It is characterized by a tropical monsoon climate with a shorter rainy season (November – April, irregular western monsoon) and a longer dry season (May – October, southeast monsoon). While the hot, dry north receives mostly 500–1,000 mm of annual precipitation, in the hot and humid south it falls up to 2,000 mm (in the mountains up to over 3,000 mm). The average temperature during the dry season is 21 ° C, in the hilly interior at 10 ° C, in the rainy season between November and April at an average of 25 ° C. The heaviest rains usually come in January and February. Overall, however, East Timor is considerably drier than the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra.
Except for a few light, dry monsoon forests, the natural forest vegetation has largely been destroyed. Savannahs are predominant ; the sandal tree stocks are largely exhausted.
The residents are Timorers who are divided into a large number of different ethnic groups (including Ema, Tetum). There are also minorities of Chinese and the descendants of Portuguese and Arab immigrants. Several languages are spoken, depending on the ethnic diversity; most of them belong to the Austronesian and Papuan languages. After independence, Tétum established itself as the official language alongside Portuguese.
According to localtimezone, the average population density is (2017) 87 residents / km 2. The majority of the population lives in the highlands and in the coastal cities of the north. The biggest cities are Dili and Baucau. Overall, the proportion of the urban population (2017) is 34%.
The population development 1975–99 was marked by military actions and their consequences, forced relocations, terror and bloody persecution with up to 200,000 dead. After gaining independence, the population grew rapidly.
The biggest cities in East Timor
|Biggest Cities (Residents 2015)|
|Pante Macassar||12 400|
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. All religious communities are legally equal. The basis of the state’s relations with the Catholic Church, which as the largest religious community occupies a special position in the history of East Timor, was based on the Concordat concluded between the Holy See and Portugal in 1940 until the Indonesian occupation of East Timor (1975).
According to the 2015 census, 97.6% of the population belong to the Catholic Church (three exemte dioceses: Baucau, Dili, Maliana) and almost 2% belong to (post-) Reformation religious communities; The largest Protestant church is the Reformed “Christian Church in East Timor” (“Igreja Cristiana do Timor Lorosa’e”, founded in 1988 as the Protestant regional church for East Timor). Numerically small, non-Christian religious minorities are Muslims (0.2%), Buddhists, Hindus and followers of traditional tribal religions.
The reconstruction of the country, in which almost the entire infrastructure was destroyed during the armed conflict in 1999, has not yet been completed despite great efforts and international aid. The oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, which have been jointly exploited with Australia since 2004, give hope for an economic upturn. As a result of the subsidy income, the gross national income (GNI) per resident grew from (2004) US $ 480 to (2013) US $ 3,580. However, falling crude oil prices on the world market led to a decline to US $ 1,790 by 2017. Almost 40% of the population still live in poverty, with significant income differences between urban and rural areas and the better-off eastern versus the underdeveloped western provinces.
Foreign trade: The foreign trade balance is negative (import value 2015: 647.7 million US $; export value: 18.0 million US $). The most important export goods are crude oil, natural gas and coffee. The main imports are vehicles, machines, electronic devices and food. The main trading partners are the USA, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan. The foreign trade balance is negative (import value 2015: 647.7 million US $; export value: 18.0 million US $). The most important export goods are crude oil, natural gas and coffee. The main imports are vehicles, machines, electronic devices and food. The main trading partners are the USA, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
In addition to oil and gas production, the agricultural sector is the most important branch of the economy. The subsistence-oriented agriculture, in which around 64% of the workforce is employed, only contributes 19.8% to the gross domestic product (GDP). The staple foods are grown: dry rice (wet rice cultivation is limited to a few areas), maize and cassava, as well as sweet potatoes and coconut palms. Only the coffee obtained on plantations is exported in large quantities. Vanilla, cocoa and peanuts are also exported in small quantities. In addition, livestock farming (buffalo, cattle, horses, pigs) is practiced.
Forestry: About 47% of the country is covered by sparse monsoon forests. The stocks of sandalwood have declined sharply due to the extensive deforestation and exports that used to take place.
Fishing: In addition to deep-sea fishing in the rich fishing grounds (tuna), shrimp are farmed on a small scale.
The oil and gas reserves are located between the south coast of East Timor and the north coast of Australia (Timor Gap), an area that both countries claim for themselves. An agreement concluded in 2006 provides for the oil and gas revenues from the disputed area to be shared and for the question of the border to be taken up again in 50 years’ time. Compared to crude oil and natural gas, the country’s other mineral resources such as salt, gold, manganese and marble are only of minor importance.
All infrastructural facilities for the energy supply are largely in need of repair, and many villages are still without electricity. The electrical energy is obtained exclusively from fossil fuels.
The underdeveloped industrial sector is limited to the manufacture of textiles, the processing of coffee and others. Agricultural products, building material production, soap production and metal processing.