Bureaucracy, tax blamed for BRR's failure to meet tsunami targets

Nani Afrida and Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

The Aceh-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) has failed to meet this year's targets to rebuild tsunami-hit areas because of bureaucratic problems and an unpopular tax on foreign disaster aid, an official says.

BRR deputy chairman for financial affairs Amin Subekti said the agency said had allocated almost Rp 11 trillion (US$1.2 billion) from its budget this year for the rebuilding work but spent only 62 percent of the fund.

"The low absorption of the budget has something to do with the agency's internal problems, the lack of necessary regulations and the province's economic capacity," Amin told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

The agency was under fire earlier this year for its poor performance and corruption in several development projects dating from its 2005 budget.

Amin said the government had yet to issue regulations on land appropriation for housing and infrastructure projects, project procurements and taxes for international donations.

"Many housing and infrastructure projects that should have been accomplished this year were postponed because of the absence of these fixed regulations," he said.

He said the BRR had since last year constructed only 57,000 of the 120,000 units of permanent houses targeted for completion by 2007, while 22,000 units were still underway.

Amin refused to reveal the reconstruction targets for this year. He said the BRR had constructed 15,000 temporary shelters and 57,123 units of permanent houses.

It had also rebuilt 37 integrated health posts, four hospitals, 59 public health centers, almost 700 elementary and high schools and trained more than 5,400 teaching staff.

Regarding transportation, the agency has overseen the construction and repair of 1,500 kilometers of road networks, 158 bridges, seven ferry terminals, seven harbors, seven airports and one airstrip, he said.

Amin said Aceh's economy had a limited ability to absorb the BRR's huge annual budget. He said the agency would not supply raw materials from other provinces -- except for timber -- to empower the local economy.

Foreign donors, meanwhile, have complained about taxes imposed by the government on donations they made for the reconstruction work, he said.

Because of the donations, the province's annual budget had been increased to Rp 8 trillion this year from Rp 2 trillion in 1999 and Rp 6 trillion in 2002.

The international community has given a commitment to provide US$7.1 billion in aid for the reconstruction process.

Christian Rey, a manager of the Multi Donor Fund (MDF) with 15 member countries, said the MDF had pledged an additional US$110 million to early commitments of $542 million for the reconstruction work.

Rey, who also expressed the MDF's disappointment with the slow pace of work, said the donor countries had speeded up the funds' disbursement to cover crucial gaps.
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