Some worry ‘the small people’ will lose out as the nation scrambles to stay afloat on dwindling oil and gas reserves

In Timor-Leste’s Oecusse province, a band of children wash in the river beneath a multimillion-dollar bridge, yet to open. On a freshly paved road towards a US$9m-plus irrigation project, a young girl hauls a bucket of water out of a ground well.

Across the road from the construction site of a three-star hotel, a young family lives in a small hut from which they operate a store. Augustina, 15, has learned some English and says she wanted to become a doctor.

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