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Tsunami Rebuilding: Follow the Money

January 2005

Money is power, and with billions of dollars of aid and assistance flowing into the countries around the rim of the Indian Ocean, there is a lot of power at play.

There are many examples of inspirational work being done: peasants distributing fresh fruit and vegetables to their hungry neighbors, bloggers on the internet setting up virtual bulletin boards to help reunite families and friends, churches, NGOs, and movements organizing to make sure that help goes where it is needed most.

There are also examples of what seems like the kind of “help” people might be better off without.

The US government has pledged $350 million (nearly ten times the amount Bush plans to spend celebrating his second inauguration) . Unfortunately, it seems that much of that money may be destined to support the repressive military regime in Indonesia. (See Roger Burbach and Paul Cantor’s piece on Bush, the Pentagon and the Tsunami here.)

In Sri Lanka, there are signs that the government may take advantage of the tragedy to push through market-based reforms that the people have continuously voted down. Fishing communities that were washed away will be forced to relocate 300 meters from the sea, supposedly to protect them from future floods. But the government has also announced plans to encourage the building of tourist hotels on the beach. Sri Lanka’s Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) has prepared this early report.

But let’s get back to the encouraging news: groups like Monlar will be monitoring aid efforts to ensure that the donor powers can’t sneak their market reforms through undetected, and other local groups, with our support, will continue to rebuild their shattered villages and renew their fights for a more just future for all the worlds people.

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