Business & Finance News

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Compiled by SDNP

Head Lines


Economy needs a year to recover
UN acting resident representative says after meeting with donors



The acting UN resident coordinator expressed fears yesterday, a week ahead of the launch of the UN appeal for aid, Bangladesh would need at least a year to recover from the destruction the devastating flood inflicted on its economy.

"Tens of millions face grave food insecurity, waterborne diseases, a badly mangled infrastructure and extremely poor prospects for the next rice crop," said Douglas Casson Coutts, acting resident coordinator, in a UN press release yesterday.

Coutts also feared in the wake of the grave food insecurity and unemployment, the flood-hit rural people are bound to migrate to the cities that are already overwhelmed.

"Bangladesh cannot afford anymore urbanisation. We have to give people the means to stay home and help rebuild their communities," said Coutts, as part of long-term plans to cope with future floods.

He expressed the fears to major donors at a meeting at the IDB Bhaban in Dhaka yesterday, where he also outlined preliminary plans to cope with the post-flood devastation. The heads of UN agencies in Dhaka, representative of the British Department for International Development (DFID), European Union ambassador and the Australian High Commissioner, among others, attended the meeting.

Emerging from the meeting, Coutts told reporters that donors were 'fairly favourable' in responding to the grave situation and the UN plans for post-flood assistance.

"The conference was called to present information to donors and lay the groundwork in approaching the appeal next week," Coutts said. "The donors know the need is very grave, they know the reasons, and they needed to be assured that their resources will utilised effectively," he added.

In the meeting, the donors sent a strong message to the government that coordination of the post-flood rehabilitation between the UN, donors, NGOs and the government is imperative to ensure an effective assistance programme, a donor representative at the meeting told The Daily Star.

Coutts and Siddiqur Rahman Chowdhury, secretary of food and disaster management ministry, described the extent of the flood-damage to donors, but the exact damage to each sector will be quantified before the appeal next week.

The UN appeal will incorporate assessments done by the UN itself, the government, the donors and the NGOs.

"The donors, the UN and the government are assessing the flood damage separately and we will consider all these assessments to jointly present a figure that is required for post-flood rehabilitation," Chowdhury told reporters after the meeting.

"As the floodwaters recede, the full extent of the damage and the consequent challenges of rebuilding houses, roads, schools and public services are emerging," the UN press release stated.

Food and Disaster Management Minister Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf told reporters last week the government expects the national economy to incur damage close to Tk 30 to 40 thousand crore due to the floods.

The UN is already running its flood-relief operations through its existing agencies, said Coutts, but the post-flood rehabilitation plan would involve schools, government agencies and NGOs alongside the UN agencies.

The UN agencies would also monitor the post-flood rehabilitation and report it to donors to maintain donor confidence, Coutts added.

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16,000km road, 285km rly links flood wrecked



The on-going flooding is feared to have already damaged about 16,000km of national road network and 285kms of railway tracks, dealing a severe blow to the economy.

Nearly 20,000 meters of bridges and culverts also have been destroyed, according to primary estimates of the Local Government Engineering Division and some other organisations.

The actual extent of flood damage could be ascertained once floodwaters recede completely, but a colossal fund might require to put the communication network back on functional stage, authorities feared.

The transportation of passengers and goods face great deal of danger every day in many city and rural areas as some 13,000km roads are totally damaged and 42,485km partially, says the Food and Disaster Management Department.

Initial survey shows 10,000km rural roads, and 3,494 bridges and culverts have been totally or partially damaged. The most affected communication systems are in Sylhet, Sunamganj, Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Jamalpur, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Kishoreganj, Sirajganj, Tangail, Manikganj, Munshiganj, Narsinghdi, Dhaka, Narayanganj, Shariatpur, Pabna, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Bogra, Naogaon, Barisal, Comilla, Chandpur and Kusthia.

The flooding, heaviest since Bangladesh's worst-ever floods in 1998, also caused vast damage to the communication system in the capital. The Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) has already found damage to 492.80km roads and 32.70km footpaths, repairing of which might cost at least Tk 500 crore. But the DCC has no budget for the unscheduled repair.

Engineers of different departments fear that total cost for repair to national communication network might be far more than what has been allocated in the present ADP (Annual Development Program).

As the floodwaters continue to recede, the government and the donor agencies are now busy assessing damages. According to a preliminary information, the estimated cost for temporary and permanent rehabilitation of the damaged railway network alone is Tk 120 crore.

The World Bank is waiting for the government report on actual damage and the cost required for rehabilitation. The World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Department of Fund for International Development (DFID) would jointly give assistance to avoid any repetition in aid to repair communication system.

A top World Bank official said the international assistance may not come before four months, but the government should start the rehabilitation works as soon as possible to normalise the network.

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