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Chile's New President Seeks Quick Recovery from Quake

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After being sworn in as president of Chile on Thursday, Sebastian Pinera worked into night discussing measures with cabinet members for recovery from the 8.8-magnitude quake that hit the South American nation on Feb. 27.

The first Council of Ministers began late Thursday night with the Emergency Committee, governors, military chiefs giving detailed reports on the situation of devastated areas.

Chile's government spokeswoman Ena von Baer said that Education Minister Joaquin Lavin had been instructed to work for swift reopening of schools.

The discussion of the key task force in recovery efforts -- the Reconstruction Committee -- began at 1:30 a.m. local time (0430 GMT) on Friday.

The committee, comprising ministers of interior, presidency, public works, housing, transportation, education, health, treasury and economy, is expected to launch an all-round campaign to restore normality to affected regions.

The hardest-hit regions by the earthquake and the following tsunami accounted for 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and about 25 percent of the industrial production of the country, according to the Central Bank.

Economists have predicted a 4.5 percent growth of GDP for 2010, 1.5 points lower than the 6 percent average annual expansion proposed by Pinera's economic program.

However, the new government has foreseen an upturn of the country's economy in the second half of the year.

Loss caused by the quake, which killed more than 500 people, is estimated at between US$20 billion and US$30 billion.

Considering the magnitude of the damage, Pinera's government estimates that reconstruction efforts will span at least three years.

(Xinhua News Agency March 2010)


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