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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Friday, December 09, 2005

Nobody's Child

LBO: 04/12/2005"

Almost a year after the tsunami devastated Sri Lanka's costal communities, many are still languishing without permanent housing due to government inefficiency, under estimating of reconstruction cost and political interference according to a study.

There is still a shortage of 10,000 houses for victims, of which, no work has started and 50,000 people who lost their livelihood are still to get back to work according to the study by think tanks and a donor.
A combination of underestimation of reconstruction cost, inflation, the appreciation of the rupee and the lack of donor coordination are also affecting the speed of the recovery.

In some cases cost inflation has meant that a house is 50 percent more expensive to construct since the tsunami because of the high demand for construction material and labor.

Work on 25,000 houses is continuing while another 5000 are about to start according to a local think tank that led the study.

The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) said 10,000 houses are yet to start work.

All these houses will cost more than previously estimated because of inflation.

"People outside the buffer zone get about Rs. 250,000 at the rate of inflation they will not be able to build houses," says Sisira Jayasuriya, Economist, Institute of Policy Studies

The study shows that the massive reconstruction cost which includes labor and raw materials and a shortage of land, is beyond original expectations.

Most of the people who lived in the coastal areas do not want to move in to inland due to their lively hoods dependent on the sea.

Buildable state lands are also limited.

"The land available is limited or not suitable and this combination creates problems. Then trying to purchase private lands lead to cost escalations," says Paul Steele, Associate Researcher, IPS.

Bureaucracy has also helped create a muddle.

Last week, the government axed TAFREN the body tasked with coordinating the reconstruction effort and set up a new agency.

Even leaders of the study, that included the Asian development bank institute and the Asian economic center of the Melbourne University, say capacity to use aid is not there.

They say issues about financial mismanagement have already emerged in tsunami reconstruction.

Allegations of cronyism and political interference in allocating built houses have already emerged.

"When distributing pre-built houses there should be transparency and there should be beneficiary lists. People have filled forms but there is still no guarantee. SO there is a sense of lack of transparency and insecurity. Issues of political interference are also coming into play," says Steele.

Appreciation of the rupee, due to aid inflows after the tsunami has reduced the impact of the inflows in the local market.

If the rupee were to depreciate 10 percent instead of appreciate the aid dollars could buy 10 percent more goods and services in the local market with the same amount of money.

-LBR Newsdesk: LBOEmail@vanguardlk.com


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