foolhardy to plan Timor-Leste's future based on dreams, we modeled this case as well, as shown at right. It gives us only five more years -- enough time for babies born today to finish secondary school.

It will be difficult to avoid this disaster, but it is not impossible. Citizens, Government and development partners should work together to:
  • Reduce growth in State expenditures, ensuring that money is spent wisely on activities that will produce a return to Timor-Leste's people.
  • Invest in our people -- health care, education, sanitation, water, rural roads -- rather than in large, showy infrastructure mega-projects which mainly benefit foreign contractors and a few rich people.
  • Strengthen our non-oil, productive economy, especially agriculture and light industry, to reduce dependence on imports and provide livelihoods and necessities for our people after the oil money is gone.
  • Take responsibility for our own development, rather than relying on foreign investors, lenders, international oil companies, visitors, and imported goods, services and expertise. These send our money and our non-renewable resource wealth out of Timor-Leste, squandering our petroleum birthright and leaving little to show for it.


  1. the best way to use the money is invest more on our human resources and agriculture and basic infrastructures with responsibilty and wisely it depends on which government will take over the the responsibility for the next 5 years will be decide the future of our generations. choose the best party ,,,,,good luck

  2. by 2020, solar energy will be much cheaper than oil based energy (google it). With this factor, is TL became more secure or worse? Please answer...

  3. It's indeed very good that Lao Hamutuk working tirelessly to raise this issue up front. But I guess in the end of the day, thing that counted for would be good governing. In Timor, people hardly seeing any good governing across the public entities this will give uncomfortable to both and foreign and local investors to pump their money in the country through private sectors. Take an example, building a mega project that calls" tasi mane project" for LNG project, i think in the economics sound it is something stupid idea. Probably the big question that we anticipate government to answer is which field that will be feed this LNG? Sunrise? May be not at all as Sunrise lies in dispute area, it is not 100% belong to Timor in fact it shares with superpower and developed neighbour Australia. In additional, Sunrise lies 80% in Australian water and 20% lies in JPDA. Thus, we hope that some good decision will reach both Timor Leste government and Woodside in order to develop the field in the most commercial sound and technical feasibility.

  4. why dont all east timor people come together and rebuild the nation rather then worry about how much will we got from oil. to my people let start work together to build are contry. stop fight each other. to those on power dont forget that you in power because who. as son of east timor i been sofer under indonesia invasion i know that we been through a lot to this point we stand unite as one.so stop think to much about petroliu lets work together/cause we fight together lets build mother land as we dream.

  5. totally support LH study, but bear in mind that you assume that government spending will increase over the years indefinitely, however, after looking at the government budget book for 2012, it is clearly shown that the drawdown from PF increases sharply for the next five year only to finance basic major infrastructure i.e. electricity, road, port, and aiport etc and it is also shown, in the same budget book, that the government will reduce its spending post 2016, after all major infrastructure built, to ESI level. Have you runned your modul based on this assumption?.....