The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Timor-Leste in 2020 was great, and the ripple effects may be felt for years. Paradoxically, it was not that the population was directly impacted—indeed, the small half-island nation stands out with only a score or so of cases, and no deaths—but that the oil-dependent economy and the status of financial reserves took a major hit with the collapse of oil and stock prices. In the interest of managing the pandemic, the incumbent prime minister declared a state of emergency, withdrawing his earlier resignation and thus averting a political crisis. Still, as the new economic realities surrounding oil-related mega-infrastructure projects hit home, we see churn among the concerned ministers and technocrats, amid a major rethink of the way ahead, and with many of the choices invidious in the challenging new economic environment.

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