The tsunami tragedy that struck South Asia, Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean basin in December 2004 elicited a great show of solidarity worldwide.
Reconstruction was the next essential step in the recovery process. Among those hit hardest by the disaster were the many small and medium-sized enterprises in the region’s fishing, tourism, industrial and service sectors. They were critical to the economic base of their countries and getting those industries back on track was vital to the economic well-being of their individual communities.
With the tragedy affecting several of our member countries, within a few days of the cataclysm, ICC Asia received reports from our different member countries in the region of immediate contributions from both companies and chambers from Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Pakistan and Taiwan.
In the first few days, ICC Bangladesh harnessed its local business community and donated funds and medicine to the tsunami affected region of Sri Lanka. Contributions were made by: Transcom Group, Square Group, New Age Group, Duncan Brothers, KAFCO, IFIC Bank, Exim Bank, Janata Bank, State Bank of India, Eastland Insurance, Sunflower Life Insurance, The Merchants, National Housing, Airlink Group, BASF, Dr M Jahir and Associates, Huq and Company, Nestle, UAE Bangladesh, Investment Corporation, and Aventis Pharmaceuticals.
ICC Syria President, Mr A.R. Attar, President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Organization, rapidly sent a charter plane filled with blankets, medicines, canned and baby food to India. Spanish publishing company, Vicens Vives, a member of ICC Spain, provided school bags, working closely with Spanish aid relief efforts. Fundraising events were rapidly organized by many organizations. Australia’s Council for International Trade and Commerce (CITSA), in conjunction with AmCham held a business luncheon with prominent guest speaker Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia. ICC WCF partner, Junior Chamber International (JCI) established “Operation Hope”, where funds were invested in special projects to rebuild schools, and provide books and other education-related materials.
Following the tsunami, a variety of projects with chambers across the region helped rebuild various communities. These included:
German Indonesian Chamber of Industry & Commerce (EKONID), Jakarta
In January 2005, the Chamber established “INDOGERM-direct” (German Indonesian Disaster Relief Committee) as a response to the tsunami in Indonesia (Aceh Province and Nias Island). Its secretariat is located in the German Indonesian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Jakarta, with a project office in Banda Aceh, Aceh Province.
INDOGERM collected donations from the German and Indonesian business community amounting to approximately 6.5 million euros. INDOGERM is involved in various different sectors and has to date completed many of its initially planned projects. Its largest project, costing 3.65 million euros, was the rehabilitation of three vocational training schools (“SMKs 1, 2 & 3”) in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. This project was done in close cooperation with the German governmental development agencies GTZ and KfW, and registered with the Indonesian governmental BRR Reconstruction Body for Aceh/Nias.
Other ongoing project sectors designed to get the community up and running again have been: education, fishery, health care, childcare and community development.
- Austrian Chamber of Economy in Indonesia
Austrian Chamber’s reconstruction efforts focused upon the communities in Aceh and Nias. Funds for reconstruction efforts were mostly contributed by private individuals via organisations such as “Neighbour in Need” and several NGOs (eg. Caritas, SOS Kinderdorf, Hilfswerk Austria, Red Cross etc.), by private enterprises, the government and the Austrian Chamber of Economy. Reconstruction projects included:
- Setting up of brick and tile production
- Organization of a textile workshop to produce school uniforms and to employ women in Meulaboh
- Microcredit programme providing start-up capital and ambulant shops for small scale traders in traditional markets
- Construction of permanent houses in several villages in Aceh and Nias (more than 1,200 houses already completed)
- Construction of Meuraxa Hospital in Banda Aceh
- Two SOS Children’s Villages in Banda Aceh and Meulaboh
- Orphanage in Banda Aceh
- Construction of five social centres, including a kindergarten and primary school and a community health centre in Aceh
- Reconstruction and enlargement of a home for handicapped children in Aceh, including vocational training
- Reconstruction of a rehabilitation centre for disabled People in Nias
The Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce first called for the collection of clothes and necessities as well as blood donation and cash from its members for emergency needs as survivors reached Bangkok. The Chamber donated 20,000 baht to the Thai Red Cross together with another Canadian community organization in January 2005. The chamber also encouraged and promoted its companies to have their seminars and annual meetings in the south of Thailand, especially Phuket, in cooperation with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Thai Chamber of Commerce. The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand organized ice hockey and golf tournaments in order to raise money for the Population and Development Association for its Post Tsunami Development Project.
Provided by Mr Twatchai Yongkittikul, Chair, ICC Thailand and Secretary General, The Thai Bankers’ Association
With the support of the Thai Government, the Thai banking community did its part to contribute to the long term rebuilding of business infrastructure to ensure growth and prosperity in the long run without undermining sound banking practices. Packages made available included:
- The easing of short and medium term liquidity and debt servicing problems of the affected businesses. The Bank of Thailand provides soft loans to the banks so that this money could in turn be re-lent to the businesses in question. The loans were arranged so that they provided low interest rates and flexible repayment schedules.
- Business people whose properties were damaged by the tsunami were encouraged to submit reconstruction and rehabilitation plans, with close consultation from their banks. Loans were then granted, on the basis of feasibility, on normal lending criteria, but with more flexible repayment terms.
- A venture capital fund was set up by the Thai Bankers’ Association, in collaboration with the Stock Exchange of Thailand and the Government Savings Bank, to assist in the recapitalization of affected businesses whose capital structures need to be strengthened in order to qualify for low interest loans. The exit criteria for the investors had been worked out mutually in order to satisfy the requirements of all parties concerned.
- Austrian Chamber of Economy
The Austria Federal Economic Chamber’s reconstruction project in Phuket, launched by its President, Christoph Leitl and by Walter Koren, the Head of the Austrian Foreign Trade Promotion Organization, provided 500,000 euros for the construction of a community centre, a library, a handicraft centre and a medical station. Planning and construction was executed by Austrian non-governmental organization Hilfswerk Austria on behalf of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. It will be the first large-scale foreign reconstruction project opened in Thailand after the tsunami disaster, inaugurated in December 2006.
Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, United Kingdom and Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce, Sri Lanka
Following the tsunami in December 2004, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) decided to invest in a programme to support the economic re-development of tsunami affected areas. After a search for a suitable organization with whom it could build a relationship, GMCC signed a three-year partnership agreement with the Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka. The project has produced an economic development strategy for the Hambantota District, for the development of tourism in the region and the development of a careers service centre.
This project won the World Chambers Competition award for Best Networking in 2009.
The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL)
“Back to Business Project” worked with chambers from across the nation, with the common goal of rehabilitating 10,000 tsunami stricken small and medium enterprises. The project was designed with the target to create more than 50,000 employment opportunities within three years. Since its debut in January 2005, the project has achieved 80% of its objectives in 45% of the time allotted. More than 8,700 businesses have been rehabilitated and more than 35,000 employment opportunities created. Special emphasis has been given to equally distributing assistance along ethnic and gender lines. Approximately 28% of rehabilitated businesses are headed by women. The project not only focussed on grants, but also included technical assistance to support long term growth. Additional counseling and training in management and business planning skills also took place. The FCCISL Back to Business project also won a special award for its ground breaking effect in building small brands. And this project won the World Chambers Competition award for Best Unconventional Project for SMEs in 2007.
- The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce
The “National Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Fund” was created in cooperation with the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC). The Chamber’s Fund has instituted micro enterprise financial assistance, providing easy access to seed capital for micro enterprises, thereby enabling them to regain their normal livelihood patterns with as little delay as possible. Approximately 25% of the total funding requirement was given as a grant and the remaining 75% in the form of a loan at an interest rate of 5% per annum. More than 300 micro entrepreneurs have received assistance through the Galle, Matara, Hambantota and Trincomalee District Chambers of Commerce. Similar financial assistance to micro enterprises in the North and East of the nation through the Yalpanam and Batticaloa Chambers was also being explored.
The Market Linkage Programme, under the Sustainable Recovery Micro Enterprise Sector Project, funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provided business development services (BDS) to applicants and recipients of financial assistance. The programme, in association with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, worked with the district chambers in eight tsunami affected districts – Kalutara, Galle, Matara Hambantota, Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, and Jaffna – undertaking the following tasks:
- To conduct proactive outreach activities in the form of one-on-one meetings, public fora, information brochures, etc., focusing on the neediest tsunami affected micro entrepreneurs with specific attention to women micro entrepreneurs
- To assist micro entrepreneurs in developing business plans and proposals
- To assist the beneficiary micro entrepreneurs to identify potential markets for their products/outputs and provide related market and business advisory services
- To organize meetings between retailers and buyers and organize regional and national level trade fairs for promoting the products of affected micro entrepreneurs with specific focus on promoting linkages between micro entrepreneurs and medium- to large-scale enterprises
- To provide capacity building support for regional implementing partners of the project, so that the project could effectively deliver market and business advisory services to wider demography of affected micro entrepreneurs in all affected districts
- National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka
Through its affiliate, the Federation of Associations of SMEs of Sri Lanka, the NCCSL’s SME “Tsunami” Disaster Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project facilitated direct and indirect assistance to build capacities of all SMEs. The NCCSL has established District Associations of SMEs in the Hambantota, Matara, Galle, Kaluytara, Colombo, Gampaha, Puttalam, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala, Matale. Hambantota, Matara, Galle, Kalutara, Gampaha and Puttalam areas that have been the worst hit by the disaster.
Following immediate relief measures just hours after the disaster, NCCSL commenced assessing the damage caused to the businesses in all the areas through its island-wide NCCSL SME network. This was facilitated through the Communication Centres established at the refugee camps by the MTN Networks (Dialog) in association with the Red Cross Sri Lanka branch.
A Steering Committee, made up with representatives from the chamber and private sector, and representatives from the Ministry of Advanced Technology and National Enterprise Development, have helped guide the development and work programme of the chamber’s SME Disaster Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project Unit.