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Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Repúblika Demokrátika Timór-Leste (Tetum)
República Democrática de Timor-Leste (Portuguese)

Flag of East Timor Coat of arms of East Timor
Flag Coat of arms
East Timor in its region



East Timorese


U.S. dollar (USD), centavo coins





November 28, 1975


May 20, 2002


$2.234 billion (2014)

-Per capita

$5,479 (2014)

GDP (nominal)

$1.293 billion (2014)

-Per capita

$3,330 (2014)

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The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor (Tetum: Timór Lorosa'e; Portuguese: Timor-Leste) is a sovereign state located in Southern Asia. It comprises the eastern half of Timor (hence its name) and shares a border with Indonesia to the west.


"Timor" is derived from timur, the Indonesian and Malay word for "east", which became Timor in Portuguese and entered English as Portuguese Timor. Lorosa'e (literally "rising sun") is the word for "east" in Tetum.

The official names of the nation under the Constitution are República Democrática de Timor-Leste in Portuguese and Repúblika Demokrátika Timor-Leste in Tetum.


Coat of arms of Portuguese Timor (1951-1975)

The arms of Portuguese Timor.

The first inhabitants of modern-day East Timor are believed to have been Australoid groups from New Guinea and Australia, arriving about 40,000 years ago. Later, other populations, such as the Austronesians and Proto-Malay came to the area. Before colonialism, Timor was included in Chinese and Indian trading networks, and exported sandalwood, slaves, honey, and wax during the 14th century.

Between 1509 and 1511, Portuguese traders landed on Timor near modern Pante Macassar. In 1702, the Portuguese established the colony of Portuguese Timor in the eastern half of Timor, while the Dutch claimed the western half. Independence from Portugal was unilaterally declared on November 28, 1975, but soon after, Indonesia invaded East Timor, declaring it as its 27th province on July 17, 1976. East Timor became an official sovereign state on May 20, 2002, the first of the 21st century.


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Main article: Economy of East Timor

An oil well in East Timor.

In late 1999, about 70% of the East Timorese economic infrastructure was destroyed by Indonesian troops and anti-independence militias, and 260,000 people fled westward into Indonesia. From 2002 to 2005, an international program led by the United Nations, manned by civilian advisers, 5000 peacekeepers, and 1300 police officers, reconstructed the infrastructure. By the middle of 2002, all but around 50,000 of the refugees returned.

One promising long-term project joint development with Australia of petroleum and other natural gas resources in the waters southeast of Timor. The Portuguese colonial administration granted concessions to the Oceanic Exploration Corporation to develop the deposits. However, this was restricted by the Indonesian invasion in 1976. The resources were divided between Indonesia and Australia in 1989 with the signing of the Timor Gap Treaty. This treaty established guidelines for joint usage of seabed resources in the "gap" left by Portuguese Timor in the maritime boundary agreed between the countries in 1972. Revenues from this "joint" area were to be divided 50%–50%. Woodside Petroleum and ConocoPhillips began developing some resources in the Timor Gap on behalf of the two governments in 1992.

East Timor did not inherit any permanent maritime boundaries when it attained independence, repudiating the Timor Gap Treaty as illegal. The Timor Sea Treaty, signed when East Timor became independent on May 20, 2002, defined a Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA), and awarded 90% of revenues from existing projects in the Timor Sea to East Timor and 10% to Australia. The first significant new development in the JPDA since Timorese independence is the largest petroleum resource in the Timor Sea, the Greater Sunrise gas field. Its exploitation was the subject of two separate agreements in 2003 and 2005. Only about 20% of the field lies in the JPDA and the rest in waters claimed by Australia and East Timor. The original agreement gave 82% of revenues to Australia and 18% to East Timor.

The East Timorese government has sought to negotiate a definite boundary with Australia at the halfway line between the countries, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Australian government preferred to establish the boundary at the end of the Australian continental shelf, as agreed with Indonesia in 1972 and 1991. Normally, such a dispute would be referred to the International Court of Justice or International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for an impartial decision, but Australia had withdrawn itself from these international jurisdictions shortly before East Timor's independence. Nevertheless, the Australian government offered a last-minute concession on Greater Sunrise gas field royalties alone, after being pressured by the public and diplomatically. On July 7, 2005, an agreement was signed to solve the dispute, which promised East Timor 50% of the revenues from the Greater Sunrise development. However, other developments within waters claimed by East Timor but outside of the JPDA continue to be exploited unilaterally by Australia.


Coins 50 Cent Timor-Leste obv

An East Timorese coin.

In 1702, after the colony of Portuguese Timor was established, the Portuguese mil reis began circulating in the area. It circulated in the colony until 1894, when Portuguese Timor introduced its own currency, the pataca. In 1942, after Japan's successful invasion of Timor, the Netherlands Indian gulden was introduced in Portuguese Timor, followed by the roepiah in 1943. After World War II ended, Portuguese Timor reintroduced the pataca, which was replaced by the escudo in 1959. Following the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, the entire island of Timor used the Indonesian rupiah. It remained the currency until 2000, when the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor decreed that United States dollars would be legal tender in the colony. The newly founded country introduced its own coins in 2003 to replace their American counterparts.

Currency History
Code Currency Name Dates Conversion Divisions
Portuguese mil reis
1702 - 1894
  1,000 Reis = 1 Mil Reis
Portuguese Timorese pataca
1894 - 1958
Pataca = 450 Reis 100 Avos = 1 Pataca
Portuguese Timorese escudo
1959 - 1975
Escudo = 0.1785 Pataca 100 Centavos = 1 Escudo
IDR Indonesian rupiah
1975 - 2000
  100 Sen = 1 Rupiah
USD United States dollar
2000 -
  100 Cents = 1 Dollar
East Timorese centavo
2003 -
100 Centavos = 1 USD  


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