Since the country gained independence in 1999, Timor-Leste's business community has faced a number of challenges including periods of civil unrest, poor infrastructure, lack of access to finances, and onerous business regulations.
The business community lacked a representative body that the government could interact with to address these problems. Numerous private sector associations had been established; however, they were divided by competing agendas and differing needs.
In 2010, IFC helped local business owners form a national chamber of commerce to create a single counterpart for the government to interact with and improve their effectiveness in lobbying for business friendly laws and regulations. This public private dialogue group, known as the Better Business Initiative, set to work drafting the constitution and rules to establish the first united chamber of commerce.
By nurturing local enterprises and helping them develop sustained and competitive activity, the chamber aims to shift the center of economic development from the public sector to private sector.
"The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Timor-Leste is a national cause, and we face a difficult but exciting challenges," explained Etelvino Mousaco, the Chamber CEO. "Our mission is to influence Timor-Leste's socioeconomic future and create a new environment for the private sector by providing organizational skills and business leadership."
Along with Mousaco, other staff members have been recruited to increase the chamber’s operational capacity. As its staff grows, employees are being trained in management, planning, and budgeting so that similar mentoring services can be offered to the chamber’s members.
Once its day-to-day operations are established, the chamber will continue to receive mentoring from Australian Victorian Employers' Chambers of Commerce and Industry on building successful relationships and to improve links with various international Chambers of Commerce.