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South Asia Tsunami Reconstruction to Cost Billions


The first hard figures are coming in on the cost of rebuilding areas of South Asian hit by the December 26 tsunami.

The World Bank estimates that Sri Lanka will need one and a half billion dollars to rebuild housing and the transportation system, and the local fishing and tourism industries.

Sri Lanka suffered the most extensive damage after Indonesia in the disaster. The total losses are estimated to equal 4.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

In a recent report, the World Bank estimates that losses in the Maldives have reached nearly half a billion dollars, adding up to a staggering two-thirds of the archipelago's annual domestic economic output. The housing and tourism sectors are the worst hit, with tourist arrivals dropping by as much as 80 percent.

International aid institutions made the estimates based on their evaluations of the damage in the region.

India says it will finance most of its tsunami reconstruction work on its own, although it may seek help later from international aid institutions.

Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram recently told Parliament the government is providing $2 billion to rebuild tsunami-hit areas on the southeast coast and to restore the livelihoods of people affected by the waves. "I wish to assure the house [of Parliament] and the affected people that the government will provide the necessary funds for the purpose and ensure that every affected family is fully rehabilitated," he said.

Rebuilding efforts in the tsunami-hit countries focus on replacing the fishing boats and nets that were swept away by the giant waves.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization says losses in the fishing industry total half a billion dollars - much of it damaged or lost boats. It says the first priority is to repair boats wherever possible. Teams are already working in Sri Lanka and elsewhere to help fishermen return to sea.

The World Bank says countries have moved quickly into the rebuilding phase due to the generous international aid for people affected by the tsunami. But the bank's report says most of the money so far pledged is for humanitarian relief, and more aid will be needed over the next three to five years to restore the damage wrought by the waves.

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