Greasing the wheels of business

Within the last 24 hours, I heard 3 separate things related to doing business in TL.  Firstly, the Minister of Economy and Development mentioned an intention to drop the company tax rate from 30% to 10%.  That is but one of the costs to business that the government could stick their oar into.

Two guys from completely different companies and quite independently mentioned one of the other main impediments to business efficiency – the cost of communications.  In any dealings with overseas suppliers or customers, the associated communication costs are horrific.  I have waxed lyrical before on the cost of internet connectivity but general phone costs are high as well.

For communicating detail, the internet is probably the preferred media these days but both of these guys lamented the huge cost.  However, their main current beef is that it is currently (for them) highly unreliable.  Down for days due to line faults and dropping out every 5 minutes.  Imagine trying to collect your email at 9am and finally establishing a successful connection at noon.  And paying through the nose for the “service”.  There was a certain desperation in their voices over all this.

Another one is the extra costs associated with importing.  “Storage fees” to pay while goods wait on the docks to be cleared by customs.  “Agents fees” to expedite movement through the customs system.  Everyone knows it is a crock.

6 thoughts on “Greasing the wheels of business

  1. Are you saying that there is not a high-speed connection above 256? And how effective is using Skype there? Does no one have stable, reliable internet or phone?

    Thanks for all your information that helps a foreigner understand life in TL.

  2. There are about half a dozen internet cafes that one would consider using. Having tried one of the 128kbps cafes shared between 10 users, I tend to steer clear of the lower end ones. I think most of the better cafes have upped to 256kbps but I haven’t surveyed lately. I think Jinhas has 512kbps but there are all sorts of sharing arrangements around the place which may grab some of that – don’t know really.

    Dial-up internet is a raffle but I suspect there are good parts of town and not so good. Delta 2/Comorro area seems to get a really bad service but they also suffered from people stealing the phone cables.

    Some people Skype but usually from the workplace. I have found it quite ineffective so just pretend Skype (& others) do not exist. Skyping from an internet cafe to make personal calls does not cut the mustard with me. Online text chat seems to be generally more reliable.

    Fixed and mobile phones do work. You get the occasional drop-out on voice calls but much more often on internet dial-up. The mobile network works OK most of the time but during the crisis, the limited number of supported simultaneous calls was evident. It is quite common to find people wandering around trying to find a stable mobile phone signal and that is the case where I live.

    If you are organised and patient, voice is OK but the internet is aggravating if you expect any service from a dial-up or permanent connection. Internet cafes work but you don’t want to be in one at peak time.

    And if you like downloading music and video, downloading Windows or Mac operating system patches, try another country.

  3. I forgot to mention that most of the better internet communications would be through the UN and the embassies who are allowed to bypass the telecomms monopoly and install their own satellite dishes.

    I think it is only a matter of time before someone outside that group who quietly installs their own dish.

    I don’t know what it is like now, but in 2006, I was told that Timor Telecom regularly shut down the Timorese government’s own military (F-FDTL) comms system. They just switched it back on again next day. The F-FDTL base in Tasi Tolu about 5 to 10 kms west of central Dili is (or was) in a mobile phone shadow. Sounds a pretty bizarre scenario to me.

  4. Have you traveled to Baucau? Is the communication situation the same over there? I am coming to TL on April 1st. Thanks for this blog, it is helping so much to know what to expect and give me an idea of what my life is going to be like. Is the cost of making mobile calls extremely high- and does it get charged to receive calls on the cell phone? Thanks.

  5. I have passed through Baucau a couple of times but only stopped for a couple of hours at most. I have no idea about internet access but I am sure mobile phones are OK. I know “Mr.Download” moved from Dii to Baucau in 2006 so I assume there is an internet cafe of sorts there. There will be but expect even more modest speeds to Dili.

    I use a pre-pay phone but SMS more than talk. Pre-pay calls are 15 to 25 cents per minute depending on when you call. International calls are from 40 cents per minute (OZ) to $2 per minute (US). SMS text messages are 10 cents anywhere in TL and 20 cents international.

    I don’t think you pay to receive calls.

  6. Well, it does not surprise me to have come across this 136,367…..well I lost counts on the complain I hear mainly from Malia (Foreigners), you see I was 1 of the 136,367 people that was complaining about doing business in Dili, Timor-Leste and given the fact that I was born in Dili and raised in Sydney one would think that I would understand, being a Timorese, well here is some bad news – WRONG. You see I was like you the winging type coming from Sydney or where ever you come from with at least 200 years in advance in all development and having everything I wanted in front of me and should I be put on hold by some answering machine or be told to wait for services I would have jumped down their throats.

    Like you this is how I was when I first touchdown in Dili, in 2000, and if you think you had it bad now…. All that you are going through and saying now, like a commented earlier, I keep hearing from new investors wanting to come to Timor-Leste to do business, my comment to you and those wanting to do business in Timor-Leste is this, “Timor-Leste is not Australia, is not Singapore-Malaysia or Indonesia, we are a country that by a miracle was given the chance to be self Governed, and if you sir/madam can please put to me in writing through history which part of the world upon gaining independence and with almost the whole country destroyed and within 6 years of self governance can give you the same output to what you are complaining about an on top of that expect the Government to bow down to your demands in order for you to invest may be AUD$100,000 or may be AUD$200,000, you are wasting your time in Timor-Leste and Timor-Leste do not need investors like you, look to Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, where after 30 years on average these countries are still struggling in all sectors, your money would be welcome there.

    Everyone mainly foreigners who come into Timor-Leste to invest knows of the situation of what the country has been through and yet they come in with the same attitude and mentalities as they would if they were setting up business in their home land, I am not saying Timor-Leste do not need foreigners investment, indeed it needs it to get the micro-macro economy moving but at the same time Timor-Leste is like my 7 weeks son who at the present moment is deepening and slowing learning in all aspects of life and so is the country. If Timor-Leste like my son at the age of 21 and still is asking for his milk then something is wrong and question can be raised and complaints such as yours can be justified.

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