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SLUG: 2-321873 Indonesia Tsunami Donors (L-O)
TITLE=INDONESIA/TSUNAMI DONORS (L ONLY)
HEADLINE: Donors Meet to Discuss Lending to Indonesia
INTRO: A group of international donors has met in the Indonesian capital to discuss lending for the country. The discussions were planned before last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami, but have concentrated on the challenges of recovery and reconstruction in the northern Aceh Province, which bore the brunt of the disaster. Tim Johnston has this report from Banda Aceh.
TEXT: In the past, the meetings of The Consultative Group on Indonesia have been something of a report card on Indonesia's economic progress. But this year's consultations were dominated by the disaster that devastated the region in and around Banda Aceh.
The group consists of major donor nations such as the United States and Japan, along with multi-national agencies like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. It held its annual meeting in Jakarta.
Shamshad Akhtar, the Asian Development Bank's director general for Southeast Asia, says that while long-term reconstruction in Aceh presents formidable challenges, there are more pressing immediate needs.
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"We cannot delay rehabilitation and reconstruction for the immediate needs, and the immediate needs are really water supply and sanitation, access to health, making sure that you can put some kids to school, and get some of the infrastructure that were not that severely damaged to be restored in a functional stage."
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Almost half of the 10-billion dollars that has been pledged for countries hit by the disaster has been earmarked for Indonesia, the country that suffered most.
The donors of the Consultative Group also look ready to provide additional loans of some three-point-four-billion dollars to Indonesia this year, although a significant portion of that will go towards serving the country's other long-standing needs.
More than 115-thousand Indonesians are confirmed to have died in the disaster, and tens of thousands more are missing. Before the waves hit, Indonesia was just starting to get to its feet, after 30 years of dictatorship under disgraced President Suharto, and the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s.
International donors like the members of the Consultative Group had high hopes that the recently elected government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would use its mandate to enact sweeping economic and political reforms.
President Yudhyono moved to reassure donors that he was still committed to reform, but reform often requires sacrifice by the public. Some analysts fear the extra burdens placed on the country by the disaster will make it difficult to prescribe distasteful medicine for the people. (SIGNED)
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