Abel Pires da Silva

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Abel Pires da Silva

Abel is the Minister of Public Works and an elected member of Timor-Leste’s National Parliament. In the National Parliament, Abel was Secretary to Timo-Leste Delegation to Inter-Parliamentary Union; Chair of the Infrastructure Permanent Committee; and Chair of Timor-Leste and Japan Friendship Group.

Prior to joining politics, Abel was a lecturer and an active researcher on the use of information communications technology for development, and has published his research in premier international outlets including the European Conference on Information Systems, the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, and the Americas Conference on Information Systems.

Abel was an active member of the Timorese Students Resistance Movement during the Indonesian occupation, and over the years has also been involved in Human Rights organisations.

In 2014 he completed a PhD at ANU focusing on Project Management and Information Communications Technology for Development. Abel has a Master of Information Technology from the Swinburne University of Technology, and a Bachelor of Engineering from Diponegoro University, Indonesia.

In this alumni reflection, Abel discusses his work as Minister for Public Works and how ANU prepared him for overwhelming responsibilities.

1 August 2022

Tell us about your career path and what led you to the role you're in today?

I joined politics in 2015 shortly after completing my PhD at the ANU. In May 2017, I was elected as the Fourth Vice-President of the People’s Liberation Party (PLP). In the 2017 Parliamentary election I was elected to the National Parliament, and when the term ended early in 2018, I was re-elected. In this position, I chaired the Infrastructure Committee until March 2022, when I was appointed by Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister at the time, General Taur Matan Ruak, as the Minister of Public Works.

Can you shed some light on the role and responsibilities of the Minister of Public Works in the government of Timor-Leste?

The Ministry of Public Works is the government department responsible for the design, implementation, coordination and evaluation of policy defined and approved by the Council of Ministers. These policies cover the areas of public works, urban planning and housing; supply, distribution and management of water, sanitation and electricity; and the planning and execution of construction works necessary for the protection, conservation and repair of bridges, roads, rivers and coastlines.

In the next decade, how do you believe policy making will change, and what will be the challenges and opportunities associated with it?

Our urgent focus is building climate resilient infrastructures to prepare the country for the imminent threats associated with global warming. The second priority is to develop renewable energy capacity in Timor-Leste so we can reduce our current dependencies on fossil fuels.

What are your work hours like, and can you wind down on weekends? 

Not at all. Having responsibility for nationwide provisions of basic infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity means that I’m always available. I am, however, profoundly enjoying delivering these basic infrastructures to our people. For instance, we are currently delivering electricity to some of our villages that have never had access to these facilities. We’ve had centuries under Portuguese rule, 24 years of Indonesian occupation, and 20 years of our own independence, and they’ve never had electricity. I find time amongst the work to be with my family.

How did your PhD at CBE prepare you for your career?

My experience at ANU had really positive impacts on my readiness to carry out such enormous responsibilities. My research topic of Project Management really helped me deal with leading my current team of close to a thousand staff members, and handling a budget of around USD$160 million for 2022 alone. My time as a senior resident at ANU Toad Hall also equipped me with teamwork skills. I am grateful for what I experienced at ANU, both personally and academically.

What advice would you share for our current HDR students who wish to pursue a career in the government sector?

  • Take advantage of the University’s facilities and networks to truly develop your knowledge and skills.
  • Use your time in Australia to fully develop your personal qualities.
  • Continue to build an international network because it can support your personal growth.