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World Bank President Attending Tsunami Summit

In further response to the effects of last week’s earthquake and tsunami, World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia on Monday ahead of a January 6 meeting with ASEAN leaders.


“This is a crisis of massive proportions, requiring a massive response from the international community,” said Wolfensohn. “I am traveling to the region to see for myself the extent of peoples’ needs on the ground, and to help advance further the World Bank’s response. We are working hand-in-hand with all our partners as we help these countries make the transition from humanitarian relief to long-term recovery.”


The ASEAN meeting aims to coordinate relief efforts with the affected governments, international organizations and other donors. 


Wolfensohn will then travel to Aceh with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other officials to see the damage and talk with survivors. He will continue to Sri Lanka and the Maldives to visit affected areas and discuss reconstruction priorities and their funding with government officials.


In the days immediately following the crisis, the World Bank announced it would commit an initial US$250 million for emergency reconstruction while further financing for longer-term reconstruction was identified.


Priority is being given to urgent rehabilitation activities, assistance to communities in need of health and livelihood support, and critical reconstruction projects. The bank is coordinating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the UN and relief agencies to allow for a smooth transition from relief to development support.


Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan government and World Bank staff in Colombo have been in close dialogue since the crisis. The bank’s response so far has included:


  • Releasing resources from ongoing projects for medicines, water purification and storage tanks, pumps and earth moving equipment;
  • Reviewing the portfolio of bank projects to determine additional resources that can be released, or readied for the longer-term.
  • Readying a team to be in Sri Lanka within the week to begin the work of assessing reconstruction needs, and preparing an appropriate response. Apart from resources from portfolio restructuring, the rapid processing of an Emergency Recovery Credit is foreseen by end February.
  • Agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that they will work hand-in-hand to prepare the next stage of the response.


The bank, the ADB and the government are working jointly with other partners to assess needs and develop a reconstruction plan. A full technical assessment mission is expected to visit Aceh as soon as is practical. The bank is discussing the following options with the government:


  • Using existing operations on the ground, including the possibility of mobilizing the bank’s network of thousands of local workers. The bank is already in the process of activating this network, which could be up and running in a matter of weeks and greatly strengthen rural coverage.
  • Reorienting the bank’s existing project portfolio, including the use of unused balances without disrupting the momentum or success of the projects involved.
  • Complementing planned projects with specific components for Aceh.
  • Providing additional Emergency Recovery and Reconstruction Assistance in the form of a specific new emergency operation.

The Maldives

The government of the Maldives asked the World Bank for assistance the day after the disaster and established a Disaster Response and Mitigation Committee and a national center to coordinate the response. The bank is also setting up a temporary liaison center in the island capital of Male. The bank’s response to date has been:


  • An advance team arriving early Tuesday (January 4) to begin reprogramming funds of about US$12 million and to launch a medium term needs assessment following the UN’s initial one.
  • The bank and the ADB agreed with the government that they should form a joint team to begin work in Maldives this week. 
  • The bank’s private sector affiliate, the International Finance Corporation, which has supported the islands’ tourism sector, is also likely to contribute staff to assist in assessing the damage and financing options for the tourism sector.

The World Bank is now mobilizing assessment teams, including a stand by team in the event that additional countries require assistance. Options for increased regional cooperation, including the feasibility of establishing a regional tsunami warning system, will also be assessed.


Mr. Wolfensohn noted that implementing longer-term reconstruction means making the right choices now. “The challenge before us is that we not rebuild the poverty and circumstances that made today’s victims so vulnerable in the first place,” he said.

(China.org.cn January 4, 2005)

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