after one year- economic and social impact
By Sunil Karunanayake
Our regular columnist on corporate and macro-economic issues argues
that the first anniversary of the tsunami is a good opportunity
to reflect on the collective trauma the country has gone through
and on ways to rebuild the country.
impact assessments of the December 26, 2004, tsunami revealed vast
damage to the coastal infrastructure affecting public and private
properties. On the economic front fishing and tourism, which provided
livelihood support to many in the coastline took a severe beating.
Total damage was estimated around US$1 billion (accounting for 4.9
percent of the GDP) and the reconstruction was estimated around
US$ 1.8 billion.
growth for 2005 was revised downwards from 6 percent to 5.5 percent,
but the recent statements by the Treasury Secretary indicates that
we are very much likely to be closer to the original estimate. Impact
of tourism and fisheries was relatively less significant on the
growth. After the initial shocks the Sri Lankan economy did well
to grow sufficiently and reduce the inflation. Most remarkable was
the rapid inflow of foreign funds that strengthened the rupee while
aid commitments from donors increased and debt relief was granted.
These developments enabled a healthy balance of payment while the
tsunami reconstruction was getting off the ground.
rebuilding task was mammoth and even before the government machinery
started moving Sri Lankans true to their time honoured traditions
and cultures went out of the way to help those who were displaced,
injured and subject to many other traumatic conditions. Suffering
was somewhat mitigated with simple village folks accommodating friends
end October the Central Bank Tsunami Development Relief (TDR) had
received Rs 22 billion. The Suhasana loan scheme of the Central
Bank has disbursed 7984 loans valued at Rs 3.6 billion to end September.
Further US$ 1 million has been granted by the UNDP to the Central
Bank to be disbursed to the micro entrepreneurs.
World Bank who is playing an active role in rebuilding provides
a grant of US$ 50 each to approximately 220,000 affected families
to enable them to get them back on their feet. In total there were
90,000 houses destroyed resulting in 400,000 people to be rehoused.
The World Bank also financed house construction as well as repairs.
Though the planning, identification of land, communication with
communities and matching beneficiary needs were difficult the World
Bank is optimistic of the rebuilding effort and anticipates positive
results in 2006.
estimates for 2006 provides for Rs 50 billion for tsunami related
expenditure of which around 60 percent is expected from foreign
Sarvodaya in a research study, notes that reconstruction programmes
must take into account the socio cultural aspects, which increases
when communities move through different phases of resettlement.
More seriously they state that lesser understanding of socio cultural
aspects by the providers further resulted in changes in the value
system of the community.
have given rise to serious repercussions in these communities who
were used to a dignified life. Today the question uppermost in the
minds is have we done enough? Have we done our share of good to
our fellow citizens who faced one of world’s deadliest natural
disasters? Admittedly during the initial period sympathy and care
was evident with tamashas in cities being scaled down. Though the
debris is cleared and some new housing has come up a lot remains
to be done. There are many devastated families; children without
parents and parents without children and the list could be very
long. Though physical needs are being met livelihood and social
year-end and Christmas no doubt brings a certain amount of festivity
in to the air. At the same time thought should be spared for affected
citizens who are still trying to get on to their own feet to restore
the good cheer must prevail, in this first anniversary of the tsunami
we as Sri Lankans must resolve to share our fortunes with those
who were unfortunately affected. A little saving from the year-end
extravaganza will go a long way to brighten up many smiles along
the coastline irrespective of ethnic, religious or any other labels.
Whether it is unitary or united that is the Sri Lanka we must rebuild.
(The writer could be reached at - email@example.com)