Almost 10 years since the 2004 tsunami. Time for the commemoration. There’ll be lots of comments. Some will be good, some bad, some self-serving rot. The big agencies will no doubt do a superb job of chest beating. I just saw an early feed from a conference organised by the World Bank. Unsurprisingly, it was a stacked panel — all from the Bank. But at least they chose the best including Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Andrew Steer and Joel Hellman. But they are of the institution so my expectations are not high. I noted, for instance, a reference to the $700m pumped into Aceh and Nias through the Multi Donor Fund (MDF) with the Bank essentially claiming credit by association even though it “only” put in $25m and made the fastest grab for money for its own programs. But that’s okay. It was quick off the mark. And, after all, the Bank did administer the MDF and did it well, at least in the early stages. Later, the MDF became a rule-bound sludge that ground into unresponsiveness, as did the Bank. The Bank’s people could not see this and whitewashed the mess they created as the institution degenerated from best friend of the Indonesian Government recovery agency, BRR, to just another of its many obdurate enemies. The problem? Andrew Steer’s fabulous early leadership was replaced by the technocratic purity of bunch of bureaucrats who could not think beyond the limits of their own culture. I could see this coming and tried to warn the people involved but none would listen. It was the most appalling level of ignorance from a bunch of people who could and should have known better. But, for a writer like myself, it just added to the great story I recorded in my book “Tsunami Chronicles: Adventures in Disaster Management”. It will give you more balance and more facts about the Aceh reconstruction program than anything you’re likely to find elsewhere. More on this in a later post.