One year after the Indian Ocean tsunami, Aceh and Nias in Indonesia, the worst-hit areas, are on the brink of a construction boom which is showing a gigantic leap in spending from a normal $50 million to some $2 billion a year, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
This unprecedented jump in construction could result in many opportunities for the poorest with the right training and enhanced local production of materials in the region which suffered about two-thirds of the overall tsunami death toll of more than 230,000 as well as enormous damage to homes, buildings and infrastructure.
More than 200,000 additional workers will be needed in Aceh at the peak of reconstruction efforts in mid-2006. Compared with pre-tsunami construction figures, 13 times more materials are required, according to UNDP, based on research done by Accenture, the global management consultancy.
“We want to focus our attention on the poorest of the population who survived the tsunami. They are the ones who most need to be a part of this building boom,” the head of the UNDP Office in Banda Aceh Simon Field said.
“So far, the majority of those who have regained their livelihoods are ones who had assets, land and work prior to the tsunami. If the right kind of attention is given to those who had no land, no boats, no businesses before the tsunami, the economy can reach pre-tsunami levels and remain strong even after the building boom ends.”
UNDP and the UN International Labour Organisation have set up an employment services network and are providing vocation and technical training. To date, more than 40,000 job seekers are registered on the database in Banda Aceh and more than 7,000 have found employment through the centre.
Once the building boom falls off in four to five years, UNDP and Accenture analysis confirms the view that there is a tremendous opportunity for development of the Aceh coffee industry due to the rapid growth in the international market for premium coffee.
“We will be working with the government on a longer-term economic strategy. The plantation economy, particularly coffee, will be the mainstay for the future of this area,” Mr. Field said.