Tsunami-hit Aceh on verge of US$2 billion building boom

Indonesia's tsunami-ravaged Aceh province is on the verge of a building boom that will soon be worth US$2 billion (Ђ1.7 billion) a year, the United Nations Development Program said Thursday. The surge in spending in Aceh and on neighboring quake-shattered Nias Island will mean some 200,000 new jobs, but training schemes and more local production of construction materials are needed so that the poor can tap into the boom, it said.

"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," said Simon Field, head of the UNDP Office in Banda Aceh. The Dec. 26 tsunami killed at least 131,000 people in Aceh.

The giant waves also washed away some 110,000 houses along with scores of roads, bridges, government offices and ports. Large-scale rebuilding has only just begun in the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

The program said that construction spending would soon reach approximately US$2 billion (Ђ1.7 billion) a year from current levels of US$50 million (Ђ42 million).

Field said the United Nations and other agencies would begin training programs in trades such as brick laying and carpentry, as well as look at ways to ensure that more construction materials, especially bricks, were locally made. I.L.

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