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World Bank President Visits Aceh; Announces New Reconstruction Efforts

After participating in the ASEAN Leaders' Meeting on the Tsunami Disaster, the President of the World Bank Group, Mr. James D. Wolfensohn, visited the Sumatran province of Aceh on January 7, 2005, to see the damage from the devastating earthquake and tsunami first-hand and to launch the planning for a rapid and comprehensive recovery program.
"The money is there, and the international community has shown its tremendous support for the entire region," said Mr. Wolfensohn speaking in Aceh today. "Now we need a fast and transparent way to channel the billions of dollars pledged in Jakarta into the hundreds of dollars for a poor fisherman in Aceh to rebuild his boat… or for a community to rebuild its homes."
In Aceh, Mr. Wolfensohn announced that the Government of Indonesia and the World Bank have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for reconstruction and rehabilitation activities in Aceh and North Sumatra   committing to projects aimed at rebuilding communities and physical infrastructure through investments in housing, health, education, roads, and important social assets. The program brings together more than US$300 million in reconstruction funds through reallocation within existing projects and new funds, nearly all in the form of concessional loans (IDA) and grants.
The projects expand the World Bank's support for the Government of Indonesia's community-driven development program – where communities make their own decisions about how assistance money is spent and monitor the use of funds – to all villages and kabupaten in Aceh.
"The only way to begin the process of healing from this terrible tragedy is to actively engage the people in decisions about their own recovery and, through this participation, give them hope," said Mr. Wolfensohn. "These projects put money directly into the hands of people to determine their own needs and to start rebuilding their lives and livelihoods."
In Banda Aceh, Mr. Wolfensohn met with community facilitators from Indonesia's Kecamatan Development Project, the world's largest community-driven development program which already covers over 75 percent of the affected towns and villages in Aceh. He announced that the project should be ready to start disbursing reconstruction funds for initial clean-up operations by the end of the month.
"Reconstruction will take years," said Mr. Wolfensohn, "but the process of healing must begin now.  As the Government's full needs assessment and recovery planning gets underway, let's make sure that we are using Indonesia's extensive community participation networks to channel reconstruction aid quickly and transparently."
Three types of World Bank-assisted projects are being adapted to support the Government's plans for reconstruction of Aceh and North Sumatra:
--Existing community development projects – Kecamatan Development Project, Urban Poverty Project, Basic Education – which can use networks of facilitators to mobilize communities for making decisions about how to use and monitor reconstruction funds;

--A new project of support for poor and disadvantaged areas designed to work in affected districts to rebuild health and education facilities and to promote private sector investment in reconstruction;

--Province-level road, urban infrastructure, water supply and health projects will be adapted to respond to the findings from the Government's needs assessment.

The three-pronged approach will enable the Government to move as quickly as possible to restore critical infrastructure in affected regions, helping the affected people gain access to drinking water, power, and medical services.   
Mr. Wolfensohn emphasized that the entire program is being designed to ensure that the people have the opportunity to closely monitor how reconstruction funds are spent in order to prevent corruption and enhance governance as Aceh and North Sumatra are rebuilt. "Just show the communities in the affected areas what money is coming in and where it goes out," said Mr. Wolfensohn, "This kind of transparency and citizen oversight is the best method to prevent corruption."
Mr. Wolfensohn will next travel to Sri Lanka and Maldives, to visit the affected areas and discuss reconstruction priorities and their funding with government officials and the affected people.

(China.org.cn January 11, 2005)

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