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Germany

An Endeavor That Needs Time and Money

The German government has generously pledged €500 million ($653 million) over the next three to five years for long-term rebuilding in tsunami-ravaged South Asia. But, how exactly is the money going to be distributed?

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An Indonesian man cleans up the remains of his house

Emergency aid began pouring in from all corners of the world right after the tidal wave hit on Dec. 26, 2004 and efforts to provide devastated areas with basis supplies are still underway. Reconstruction however needs more time. "It's not possible to spread €500 million over five years yet," Stephan Bethe of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) said and pointed out that the affected countries and donor nations first have to come to an agreement about what is needed and who is going to provide for it.

"Reconstruction is a long process", Bethe said, adding that the right choices have to be made in rebuilding infrastructure like schools, hospitals, streets or energy and water supplies. In addition, the people have to be helped back to a position where they can earn a living on their own again.

Where does the extra money go?

Straße in Aceh nach dem Seebeben

The BMZ budget for 2005 amounts to €3.8 billion, the same as last year. The €500 million in tsunami aid money pledged by the German government comes on top of the development funds. Berlin is also chanelling €50 million from the tsunami aid funds into a UN emergency relief fund. The remaining €450 million are meant to aid reconstruction in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, the two worst-hit states in the tsunami. According to the BMZ, it's still difficult to foresee whether the duration of reconstruction there will take five years or less.

More specifically, the extra long term aid money is going to be administered by the German Technical Assistance Service (GTZ), which receives most of its assignments from the BMZ, and the state-owned Bank for Reconstruction (KfW). Both institutions operate development projects in particular countries and according to Bethe they will handle projects in the tsunami-struck region on behalf of the BMZ.

Local know-how important

Employees of both the GTZ and KfW however depend on local and regional expertise and organization on the ground. "They can be local councils, non-governmental organizations or companies," said Hans Stehling of the GTZ. The cooperation in turn provides employment opportunities for devastated communities. For instance, the building of new schools or repairing fishing boats is often commissioned out to local carpentry companies.

In Sri Lanka, emergency relief has already translated into long-term reconstruction. The GTZ was present in the country with various projects long before the Indian Ocean tragedy struck, thus enabling it to react swiftly to the disaster. On Sunday, German Development Minster Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul is expected in the region. According to BMZ's Bethe, the Sri Lankan government has already drawn up the first reconstruction plans which are now being approved by the donor nations.

It definitely sounds like more than just empty promises from Germany's government. "We've already proposed various projects for reconstruction. Now, we're waiting for contracts from the BMZ," said Stehling. He's counting on a quick decision from the ministry. However, nobody's talking of concrete dates or funds as yet. Germany's Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation skirts all questions regarding who is going to do what by saying that it's dependant on the governments of the affected countries to react to offers of aid.

In Indonesia, progress takes a little longer

Banda Aceh, Kinder sammeln Hilfsgüter auf

Indonesia's government is planing to present its masterplan for reconstruction on March 26, three months after the tsunami hit the country. Until then, emergency aid in affected regions is going to continue along with German support.

Due to the small presence of foreign aid organizations up to now, they cannot fall back on existing structures and contacts and thus progress takes longer here. But transition from measures such as organizing food, medicine or housing to reconstruction is fluid. "Especially with a catastrophe of such huge dimensions, reconstruction is a continuing process," Stehling said.

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