SANTIAGO, August 27, 2010 - As Chileans review their reconstruction progress six months after a magnitude-8.8 earthquake devastated parts of the Southamerican country, the World Bank has renewed its strategic relationship with Chile to further support economic recovery there.
Bank officials met this week with their Chilean counterparts to discuss a new strategic partnership for 2011-2014 that will mostly provide technical support to help Chile resume its growth pace following the global economic crisis and its February 27 earthquake.
Chile is on a fast track to economic recovery with a 4.2 percent projected growth for 2010, beating earlier projections of lesser growth. A recently released report stated that more than 80 percent of infrastructure and services damaged as a result of the catastrophe have already been repaired.
"Chile has recovered from the global financial crisis and the devastation inflicted by the earthquake sooner than we had anticipated," said World Bank country director Carlos Felipe Jaramillo. "This is the result of good economic management and commitment by the public and private sectors," he added.
In order to help Chile keep this momentum going the Bank has been asked to provide technical advice, especially in the area of productivity, which seems to be lagging after the earthquake, Jaramillo explained. A new World Bank office in Santiago will help make this process smooth while providing timely support and services, he added.
The Bank's initiatives in 2007-2010 supported Chile's goals to align itself with OECD's standards of living and incomes.
The Bank also provided immediate damage assessment support after the massive February earthquake that proved critical to coordinate emergency efforts as Chile prepared for a government handover following the election of Sebastian Piñera as president.
"In less than a week we had a team on the ground to support both the outgoing and incoming administrations," recalled World Bank Disaster Risk Management expert Joaquín Toro.
Toro credited this speedy response to the Bank's accrued experience in Haiti in the aftermath of its January 12 earthquake, which –he argues- also enabled his team to transfer key disaster management knowledge to their Chilean counterparts.
A central component of the Bank's earthquake emergency response in Haiti included a high-tech and highly efficient system to assess damage on the ground that helped experts make their final recommendations on reconstruction needs in record time.
A similar model was set up for Chile, said Toro, allowing for remote damage assessment through aerial imagery collection, processing and analysis.
As with Haiti, the Bank also teamed up with volunteer technical communities -Chile Crisis Camps and Digitales para Chile- to facilitate the exchange of technical knowledge and open source applications to support disaster management on the ground.
Chile's earthquake killed 500 people, impacted about 75 percent of the country's population of 17 million and caused around US$8 billion in damages.
Despite the quake's magnitude – the 5th most powerful in history and 500 times more powerful than Haiti's- damage was not as devastating and widespread as in Haiti, mainly because Chile has been built in a hazard-resilient manner, Toro said.
And, he argued, that's probably the main lesson to be drawn from Chile's tragedy.
"Good construction codes save lives and protect key economic and social gains in the face of disaster," noted Toro.