The Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency on Nias Island (BRR Nias) has said more projects will continue after its tenure expires next month, including those aimed at alleviating poverty and sustaining the local economy.

BRR Nias regional director William P. Sabandar said that as Nias was among the poorest regions in the country, more work was needed to ensure the region’s future prosperity.

“In developing Nias’ economy we will focus on soft projects like improving agricultural production, such as rubber, cacao and rice, as well as expanding their market penetration,” William told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The agency will also work at improving transportation facilities in the area, including by building more roads in villages to support the distribution of local products.

The agency also plans to complete several unfinished projects to support the local economy, including two fishing boat ports in the Teluk Dalam-Teluk Belukar area, Muzoi Bridge, Binaka airport and Teluk Dalam airstrip.

William said that during the agency’s three-and-a- half-year tenure it had met 89.66 percent of its targets — the highest level of achievement seen in the infrastructure sector.

Projects to empower the local community, develop the local economy and mitigate disasters will be the region’s priorities after the agency ends its mission in December.

The agency will also continue to train Nias locals in planting and disaster prevention, William said.

BRR Nias was established to carry out recovery programs following the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami and the strong earthquake that hit the region in March 28, 2005.

The disasters killed almost 1,000 people on the island, displaced 70,000 others and destroyed buildings and infrastructure, causing Rp 6 trillion in total damages.

Reconstruction efforts in Nias have lagged behind those in Aceh, which was hit hardest by the tsunami.

Starting next month, the agency will enter a transition period lasting until May next year, when it will finish its mission.

During the handover period, the agency will work with the central government, local governments and several donors involved in the projects, including the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

According to the agency, the total budget for recovery programs in Nias between 2005 and 2009 is estimated at almost Rp 5.8 trillion. By the end of 2008, the disbursement of the budget is estimated to have reached Rp 4.2 trillion. (The Jakarta Post: 25 Nov. 2008)

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