Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Three Months After The Catastrophic Earthquake & Tsunami (13 of 13)

Asahi Shimbun
March 26, 2005

Tsunami-hit nations slow to spend grants

Only a fraction of Japan's 24.6 billion yen in aid to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives has been used to help them recover from the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The aid was handed over on Jan. 19. Since then, only Sri Lanka has dipped into the funds by spending 4.5 million yen to buy nine used trucks to clean septic tanks.

Officials speculated the funds had not been used because the governments of those countries had limited experience in dealing with an influx of emergency aid following such an unprecedented natural disaster.

U.N. organizations distributed grants almost immediately as the scale of the disaster became apparent. Tokyo waited three weeks, and its grants were probably put on the back burner, officials said.

The three governments are free to decide how to use the funds. Japan will give final approval on procedures and projects.

So far, Jakarta has earmarked a portion of its 14.6 billion yen in grants to purchase medicine, medical equipment, construction materials and equipment for radio broadcast stations. It is still calling for tenders.

Sri Lanka received 8 billion yen, the bulk of which remains unspent. However, it plans to also buy 11 water trucks and 100 power generators.

The Maldives has informed ministry officials in Tokyo that it intends to spend its 2 billion yen in grant aid on equipment to restore coastal fishing operations, which were wiped out in the quake-induced tsunami.

Japan's emergency assistance was the largest offered by the international community. More than 300,000 people perished in the disaster.

Some countries offered emergency aid to be distributed by international organizations or via mid- and long-term loans.

With the first phase of relief efforts soon expected to end, Foreign Ministry officials say they hope the remaining funds will be spent on large-scale reconstruction work in the second stage.

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