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The tsunami - six months later

Worship Tour of Northern Temples in the Year of the Rooster

The tsunami - six months later

PATA
Photos: Marliese Fritz

While coastal industries struggle to recover, lessons are being learned about the politics of development aid. June 26, 2005 marked six months since the devastating tsunami that swept the Indian Ocean, often called the first major natural disaster of the 21st century.

Rotary Clubs in Thailand have stepped in and provided a tremendous amount of assistance. Shown here is a shot of how a boat looked after the tsunami destroyed it.

The world came together like never before to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who lost family, friends and loved ones, as well as livelihoods and belongings. Large parts of cities, entire towns and villages, shops, schools and infrastructure were destroyed or severely damaged. Government administration and public services came to a halt.

With help from the Rotary Club Eastern Seaboard, the same boat is now repaired and able to provide this family with a hard earned, but nonetheless welcome fishing income.

Tourism was only one of many coastline industries affected, along with fisheries, coconut plantations and other forms of agriculture. The poor were worst hit, especially women and children.

With the addition of India, the Maldives and Thailand, the total reconstruction costs over the next three to five years are expected to be between USD 9.8 billion and USD 12.5 billion. By the end of May 2005, USD 6.7 billion had been pledged by donor countries, private individuals and corporations, of which about USD 5.8 billion was pledged by governments. However, records show that as of May 2005, only about USD 2.5 billion of the total amount pledged has been paid up.

After a long time, the children were smiling again.

Thailand, arguably the worst affected in terms of tourist casualties, was seeing occupancies of only around 20 percent in Phuket and the neighboring islands and coastal areas as of June 2005. Airline capacity was down significantly. Officials were turning to the domestic market to prop up business.

Thailand also sought to use the Miss Universe pageant, held in Bangkok on May 31, to convince TV viewers in about 180 countries of an ‘all-clear’ message. The 80 contestants were flown to Phuket to be videotaped on the beaches there, scenes that were edited into the live coverage of the finals.

Given the fact that disasters and crises will continue to occur, one major issue that has emerged is the financing of post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation programs. Developing countries, already struggling financially, find themselves having to divert their meager extra-budgetary resources to relief efforts. Developed countries, which are already providing vast amounts in the form of other aid packages, have to find additional funds, some of which then carry strings attached before they are disbursed.

On January 12, 2005, the group of countries known as the Paris Club announced a debt moratorium for countries impacted by the tsunami. This means they will not expect any debt payment on eligible sovereign claims from those countries until December 31, 2005. The deferred amounts will be repaid over five years, including a one-year grace period. Interest accrued in 2005 will be capitalized and paid as deferred amounts.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, French President Jacques Chirac came up with a number of other proposals to raise funds. He noted that the turnover of the world’s leading 100 companies was over USD 7 trillion in 2004. The sum of the turnovers of the top two companies alone is greater than the GNP of the entire African continent. And yet, he said, "This globalized economy concerns only one-third of the global population, a privileged minority in a world of insecurity. In 2006, we will need to mobilize almost USD 50 billion of additional official aid," President Chirac said, noting that this must not be done by creating new international bureaucracies, but by using existing mechanisms, streamlining them, making them increasingly transparent and increasingly efficient. Among President Chirac’s suggested mechanisms include:

International financial transactions amount to some US$3 trillion per day. An ‘international solidarity levy’ could help raise US$10 billion per year. He suggested that it should be: 1) A very low rate, of a maximum of one ten-thousandth; 2) Applied to a fraction of international financial transactions; and 3) Based on the co-operation between major world financial markets so as to avoid the effects of evasion.

Capital flows/countries with bank secrecy: Ask countries that maintain bank secrecy to partially compensate for the consequences of world tax evasion, "which is so damaging to the poorest countries," through a levy on flows of foreign capital in and out of their territory. This levy would be allocated to development.

Aviation and shipping fuel: A contribution levied on the fuel used by air or sea transport. "The fuel used by these sectors, which contribute to the greenhouse effect and the pollution of our planet, is currently practically exonerated from all taxation," President Chirac claimed, a comment that many in the transport industry would dispute.

Airline tickets: Three billion airline tickets are sold each year worldwide. A contribution of one dollar per ticket would raise at least USD 3 billion, "without compromising the economic balance of the sector," according to President Chirac.

Coordinated tax incentives: Every year, US citizens give more than USD 220 billion to charity, 3 percent of which goes to international causes. Large developed countries should set up coordinated tax incentives that encourage everyone from individuals to the largest corporations and financial organizations to donate for development.

Many tsunami-affected communities are looking forward to a new future as much as they are coming to terms with their losses. At the same time, they continue to struggle to attract normal levels of travel and tourism business, which makes both looking forward to a new future and coming to terms with loss that much more difficult. PATA is working hard through its chapter network and media contacts to spread the message that visitors are welcome and needed. Visit www.PATA.org/tsunami for more information.


Worship Tour of Northern Temples in the Year of the Rooster

Thai AirAsia has introduced a new campaign inviting everyone to discover sacred places of Northern Thailand in Chiang Mai, Lampang, and Lamphun, but during weekdays.

M.L. Bovornovadep Devakula Thai AirAsia (2nd right), Junnapong Saranak (2nd left), director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Northern Region 1 and Songvit Itthitanakul (right), president of the Chiang Mai Tourism and Business Association, with Ajarn Katha Shinabunchorn

These include Phra That Lampang Lung (the temple of the Ox year), Chedi Sao Lung, Wat Phra That Haripunchai (the temple of the Rooster year), Phra That Doi Suthep (the temple of the Goat year), Wat Phra Singh (the temple of the Dragon year), and Wat Jed Yod (the temple of the Snake year).

The special package, "Two day one-night weekday" promotion, is available from now until September 29, 2005 for people who want to make the pilgrimage to pay homage to Buddhist places which are symbols of their own birth years for good fortune at a special price of 4,600 baht per person. The price includes round trip Bangkok - Chiang Mai tickets, transportation, accommodation, meals, all fees and taxes, and the services of tour guide Ajarn Katha Chinabanchorn.