The Timor-Leste Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2011 is the first survey of this type ever conducted in the country. It is also special in the sense that it was undertaken entirely by the staff of the National Directorate of Statistics and funded from national resources. Only limited and occasional technical assistance was provided from abroad.
The survey was undertaken primarily to address two important issues in the national statistical system. The first is the method of calculating consumer price indices (CPI). For the CPI to be representative, it is necessary to have reliable information about the expenditure patterns of households, in terms of food items as well as other goods and services. In this respect expenditure means not just buying for cash, but also consuming items that were self-produced or obtained as a gift. The results of the HIES2011 will allow the basket of items included in the calculation of the CPI to be brought up-to-date.
The second issue is the system of national accounts. Information about the financial flows
pertaining to private households is crucial in drawing up these accounts. As concerns expenditure, private households currently account for over one-third of final national consumption. In the income approach households are on the receiving end of compensation for employees, income from household businesses (including farms) and benefits from home ownership. A household income and expenditure survey will provide information on all of these components of the system of national accounts.
Apart from these technical issues, the present report also makes important reading for those who have a more general interest in the financial situation of households in Timor-Leste.
The difference between urban and rural areas is especially striking, with urban incomes (and expenditures) considerably above those in the country side. Rural households derive their incomes still mostly from cultivating crops and livestock. In the cities, wages and non-agricultural business income have become the principal sources of revenue. The wealth of information contained in the present report is not just of value to the casual reader, but it also serves to guide planners and policy makers. Improving the economic conditions under which households and individuals subsist is among the principal concerns of Government.
While the HIES2011 is a new enquiry, some of the results can be compared to those obtained by the Living Standards Surveys of 2001 and 2007 and the Demographic and Health Surveys of 2003 and 2009, thus allowing trend analysis. The present survey also benefitted from the sampling frame provided by the Population Census of 2010.
Project oversight by the Director General of Analysis and Research of the Ministry of Finance and the Director of the National Statistics Directorate proved highly valuable for
the successful completion of the project. The committed efforts by the survey’s field staff
deserve special mention. They braved bad roads, inclement weather and a tight work schedule to collect the field data on schedule and – as was shown – with high quality. The
cooperation received from respondents turned out to be quite good, as usual in the NSD program of statistical enquiries. Very few of the 4,800 households selected in the sample refused participation in an interview that would take at least two hours of their time.