This may be an opportune time to think of the type of aid being given in the tsunami areas, over and above simply the modality of aid flows –
private or government. A couple of things come to mind. One, for most of
these communities while aid for immediate consumption and health needs is
clearly essential, this may be the ideal time to think in terms of the
longer prospects for communities hit by the tsunami. These were, barring
the high end tourist spots in Thailand and Sri-Lanka, highly precarious
communities to begin with — in terms of livelihood, security, and access
to infrastructure, including property rights. Aid therefore should be
thought of in broader terms. Start with decentralized schemes to enable the
survivors to invest and rebuild the more permanent structures in their
community – roads, lights, schools, etc. Private initiative and interests –
both on the demand and supply side – would clearly be more permanent than
any state attempt at rebuilding. Two, resource use in these communities are
mostly affected through informal rules and special interests, in the
absence of property rights. These informal structures and special interests
have been equally “washed away” by the tsunami, providing a relatively
“clean slate” for assigning real property right structures. Establishing
such property rights will also enable (force) the survivors to better
capitalize any geographical-locational risks associated with their existing
settlements. Clearly, a lot more issues along similar lines can be fleshed
out in greater detail and scope – than what space and time limitations
impose on my comment here. CCS holds a comparative advantage in making this
case to the authorities in the tsunami affected region. A broader
conception of “aid” may allow CCS to capture more attention for its unique

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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.

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Nimai Mehta

Dr. Nimai Mehta is Professorial Lecturer, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, at American University, Washington D.C. Dr. Mehta has held teaching positions at the School of Economics, University of the Philippines, where he was a Research Fellow and Program Associate with the Center for Integrative and Development Studies, and previously with the Ateneo de Manila University, Department of Economics.