The destruction caused by the 8.8 Richter scale earthquake that hit the coast of the Maule and Bio Bio Regions in Chile has become the number one concern for the authorities that have just come to power. On the eve of coming to power, the new administration led by President Sebastián Piñera was already preparing to lead reconstruction from the first moment.
The team taking over with the new president has made changes to its plans to adapt to the new scenario. “It is totally impossible to attempt to ignore the fact that this earthquake is going to mean changes to our government program. We are going to announce them in a clear and transparent way, because that is the style of the new form of government that we are going to install starting 11 March,” the president-elect stated. The future president anticipated that his new cabinet, which was appointed in February, will have to undertake “the task of rebuilding what this earthquake has destroyed.”
First Piñera also appointed the intendants (regional representatives of the executive branch) for the regions hardest hit by last Saturday’s earthquake to get them to immediately join the emergency committees that were created to deal with the effects of the disaster. Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe, who was mayor of Concepción, one of the cities hardest-hit by the earthquake, was appointed to head the Bio Bio Region.
Meanwhile, he appointed Rodrigo Pérez intendant of the Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins Region, Rodrigo Galilea in the Maule Region, Andrés Molina in Araucanía and Fernando Echeverria in the Metropolitan Region.
For her part, now former President Michelle Bachelet made sure that Piñera’s team was informed of all the tasks that the government is undertaking, so that the new administration can take charge of them from that moment on. ”I invited the president elect and ministers from key areas to pass all of the information that we have on to them so that they can guarantee the measures as soon as they come to power,” the president affirmed after meeting with Piñera in La Moneda, the government palace.
“The task ahead of us right now is to deal with the emergencies in the most effective way (…) that requires adequate coordination between the outgoing and the incoming governments,” Bachelet stated. The new president said that “I have asked the president for the current government to provide us with a written report as soon as possible, which includes the assessment of the damages that the earthquake has done and the measures that the government has taken that are in place, in addition to those that are supposed to be taken.”
Measures to lift Chile up
The magnitude of the disaster in the main central-southern cities in the country and the coast near Talca and Concepción will pose important challenges to the president and the administration in general. To deal with this harsh scenario, Piñera and his team announced a series of measures aimed at speeding up this difficult process.
The plan of action to be followed will be divided into three stages: the first will be to find missing people, reestablishing basic services, and reactivating the productive apparatus; the second will be to reformulate the government program from before the catastrophe, and the third will be to implement the reconstruction plan “Levantemos Chile” (Let’s Pick Chile Up).
In addition, Piñera announced the creation of an inter-ministerial committee, where the ministers of the Interior, the General Secretariat of the Presidency, Public Works, Housing, Transportation, Education, Health, Housing and the Economy will participate to organize the different aspects of reconstruction.
Likewise, the new president announced a package aimed at shoring up recovery with the idea of speeding up the process to repair homes, schools and hospitals as quickly as possible and allow the damaged institutions to be reopened.
For the same reason laws will be passed to stimulate construction and avoid red tape, to stimulate the use of the workforce in the construction sector and to implement tax incentives via the donations act.
Piñera, who has told the press on multiple occasions that he intends to be “the president of reconstruction,” will above all will have to determine the precise amounts required for the work to repair the affected constructions, buildings and homes, as well as to help the thousands of victims. So far specialists have not reached a consensus regarding the total.
Outgoing Public Works Minister Sergio Bitar has estimated that Chile will have to invest close to US$ 1.2 billion, while other economists have increased this amount to US$ 11 billion.