ADB, Timor-Leste Sign $135 Million Expansion Project for Presidente Nicolau Lobato Airport

Passengers leaving the departure area of the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili, Timor Leste
The project will improve airport safety to attract more airlines and passengers and increase cargo flows. Photo credit: iStock/5bf5911a_905

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Timor-Leste have signed a $135 million loan to help Timor-Leste expand the country’s gateway airport by extending the runway, constructing a new air traffic control tower, and reconfiguring relevant facilities on the airside. The project will improve airport safety to attract more airlines and passengers and increase cargo flows.

“The Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport Expansion Project will offer safe and efficient air transport, enhance the country’s connectivity and economic ties with neighboring Asia and Pacific countries, improve trade, investment and tourism, which will facilitate the diversification of the economy,” said ADB Country Director for Timor-Leste Sunil Mitra.

The project supports Timor-Leste’s Strategic Development Plan, 2011–2030, which prioritizes infrastructure development to bolster economic growth and reduce inequality. The government has also emphasized the importance of economic diversification to the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. By improving air connectivity, the project will boost trade, tourism, and labor movement to spur private sector development and create jobs.

The airport in Dili is the main gateway to Timor-Leste, with 90% of passenger arrivals from overseas. The current runway does not meet the safety requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization, forcing airlines to significantly limit the number of passengers and adopt additional safety measures to avoid penalties. The operation and maintenance of the airport is expected to be taken over by the private sector.

Before the pandemic in March 2020, Timor-Leste had regular direct flights to just three countries:  Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore. The project will help pave the way for increased international connectivity and support Timor-Leste’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and other regional and global trade agreements.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

This story was first published by ADB on 1 October 2021.