Falling Short

WASHINGTON, Apr. 14 (AFP) – Rising fuel and materials prices and skilled labor shortages are expected to push reconstruction costs for the deadly December 2004 tsunami past 10 billion dollars, a US Congress report said Friday. “Although pledges of 13 billion dollars exceed initial damage estimates of 10 billion dollars, escalating costs may increase the amount of funding needed for reconstruction,” said the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an investigative arm of Congress.

The US government contributed nearly one billion dollars while American individuals and corporations raised another 1.5 billion for relief and reconstruction activities following the Southeast Asia tsunami disaster, which left more than 220,000 people dead in a dozen countries.

The GAO report said the United States might have to consider increasing money approved by Congress for reconstruction in worst-hit nations Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Congress initially approved 908 million dollars in assistance for relief, reconstruction, and related programs for all affected areas.

The programs are largely being undertaken by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under the State Department.

GAO said that “primarily because of risi