In a contentious move, the Timor-Leste National Parliament secured approval for a $1.8 million car fleet budget on Monday to upgrade members' vehicles before the year-end 2023 budget deadline. The decision reflects a significant push to prioritize allocating funds for purchasing 30 new Pajero Sports 4WD vehicles, each valued at $60,000.

Decisive Vote Outcome

The parliamentary vote yielded a 45-1 approval for the proposed car budget, with 11 abstentions. The government's initiative, following months of deliberation and scrutiny from opposition parties and civil society regarding spending priorities, faced both support and dissent within the National Parliament.

Shifting Stance of CNRT

The National Congress of Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), which had previously opposed the high cost of acquiring new cars, took a surprising turn. CNRT President Duarte Nunes announced a change in stance, stating, "The majority have made their decision" on Monday, indicating a shift in the party's position on the expense.

Asia Justice and Rights Critique

Asia Justice and Rights Director Jose Luis de Oliveira criticized the government's vote as "disappointing" on Tuesday. He asserted that the decision overlooks the crucial need for long-term fiscal sustainability, particularly in the context of Timor-Leste's diminishing petroleum fund.

Concerns Over Fiscal Sustainability

The controversy surrounding the car fleet budget highlights concerns about the country's fiscal health, given its reliance on the petroleum fund. Critics argue that the decision to allocate significant funds for vehicle upgrades raises questions about the government's commitment to ensuring long-term financial stability.

Opposition and Civil Society Scrutiny

The proposal faced rigorous examination from opposition parties and civil society groups in the months leading up to the vote. The deliberations centered on spending priorities, with various stakeholders expressing divergent views on whether upgrading the parliamentary vehicle fleet aligns with the nation's broader developmental needs.