November 12, 2002

Donors break their promises

Only half of the money which foreign donors pledged to Mozambique for reconstruction after the devastating floods of February 2000 has been disbursed. Public Works Minister Roberto White gave the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, the disheartening figures on Tuesday, November 12, showing that donors are much better at providing fine words than hard cash.

In 2000 much of southern and central Mozambique was under water, as massive floods struck every river valley south of Beira. The Mozambican government, working closely with the United Nations, drew up an appeal for post-flood reconstruction costed at 450 million US dollars, which was presented at a donors' conference in Rome in May 2000. To the government's pleasure and surprise, donors promised more money than requested. When the pledges were added up, they came to 470.9 million dollars. But it is easy to make promises, less easy to honour them. Two and a half years later, White told the Assembly, only 56 per cent of that money, 238.5 million dollars, has actually been disbursed. And only 96.5 million was channelled through the Mozambican treasury: the rest went through the UN, through separate accounts set up by donors themselves, or through NGOs.

"On the basis of past experience, now that so much time has elapsed, we don't expect any significant increase in disbursement", said White. Floods hit the country again in 2001, this time mainly in the Zambezi Valley. The government did not hold a pledging conference in 2001. But it did submit a list of requirements to donors, which amounted to 132 million dollars.

So far the response has been miserable, at 13 million dollars, or just 10 per cent of requirements. The government could take some small comfort from the fact that all this money went through the treasury. The failure of donors to keep their promises meant the government was forced to revise its reconstruction plans in line with the money actually available. This was a particular problem with the health sector. In the 2000 floods, 83 health units were destroyed or damaged - but so far the government has only had the money to restore 21 of them. As for the 45 health units damaged in the 2001 floods, White said no funds had been forthcoming to repair any of them. (AIM, Maputo)

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