Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Chief Executive Officer of the Aceh-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) projects in Nias has asked for an extension of the agency’s mission on the North Sumatran island, citing the slow progress of reconstruction projects after the 2004 tsunami and 2005 earthquake.

“A bigger part of rehabilitation work of damaged infrastructure has yet to be completed due to limited access to devastated subdistricts, limited transportation networks, slow disbursement of foreign donations and the absence of a special master plan for the island,” William Sabandar told the third Nias Island stakeholders meeting here Thursday.

A lack of qualified staff and expensive transportation costs have also obstructed the rehabilitation work, he added.

The Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami and a strong earthquake on March 28, 2005, killed almost 1,000 people on the island, displacing 70,000 others and devastating buildings and infrastructure, causing a total of US$400 million in losses.

By February 2007, BRR had built 9,000 houses, rehabilitated 200 kilometers of roads, 70 bridges and a number of irrigation networks and repaired more than 300 fishing boats. Hundreds of damaged elementary and high school buildings, two universities and 33 public health facilities have also been repaired.

The island still needs 15,000 new houses as well as repairs to up to 45,000 damaged houses and buildings. Several hospitals, churches, mosques, an airport and two airstrips need to be repaired. Most importantly, the local culture and economy need to recover.

The reconstruction and rehabilitation work requires some Rp 8 trillion (US$872 million) in aid. Donor countries have allocated $482 million for Aceh and Nias. Only $218 million of this has been seen so far, while only $134 million of it has been used. No detailed financial report on the last two years’ reconstruction in Nias has been made available.

William said extending the BRR’s mandate in Nias was necessary as the agency could not meet its initial 2009 deadline.

“We are not only reconstructing the devastated infrastructure but also healing the victims’ psychology by alleviating the poverty which affects the majority of locals,” he said.

State Minister and Chairman of the National Development Planning Board Paskah Suzetta said the government was preparing a blueprint for Nias reconstruction which was in line with its policy on the development of the country’s outer islands.

According to Paskah, Nias and outer islands off Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, West Sumatra and Bengkulu must be developed into a buffer zone for Sumatra’s defense and economic development.

BRR chairman Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said he appreciated the government’s plan to make the blueprint, saying it would give clear direction on how reconstruction could be conducted quicker and more effectively.

Chairman of BRR’s Supervisory Board TB Silalahi emphasized the importance of upholding good governance in order to maintain donor countries’ trust in Indonesia.

“BRR must be sensitive to local communities’ complaints and take administrative and legal action against any staff found guilty of committing corrupt practices,” he said.

Source: The Jakarta Post, 10 March 2007

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