Could Timor-Leste Finally Become ASEAN 11th Member Country?

Timor Leste hoped first to become a member of ASEAN back to 2010 then in 2014 and then in 2016. It might be possible that the tiny country, enclaved in the Indonesian archipelago, might finally turn its dream into reality by 2017. A recent information from Malaysia news agency Bernama indicated that the country is keen to become a full-fledged member of the ASEAN bloc. This will happen upon completion of economic assessments, which will  then give the country the green light to its entry as ASEAN 11th member.

Timor-Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo said the country has been through the assessments in the the last five years, with the secretariat now having the final report. “We expect that the next ASEAN meeting in Laos will discuss the results of the assessments after which we will know when Timor-Leste will be formally accepted into the group,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN 2016 here.

If 2017 is accepted as the country’s date of entry, it will be a perfect timing as it will occur just 15 years after the country’s independence from Indonesia. Timor Leste officially submitted its application letter to be considered an ASEAN member back to 2011, during Indonesia’s chairmanship.

Timor Leste acceptance in the ASEAN will have little effect on economics for the 50-year old association of Southeast Asian countries. Timor Leste has a relatively small population of only 1.2 million inhabitants while it is considered by the World Bank as a lower income country with a GDP per capita standing only at US$1,169 in 2015.