OPINION

A long-term outlook

…At the moment, the international community is focused on covering the immediate needs of victims of the Southeast Asian tsunamis. The widespread appeals, the telemarathons, the compassion being trumpeted from one end of the earth to the other have touched our hearts and brought out the best in us. However, covering the basic needs of the victims is only the first step. From now on, ongoing efforts – even the smallest donation – will simply not suffice unless a medium-term strategy is implemented to tackle poverty and improve the health and education sectors. History has shown us that the provision of immediate relief is a more popular tactic than the implementation of a medium-term policy to boost ailing economies. And it is well known that the public’s attention is quickly diverted by the next major disaster before the pieces have been picked up from the previous catastrophe. Often, certain donors pledge large sums of money which invariably dwindle when the press focus has shifted. In this case, it is the obligation of the USA (chiefly) and Europe to implement long-term strategies – spanning decades – in order to help rebuild the economies of the countries of Southeast Asia, to build new roads and hospitals, and generally to spur development in nations under despotic, and often thoroughly corrupt, regimes. Of course, another major undertaking is to help these countries shoulder the massive debt burden they face (without subtracting the proferred aid from scheduled aid packages, as happened in Iraq last year). Every nation, every culture and every individual should «freeze» such devastating events. The American people did this when Franklin Roosevelt died and when John F. Kennedy was murdered. They did it also after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11 2001. This time, the whole world should freeze those devastating few minutes of December 26 last year, because the large newspaper headlines will soon disappear and the images that shock us now will soon adopt the appearance of faded photographs.