Chissano Confident On Economic Growth Despite Floods

MAPUTO, Mozambique (PANA) - Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano Wednesday said he hoped that the country's economy would continue showing strong growth, despite the devastation caused by the catastrophic flooding in some southern and central regions of the region.
The country's economy has been growing steadily at a rate of over 10 percent for the past three years.

Speaking at a press conference on the current situation of the floods, Chissano admitted that the tragedy had a negative impact on the economy, but if efforts were redoubled in all sectors it was possible to maintain the average level of growth.

Thus, the government, the private sector and society at large should "give the maximum of their sacrifice and creativity in the search for simple, practical and efficient solutions."

He said that Mozambique had concrete examples: right after the end of the war of destabilisation the country had risen from the ashes and gradually had started to develop. The results were impressive growth rates, unparalleled elsewhere in the world.

Furthermore, unlike the floods, the tentacles of the war had reached all 10 provinces.

The floods had only affected five provinces. Chissano thus reasoned that, by following the same principles of courage and determination, it would be possible to rebuild the ravaged infrastructure.

"Our desire is to be where we were before the end of last year", he said, adding that "we can't stop our task of eradicating misery because of the natural disaster that has befallen us."

However, the support and understanding of the international community would be valuable if the country is to move ahead.

Chissano thought that there should be a clear separation of foreign governments' pledges: funds for rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure in the post-flood period should not be tied to funding for the state budget and balance of payments.

He added that all of Mozambique's bilateral debts should be cancelled. "We hope that, as Spain announced that it would totally cancel our bilateral debt, other countries will follow its example." he said.

But emergency aid should not be linked to the pardoning of the debt. "We want aid, but there's a need to cancel the debt anyway, because this will enable us to combat poverty," he declared.

"We will continue fighting to have our foreign debt written-off, not just because there has been a calamity," he added.

Chissano said that it was still early to draw up a balance sheet of the total costs caused by the devastation because "we still have to assess what our financial needs will be."

By way of example, he said that a preliminary evaluation for the reconstruction of roads and bridges gives a figure of 89 million US dollars. However, he warned that the figures could change as more data pours in from the provinces affected.

He said that the flooding had affected about two million people, and out of this figure 250,000 were displaced.

"The number of lives lost is still not quantified, but up to now, we've recorded 212 deaths and 15 disappearances." he added.

The government's figures are those of the number of corpses found, but Chissano believed that the death toll would rise as the relief operations continue, and more bodies are removed from the flooded areas.

He expressed fears that with the outbreak of diseases such as cholera more people were likely to die if medicines did not reach the accommodation centres on time.

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