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Haiti candidates press for more quake aid

Australia floods to cut growth: bank
Sydney (AFP) Feb 15, 2011 - Australia's record floods will shear one percentage point off growth in the March quarter, the central bank said Tuesday, with preliminary estimates showing a 15 percent drop in coal output. The Reserve Bank of Australia said last month's inundation of a huge area of mining, farming and tourism state Queensland would have "significant short-term effects on output and prices". "The biggest effect on GDP was likely to arise from swings in coal production, with many Queensland mines severely affected by wet weather since December," the bank said in the minutes to its latest interest rate meeting, published Tuesday. "Preliminary estimates suggested that national coal production would be around 15 percent lower over the December and March quarters than would otherwise have been the case." The bank, which held interest rates steady at 4.75 percent this month, said the "cumulative effect of lost production... from the floods would result in the level of GDP being around one percentage point lower in the March quarter".

It would bounce back strongly as the recovery ramped up to slightly above pre-flood forecasts by the June quarter, the RBA said, with medium-term prospects "largely the same as they had been prior to the floods". Treasurer Wayne Swan has flagged a 0.5 percentage point drop in growth for the current fiscal year due to the floods, which killed 35 people and brought the nation's third-largest city, Brisbane, to a standstill. Swan warned he "couldn't rule out" negative growth for the March quarter, which would be the first contraction for Australia's mining-powered economy since the global financial crisis. The coal industry, which flooding virtually shut down in Queensland last month, stood to lose about Aus$5 billion (US$5.02 billion) in exports from the crisis, while agriculture could take a Aus$2 billion hit, Swan said. The floods were followed by a top-level cyclone which Treasury estimates wiped out Aus$700 million in rural production, Aus$200 million in coal exports and Aus$100 million in tourism activity. Australia's economy grew a worse-than-expected 0.2 percent quarter on quarter in the three months to the end of September, the most recent available figure, which was the slowest since the depths of the financial crisis.
by Staff Writers
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Feb 15, 2011
Haiti's two presidential candidates called Tuesday for more international aid to help the impoverished Caribbean nation recover from the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

"There should be a timetable to get results quickly," said Michel Martelly, a popular singer who qualified for the second round after a long review by Haitian election officials of first-round votes tainted by fraud.

Martelly, who took the place of ruling party candidate Jude Celestin in the second round now scheduled for March 20, appeared at a meeting of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission along with the other candidate, former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

"A Martelly government would work with the IHRC but I would impose rapid results to support the rule of law and alleviate misery in Haiti."

Martelly and Manigat, who are running to succeed President Rene Preval, appeared before the IHRC headed by former US president Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

They expressed their willingness to work with the commission, but also some frustrations.

"I believe you could have met us way before and not just today," Manigat said, noting she wants to see "a long-term commitment of the international community and not just generosity that comes from an emotional response" to the disaster.

Martelly suggested he was unfamiliar with the specific accomplishments of the IHRC. "I've seen certain documents from this commission but where are we exactly?" he asked.

The meeting with the IHRC took place after Clinton met one-on-one with the candidates. It coincided with a visit from the Club of Madrid, a coalition of former world leaders.

Clinton took the opportunity to ask for additional funding to support the work of the commission. "I think this process has proved it's worthy of the donors to honor their commitments," he said.

Frustration is building in Haiti over the slow pace of aid from the year-old disaster that left more than 220,000 people dead. Thirteen months later, hundreds of thousands remain homeless and much of the rubble has yet to be cleared.

The international community pledged nearly $10 billion to rebuild Haiti, but donors have held back on delivering most of the funds because of the tenuous political situation.

Bellerive stressed the need for continuity and said the new president "may well revise the reconstruction plan."

Haitians are hoping the presidential and parliamentary elections will bring a new leadership that could rebuild the country.

earlier related report
Actor Sean Penn seeks new spotlight for Haiti
Vienna (AFP) Feb 15, 2011 - Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn appealed here Tuesday for the world's attention to turn back to Haiti, over a year after a devastating earthquake, as he sought donations for his relief organisation.

"For everyone working there, they are very long days and weeks and there are years and years and years ahead," the co-founder of the Haitian Relief Organisation JP/HRO told journalists ahead of a gala dinner to raise funds.

"I think we have an opportunity to keep Haiti from being the old kind of headline and give it the opportunity to be the new kind, of really encouraging triumph, Haitian resilience and the potential success of international relief," he added.

At the same time, Penn lashed out however at the red-tape and hurdles in the way of relief work.

"There are competing cultures in the international relief world: one is the culture of emergency relief and the other one is the culture of sustainable development and these have to work with each other against the problem of poverty and against each other in competition for donors."

"It's one of the basic embarrassments and failures in the aid community."

The famously outspoken actor also slammed false wisdom instead of action on the ground.

"The idea is to... support them (Haitians), and not to rely on cliches like the one that always drives me crazy: 'don't give them fish, teach them to fish'. If there's no fish in the fucking pond, you can teach them all you want."

Penn was invited to Vienna by the Austrian platform Power of Hope as part of a donation drive for Haiti Tuesday evening with political and business leaders from Austria.

"This is not a celebrity issue, it's about getting Haiti back in the media and also using Sean Penn's popularity to do so," Karl Pumper, one of the founders of Power of Hope, told journalists.

Penn also met Tuesday with Agriculture and Environment Minister Niki Berlakovich and Finance State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka over lunch to discuss Austrian projects in Haiti.

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Australia flags taxpayer levy for floods
Sydney (AFP) Jan 21, 2011
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Friday raised the prospect of a one-off tax to pay for rebuilding after epic floods, as rising waters prompted more evacuations in the southeast. Crops, roads and railway lines were washed away and thousands of homes destroyed by vast floods that swamped Queensland state this month in what the government has said could be the nation's most costly natur ... read more

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