World leaders have met in Indonesia to co-ordinate relief efforts after the Indian Ocean disaster.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged delegates to convert pledges of aid for the tsunami victims into $1bn cash for immediate use.
The leaders also discussed debt relief and pledged to set up an Indian Ocean early warning system which could save lives in the event of a repeat of the devastating tsunami.
Should debt be cancelled? What more should governments do? How will the affected countries rebuild communities, livelihoods and economies?
This debate is now closed. Thanks you for your comments.
We discussed the rebuilding efforts in our global phone-in programme, Talking Point. Our guests were the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Kamalesh Sharma and Gareth Evans, a former Australian Foreign Minister.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinions we have received so far:
If the Paris Club is owed $5 billion from developing countries in debt this year, how can Jan Egeland describe the developed countries' pitiful offering of 717 million "the very best of humanity"? Any debts frozen will only add to debts later. Refusing to erase the debt is inhumane, particularly in the circumstances.
Melissa, Bristol, UK
I am surprised that some mature governments are even contemplating debt relief for South East Asian countries. These countries have massive and endemic corruption. Such relief funding will only end up filling the pockets of corrupt government officials. Donor country governments should take a careful look at independent surveys that research such corruption. The US government is right in being against such debt relief, the others should learn from them.
Ron Brown, Cebu, Philippines
I decided to go to Phuket for a holiday next month to help in my small way to revive their economy. However, it transpires that the airlines have cancelled all flights there and I can find very few package tours available. I will find a way to get there and I know there will be hotel rooms available, but many tourists will not make such an effort. Reviving their economy requires the help of all sectors of the community and I am disgusted with the airlines' response.
Graham, Hong Kong
Before this disaster occurred I was a great believer that charity must begin at home. Reading of the deaths of so many people made me realise that this wasn't an issue for Britain, or the UN or European Union but for the world to tackle. As human beings we are bound to aid these people in any way possible; we have so much we take for granted.
Nathan Jordan, Birmingham, UK
Wathching the aid pledges one cannot stop but wonder whether the aid money will be used finally to return these people their dignity and the very basic rights for a much better standard of life like we have in the West, or whether we are all hysterically calling for help to rebuild our global beaches. It needs a lot of optimism to suggest that it is the revival of humanity and brotherhood. I am personally amazed at the level of ignorance and hypocrisy that is being shown by the governments and people. Instead of talking nonsense why isn't there any real action taken such as debt relief? And most importantly why don't we stop patronizing these people and colonizing their countries and finally leave them alone?
Yeliz Turk, London
A tragedy of such a scale requires short term and long term measures. The least we can do is offer money. Psychological support for all, Surrogate families for the orphaned children and protection against sex crimes, looting and exploitation should continue for a long time. The United Nations should maintain a vigil that the financial help reaches the affected people and does not find way into some corrupt politicians, non performing NGOs, and other similar institutions.
Anuj Bahl, New Delhi, India
After material and basic needs have been met completely, world leaders should focus on the emotional and psychological needs of those victims who are left behind.
Ma Johanna L Carvajal, Cavite, Philippines
It seems to me to be a completely irresponsible act to carry on with any debts from the affected countries. Unless the country in need of the debt is desperate, all debts should at least be suspended if not cleared all together. I'm only 15 and not too clear on all the politics but that to me seems one of the biggest ways that countries can help.
Sarah, Beverley, Yorkshire
What would the real effects of debt relief be? Has anyone really looked at the answer? I'm not against it - but it seems like something people are suggesting to make themselves "feel" better - but what does it accomplish? Many of the countries affected by the Tsunami find it acceptable to build up there military, produce weapons of mass destruction (India), yet don't want to put down money for a Tsunami warning system. We will do what is necessary to help these people, but let's not give them a free pass.
Mike Daly, Miami, FL, USA
Whilst I support the aid given to the Tsunami victims, and feel the loss that has occurred, I am sickened that one or two countries are using the tragedy to try and "blackmail" governments to remove exiting trade duties. Some of the countries affected have requested that European countries lift VAT and import duty in light of the Tsunami. This blatant abuse of a tragedy sickens me.
Dan Abbott, Manchester UK
Governments need to make sure that aid is delivered for as long as it is needed, even if that takes years. Nobody can stop a tsunami, but if there had been a warning system in place fewer people might have died. If the infrastructure in the countries had been better, it would be easier to help the survivors. All this costs money and most of these countries weren't in very good shape economically even before the tsunami. Western governments can help to change the situation by changing trade regulations that make it difficult for developing countries to export their goods. This is more difficult than just sending aid, but it will have more effect in the long term.
The argument for debt reduction without conditions is fine on the surface but some of these countries, notably Sri Lanka and Indonesia, have civil wars going on. Any saved money is likely to be used for building up their armies and for other political gains and not for development. The oppressed minorities won't thank the west for that.
Lee, London, UK
It is time for us to wake up. Every day the developed world uses products that have been produced cheaply in the developing world. The financial debt has been paid off through the cheap labour that has been used by the developed world. There is no way that anyone in the West would work for £2 a day, and yet we are happy for others to do it across the world. It will cost us little to cancel world debt, but will cost those in debt their futures if we do not help out. Of course we should ensure that the money donated is wisely distributed so that it is not only the corrupt politicians who can fulfil their needs.
S Sehgal, Maidenhead, Berkshire
There is a lot of talk in the West about how we should solve the problems in the affected countries. Too often we try to impose our solutions on others, regardless of how appropriate they are. We should instead be listening very carefully to what the affected people are asking for and provide just what they need, without strings or imposition of foreign idealism.
Mark, Farnham, UK
Writing off Debt is a big step, but speaking for Sri Lanka we have all got to put our shoulder to the wheel and work together as one. This is the only way we can show our respect to the ones who perished, show support and strength to those who survived but lost all materials things and loved ones and last but not least show our gratitude to the millions who have and still continue to give their hard earned money and some even their time and experience to help us in this time of need.
Two decades ago, the world passionately devoted its energies to alleviate famine/disease/extreme poverty in Africa, following the calling by big name celebrities led by Bob Geldolf. Their relentless efforts helped people open up their hearts and wallets to help those in need. Despite the impressive fundraising results, the conditions in Africa are still prominent if not worsened today - two decades later. Funds can be easily mismanaged by being diverted away from those who need the help most. Sadly, catastrophes and severe tragedies bring out the either the best or the very worst in people. When the flame of the media cools down on this subject, will we care or even remember to hold those who are in power to be accountable for seeing the long term rebuilding process through?
Alice Chen, Los Angeles
Re: Alice Chen's comments regarding the use of aid. I feel you are being overly cynical. In 2003 Ethiopia was threatened with a famine with just as much potential as that of 1984 and Band Aid fame. However thanks to the quicker response of aid agencies and the international community and contingency methods, the cost in lives was kept low. Yes the world's attention will move on and much aid is wasted but do not feel your help at any time is bound to be meaningless.
David Williams, Japan
It's time for those countries who have benefited from the cheap export labour market of the worst affected areas to repay their debt. Countries in the Middle East have benefited from importing cheap labour from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia for the past 30 years and are immensely wealthy. They have a clear 'human' responsibility to now extend their wealth in an area of desperate need. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, would not have progressed without these people from neighbouring poorer countries. It's their turn to share their wealth.
Judith Brocklehurst, Houston, USA
Guarding against a similar catastrophe must be the first consideration when it comes to rebuilding. A lesson must be learnt from this dreadful experience; properties 'on the beach overlooking the beautiful seascape' can no longer be regarded as viable venues. While this latest tsunami is considered as the worst in over 40 years, and another may not come along for another 40 years, the possibility of a repeat disaster could as easily happen much sooner.
T Jones, Bangkok, Thailand
Having been a victim of Bhopal Gas Tragedy myself, I can better understand the impact of this tragedy than most people can. Monetary aid from around the world is important. However, local and international media have to keep this issue in the forefront and follow up on the rehabilitation of the affected people, especially children. Many governments and NGO will forget the issue in no time and desperate women and children will have to fend for themselves.
Raj, Philadelphia, US
I feel we should cancel all third world debts to Africa as well as Asia as interest rates far exceed the initial loans. I feel that some control should be kept on all the aid contributions and countries' governments be made to account for all aid received to effect recovery as there are far too many crooked people in authority. When I spent a couple of nights in Bangkok last year half of the city was incredibly poor and the other half where government ministers and royalty lived looked very clean, modern and affluent. I will never forget as the people were so cheerful and helpful despite their hardships.
Irene Maguire, Wrexham, North Wales, U.K.
For the international holiday makers - The best way you can support these regions is to go there for your holidays. Tourism is not only the main stay of the economies of these countries - but by being there as tourists, the locals will get back to their feet quicker.
Anjali, New Delhi, India
This disaster has touched the lives of many people over the world and will continue to haunt many people years to come. The debt should not be suspended but cancelled. These countries can barely put enough money together to rebuild their lives much less pay off a debt that these western countries can afford to let go. This is not a competition or a war. This is a natural disaster and many lives have been lost and unfortunately lives are still perishing. Surely for once these governments can stop being so power hungry and put all their resources into saving and rebuilding the lives of these people.
Amanda Brown, Gloucester, UK
Debts should be cancelled. I have survived the '91 war experience in Baghdad, there were times when I couldn't care less because there was no escape from the raids and bombs, so I felt helpless and lost trust in humanity, the only thing that helped was knowing that I wasn't alone. The tsunami disaster is in no way to be compared with any others, but the shared experience will help sufferers to recover hopefully for those children. It's now up to money makers and governments to shape the future of these affected areas.
Nada, New Zealand
Yes, debt should be cancelled otherwise how will they ever recover? Have they not suffered enough? Can they possibly lose anymore? When will fellow humans see the extent of the horror? It's so sad to think because we cannot see the devastation, we forget. My heart goes out to them every time - I will never forget.
Tarly Sandhu, B'ham, UK
I think that this disaster was awake up call for the UN and the governments of all the affected countries. People lived on the coastline in stick homes. The UN or the governments never bothered to build good homes for them. Neither did they make any shelters in case of a tsunami. I think the countries will now be more aware and will take care their country, but it saddens me that they had to learn this the hard way.
Just sending aid wouldn't help the cause. The devastation is of enormous magnitude and a lot more needs to be done. Starting from rehabilitation to counselling, there needs to be special attention towards the children in whose heart the fear has left a permanent scar. Aid agencies must have psychotherapists to heal the mental state of those who witnessed the horrific act of nature.
Asfar Sohail Azmi, Aligarh, India
It will definitely take a lot of time for people or the countries to recover from this tragedy that took place. The emotional void of the deceased and the affected can never be recovered by anyone of us, it is only time that will heal. Financially, the countries affected will surely recover because of the aid that they are getting from other places and the individual help people are rendering out of their own will. But there are a lot more factors to be worked out in terms of the infrastructure to be rebuilt, providing employment to the unemployed, providing home for the homeless, education for the children etc.
Basty Latha Shenoy, Mangalore, India
Sheer determination is the answer and a helping hand. My biggest disappointment has been the United Nations. Thanks to key Western countries, many lives will be saved. Aid and money needs to be properly controlled by those giving it and those not prone to corruption or abuse by militia groups.
Karl, Guildford, UK
Debts should be erased to relieve the countries that are victims of the quake. The best way for people to lend a helping hand now is to continue to donate money to help the victims. Governments should put all upgrading works in their own country to a temporary stop to help the flood victims. This is merely a sign of respect and what they can provide.
Developing countries need to borrow money in order to improve their infrastructure whether this be roads, healthcare, or education. Rather than cancelling debt outright; which effectively labels a country as 'bankrupt', the UN should be looking into helping countries reduce debt to serviceable levels and to encourage lenders to use fair interest rates.
Richard Austin, Chesham Bucks, UK
From the human standpoint, many parents have lost children and many children have lost parents. Nothing can ever replace lost loved ones, but hopefully these orphans can find good help and homes from their fellow countrymen and women who should be given first priority in adopting them. They would be an emotional support for one another and help each other get through this awful traumatised experience. Other countries could continue to help in other ways i.e. with funds and materials.
Anne Jamieson, Hayes, UK
I would suggest that maybe one of the deciding factors of many of the Indian Ocean countries not pursuing a tsunami early warning system around 15 years ago was because of the financial hardship they were facing amid the struggle of providing basic services and servicing the enormous debt repayments from international institutions and countries. Some of these debt repayments far outweigh the amount of any loans or aid being provided. This combined with forced economic and trade restructuring actually conspires to keep these countries locked into a spiral of poverty, aid and debt. Surely the most important and pressing need is to cancel the debts in which repayments have already surpassed the original loan value.
James Jarvis, Newtown, Australia
How is it possible that, despite the appalling death toll and the dreadful suffering of the survivors in Asia, the warring factions still cannot work together for their country? I hope that the UN can ensure that the generosity and compassion of many other nations by way of material and financial aid does reach those for whom it was intended.
Pamela Russell, Leigh, Essex, UK
Due to the enormous scale of destruction in these countries, it will take time for them to recover. In order for this to happen, their people must first recover so we must do all we can to help. People are left without money, jobs, families, homes and most of them are at a total loss. What to do, where to go, where to start from? In my opinion, it would be a good start to give them a job, help rebuild houses and repair roads.
Nordalina Jumahat, Singapore
I think it is important that the "little people" are given as much protection as possible against any corporate vultures that might entice them to part with prime real estate in exchange for immediate housing etc. Communities should be restored and decisions on development should take place once the hysteria and desperation have passed.
This is the good time to solve the problem in Indonesia's Aceh province and Sri Lanka's north east problem with money and debt relief. If we lose this chance we will never have a chance to solve this. Think what happened before the tsunami in Sri Lanka. Foreign donors stopped paying for peace talks. So the Sri Lankan President has to start the talks in order to get the money. If we let the leash of money get out of hand, corrupt countries in Asia will pocket it. There should be strings attached with peace and check and balance.
Somas, Toronto, Canada
I wouldn't normally agree with debt cancellation, but this is an extraordinary situation. The global economy needs an economically vibrant Southeast Asia anyway. With our help I am sure they will recover within 10 years.
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey
For days now we have seen overcrowded hospitals not being able to look after the sick. Why don't we send the sick to other countries to be looked after and then returned when well? I am sure some of the empty planes returning could be used for this. In this day and age people can be looked after anywhere.
Paul Gibson, Wigan, England
I can't help thinking that emotional scars will never be easy to heal, but financial aid can only work if it is sustained and part of a long term plan. Obviously this is not the time for political point scoring, but our government we hear is planning to stay in Iraq for ten years and will waste billions on compulsory ID cards. Do they really have their planning and priorities right on this one?
Nicos Souleles, Carlisle, England
Whenever disasters happen or political unrest rears its ugly head people cry "debt cancellation". It's so easy to talk about cancelling debt without realizing that debt cancellation means investors are not being paid. When that happens investors stop investing and the goose that lays the golden egg is shot. In the long term this can mean far more death and hardship than even this horrible event has generated. A balance must be struck and unintended consequences weighed.
Ted B, NJ, USA
The financial and material help from around the world has been heartening. Many a proposal has been offered as to the best way to distribute these. The psychological trauma should take priority in any scheme for rehabilitation. This is the mother of all post traumatic syndromes. These people are resilient enough to piece their lives together if they can be helped to remain sane.
Kwok, Sydney, Australia
I'm from Mexico, where we had a terrible earthquake in 1985 that destroyed Mexico City. Aid was sent but not all of it arrived to those who needed them so badly. Some greedy, heartless people took advantage of the situation and things like tents, money and food were deviated. I hope something will be done to prevent this from happening in Asia.
Lara Velasco, Morelos, Mexico
I don't think these countries will recover as it is too big a natural disaster.
Olivia Heslop, England
It is clear that the countries hit by tsunami have no warning system, emergency infrastructure, evacuation and rescue strategies and disaster-facing culture. The world needs a new system of redistribution of risks and relief costs. It is also urgent to establish a new international law to prevent the sexual abuse of children and disaster orphans.
Nasif Masad, Palestinian territories
When rebuilding, the developed countries should seriously consider offering aid without many strings attached to ensure that the aid money will remain in these devastated countries and revitalise the economies. If they insist in purchasing materials and offer services etc through the donor countries, the money will revert back to the developed world with marginal benefit to these poor nations.
Dhana Senanayake, Melbourne, Australia
I think human nature will prevail. Sri Lanka will use this opportunity to deal with the Tiger Rebels and Indonesia will disperse and finish off the Aceh separatists. Expecting otherwise is wishful thinking. Blindly giving huge sums of money to countries like Indonesia, which has a huge military machine, conspicuous in its absence from the aid efforts, will only make us conspirators. Let's make sure there is some control and common sense in the dispersal of funds. Something I sadly do not see happening once the UN have got involved in this.
Gary, Sydney Australia
The most sure way to give life to the survivors is by the affluent nations to invest directly, and locally in those countries' sectors, industries. Areas in which those countries derived their pre-Tsunami livelihood - tourism and allied industries. Every reconstruction effort must have a hundred percent local in-put, workers, counsellors, etc. Strange as it sounds, the same tourist industry which baited many into the fatal path of the Tsunami, is the same industry which will give people some life again.
Emmanuel Acheta, Kitchener, Canada
Tony Blair needs to set up an Asia-Pacific Commission to look into the long term issues of the region. Sri Lanka, for example, will take 10 years to recover from the tsunami disaster. Gordon Brown will have to give countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia extended debt relief for the next 10 years. The alternative is extreme poverty and starvation. Even aid agencies are in this for the long haul in terms of rehabilitation and reconstruction of whole communities.
Ivan Corea, Buckhurst Hill, Essex
I think the whole world needs to keep tabs on the pledges made by nations of the world and how far each one goes towards honouring those pledges. A bit of public naming and shaming - just like politicians are always so keen to do with individuals - would go a long way towards ensuring the full amount is stumped up by those who promised it.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK
With the widespread devastation the affected areas have encountered after the quake/tsunami catastrophe, the recovery will take more time and the way to recovery will definitely need more help and support from the international community. The affected nations surely cannot do the recovery alone. The help of the UN and other developed nations in providing relief and long-term assistance are very much important. Support and pledges received from the international community must be translated into cash and actual actions and not merely just by "words of promises". In addition, the people of these affected nations must stand united, set aside differences and act now in whatever they can do to start in rebuilding their homes and communities.
For those personally affected by the disaster there will be no recovery - merely a time when they have got used to the new reality. For the rest of us, I hope that we can change the way we see the world and realise that we are all the same. It's about time we started working together rather than focusing on differences between nations, religions etc. Let us make this terrible disaster a turning point for the better.
Rosalind, Norfolk, England
No amount of foreign aid can assuage the sufferings of the victims. To build up the tattered lives of the people, we need to concentrate on creating jobs for the healthy, medical aid for the sick, and schools for the children. Relief camps are no substitute for homes. Work and homes will restore dignity to these impoverished people and not cash and food vouchers.
Dr Rajinder Sehgal, Ottawa, Canada
We are focusing more on rebuilding the infrastructure and economies of these countries. What about the psychological scars, emotional healing and trauma healing. Are they not necessary? For those who lost everything, I think it is wise and appropriate to organise recovery programmes like emotional, psychological, trauma healing programmes among others. It will do a lot of good for them.
Victor Chambers, Sunyani, Ghana
The tsunami in Asia is undoubtedly the worst natural disaster in my 46 year lifetime, deserving of the biggest aid effort in history, but I am completely sick of the fatuous claims of our government and other governments around the world, about the amount of money THEY have donated. They have no money of their own, their pledges are made with public money, not theirs. Of course, we're happy for OUR money to be used in this way but when will the politicians own up to the fact that it's our cash!
Steve Jones, Ringwood, Hants
What do we mean by recover? People will rebuild their houses, sure. But parents who saw their children drown, how can they ever recover? The mental trauma that these people must be suffering is beyond my imagination.
Annette, Dunblane, Scotland
My fear is that these pledges will only remain pledges and the countries will not actually receive as high as the pledged amounts. Unfortunately this will take time and the world is likely to move on to something else but hopefully it will never forget. If you forget everything else, please remember that the people of Beslan donated to the relief effort, I think that says it all.
Katriona Vickery, Singapore, ex UK
I think the debt should be cancelled especially in countries such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia. I would like to see British Schools "adopt" an Asian school, a British Hospital "adopt" an Asian one etc and watch their progress over the next year. Give moral support, send letters and organise events here to benefit those who have suffered and lost so much. Perhaps a charity bring and buy sale, school fete, a raffle in the local hospital in order to raise money to buy a fishing boat or school equipment or toys for children, just a few examples.
In each and every natural disaster and the ensuing relief efforts, promises of help were made only to be broken or never to be fulfilled. Let us hope this time it does not repeat. It is high time that we keep politics out of relief efforts. I congratulate the passion that the British public had shown and the leadership initiatives of the world leaders though bit late. Please show the big heart of writing off the debt of the countries particularly India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia who are worst hit. India did not ask for any foreign help but the Big 8 can still show the voluntary gesture.
CM Najeeb, Muscat, Oman
Yes I do believe debt should be cancelled, it saddens me that it takes a devastating event such as this to make the wealthier nations seriously consider this issue. What about Africa where people are dying of poverty and diseases such as Aids are widespread?
Eventually the affected countries will regain their tourism industry. Also with time and effort communities will rebuild itself, supporting one another. My fear is that these pledges will only remain pledges and the countries will not actually receive the pledged amounts. Unfortunately this will take time and the world is likely to move on to something else but hopefully it will never forget. If you forget everything else, please remember that the people of Beslan donated to the relief effort, I think that says it all.
Katriona Vickery, Singapore, ex UK
Debt should not be cancelled without assurance that the funds saved will be applied in reconstruction. Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia each have large arms procurement programs - particularly the latter two - and have historically chosen to divert scarce resources away from investment in basic infrastructure. The West should not waive debt repayment when all this will mean is that the purchase of armaments or socially regressive programs are, in effect, subsidised.
You also need to remember that these countries enjoy very different economic circumstances. You cannot, for example, treat Malaysia, one of the 'tiger' economies of Asia, and Sri Lanka, long cursed by civil war and ethnic violence, as if they are the same. Europe must resist the tendency to treat Asia to one monolithic whole.
These countries will recover the same way they prospered in the first place, by putting in years of hard work. We are helping them with disaster relief now, and pledges of billions of dollars for the near future, but they will do the work of rebuilding themselves. These are strong, capable, people and they will recover from this tragedy. It will not happen overnight, and hopefully we can come to an agreement on a debt moratorium to help speed things along, but they will do it!
Steve Mac, Boston MA USA
It has become obvious that the wonderful international response to this tragedy will help the affected people rebuild their lives. One thing, however, I would ask everyone to remember. "Government money" is non-existent. The truth is that politicians are merely passing on funds taken from the populace of each country. Don't thank politicians for the help - thank the people!
Brian Langfield, Yorkshire, UK
Well said, Brian Langfield of Yorkshire. The Government is there for us and paid for by us. I hope people realise this and continue to put pressure on them regarding how they spend our money. Personally, I would like to have less spent on the military, which would free up a large amount for foreign aid and other important issues.
Katharine Friedmann, Leicester, UK
Whatever aid is promised must be given without conditions. Some western countries, one in particular, have a history of using humanitarian aid as a political weapon for such things as "democratic reform". That is under every condition utterly immoral.
Elara, New Zealand
As we all know, it takes at least a few years to build a new small to medium housing estate in Britain, we can only guess that it will take many years to rebuild for the vast amount of people left homeless. The area has to be cleared of debris and declared safe from a disease point of view beforehand, this in itself would take a long time. We can only pray for a miracle as large as the awful disaster to help these grief stricken people.
DM, United Kingdom
Contrary to what some might think, it is likely that there is indeed "crop damage". Salt water will ruin all vegetation on land. Look at the barren photos we've seen of an ordinarily lush region. Long term, it will take time to repair crop and soil damage. Short term, organization for the massive amounts of aid about to flow into these countries is key to timely recovery. Food, water, housing and medicine are urgent needs for thousands of people.
Carl, London, UK
It is not helpful to confuse the Indian Ocean disaster and the associated relief effort with the entire issue of world poverty. Whilst many poor people were affected by the disaster and need immediate help, the issue of debt relief for poorer countries is pointless without wider reform of international trade that will allow these poorer countries the opportunity to trade with the developed world as equals.
Nigel Wilson, Buckingham UK
While the loss of life in the tsunami-hit areas is tragic and irreplaceable, people have a way to move on. Hopefully survivors can go inland only a short distance to find clean drinking water and at least crops were not destroyed in these countries as they would have been with a hurricane. We must also remember that the destroyed houses were not built to the same standards or the cost as western houses, and that strong commercial interests will see to the rebuilding of hotels and resorts. If the pledged money does actually get to the victims and not to fundraisers' pockets or corrupt officials and middlemen, it should be an economic boon.
Jeremy, Atlanta, USA
Generally speaking the affected nations are quite rich: India can afford a nuclear weapons & space programme. Thailand is affluent, and most of its tourist resorts are unaffected by the waves. Indonesia is rich in oil, gas & other natural resources. Their government owes Britain money for Hawk fighter jets and other weapons - how will (effectively) giving the Indonesian government free weapons help rebuild their economy? Cancelling their debt while expecting countries such as Sierra Leone & Liberia to continue paying seems quite perverse.
What governments should NOT do is give loans attached to restructuring, opening markets, abolishing minimum wage and workers protection. They should not use this disaster to further enslave the people of the developing world. What governments should do is cancel all debt and give enough aid to rebuild the economy and economy should be based on agriculture, fishery and industry NOT flimsy tourism.
Dr Ariffin, UK
This tragedy is not the fault of any countries involved and therefore I believe that it would be despicable to continue to ask them to repay their debts for a very long time to come. It seems to me that the debts of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other countries should be scrapped or at least put off for a decade or two whilst the countries try to rebuild themselves.
Whilst I have every sympathy with the victims of the tsunami disaster, letting their government off debt is not the answer. In fact it is ridiculous that anyone should think of such an action given the amount of state and charity monies that have been pledged to help those affected. In the majority of cases aid should be of a temporary nature sufficient to allow the people to get on their feet and re-establish themselves. We must ensure that these people do not become dependant on aid.
George Hinton, Twickenham, Middlesex
How about volunteer working holidays subsidised by western governments, charities and travel companies? For the next year or so, holidaymakers could, say, spend two weeks helping out in one of the stricken countries for the same cost as their usual fortnight in the Med. This would put willing hands on deck where they're needed most and would also bring money to the region without the feelings of guilt and impropriety that attend the travelling public at present.
Patrick V. Staton, Guildford, UK
Fantastic idea from Patrick from Guildford. Many have donated but feel this is not enough. Subsidised flights for people to spend 2 weeks helping out is a great idea. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless!
One thing is for sure, they have to start from the rock bottom, since without families there is no community, and there is no economy, nothing. Lend them a helping hand to rebuild their personal life, and they will start to work to put together the local fishing industry, whatsoever. Cancellation of debts would be great gesture and that would help an awful lot, but would be only a part of the solution. We have to bear in mind that we just have started a very long, painstaking and time-consuming task.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary
All debt should be cancelled for developing countries, and it is high time that we do away with the concept to rich and poor and strive for world-wide economic parody. However, such forgiveness of debt should be tied directly to achievement in terms of democratic reform, governmental accountability and observance of basic human rights. I will not absolve the developed world of its failings in these regards, but neither should the developing world be allowed to continue as it is.
Shawn Hampton, Colorado Springs, CO - USA
The countries will recover because they have proved to be a super human power. I was in Sri Lanka on that Sunday and was touched and surprised by the powers of the people. Their task to recover will be made easy by the co operation of others in terms of trade and debt relief. Charity is only needed on the short term.
Ahamd Hmoud, Amman, Jordan