A week after Hurricane Otis slammed into the Pacific coast in Guerrero as a Category 5 storm, the federal government has announced a 61.3-billion-peso recovery plan (US $3.4 billion) for Acapulco and the neighboring municipality of Coyuca de Benítez.
President López Obrador presented the “General Plan for Reconstruction and Support for the Affected Population in Acapulco and Coyuca de Benítez” at his Wednesday morning press conference, and assured residents that they are “not alone.”
“You have the support of the people of Mexico, who are always very fraternal, very supportive, and of course the support of the government,” he said.
A 20-point recovery plan
The government’s plan includes monetary support and tax relief for Hurricane Otis victims, interest-free loans for businesses and funds for public works. Let’s take a closer look at it.
- All households will receive 8,000 pesos (US $445) to purchase paint and cleaning products. Owners of houses that were damaged by the hurricane will receive an additional 35,000-60,0000 pesos (US $1,950-$3,340) depending on the severity of the damage.
- Affected families will receive a package of household goods including a bed, a stove, a fridge, a fan and a dinner set.
- Acapulco and Coyuca de Benítez residents will not be required to pay taxes including income tax until February 2024. In addition, electricity will be free for the next three months.
- Families will receive a “basic basket” of 24 essential food products every week for the next three months.
- Interest-free loans will be offered to small and medium-sized business via two schemes. One of the schemes will provide 20,000 loans of 25,000 pesos each to be repaid over a period of three years.
- Loans will be offered to hotels, with the government to cover half of the interest payments.
- The government will allocate 10 billion pesos (US $557.7 million) from this year’s budget to carry out water, drainage, public lighting, hospital and school projects. Money will also be allocated to repairs at the Acapulco airport. An additional 218 million pesos will go to highway projects.
- The government will seek to employ 10,000 additional people in its Youths Building the Future apprenticeship scheme, with the new participants to carry out cleaning, construction and painting work as well as other hurricane recovery tasks.
The government also committed to making advance welfare payments and has suspended repayments on government-issued home loans for six months. Among the other points in the plan is one explaining that the National Guard will provide security across Acapulco and Coyuca de Benítez “to guarantee the peace and tranquility of citizens.”
The first point of the plan is to provide all necessary support to the families of people who lost their lives in the hurricane and to “intensify” the search for the missing.
The official Hurricane Otis death toll remained at 46 on Wednesday morning, with 58 additional people unaccounted for.
Who will manage the recovery and reconstruction efforts?
Federal Interior Minister Luisa María Alcalde and Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado will jointly lead the efforts.
“Hurricane Otis was a phenomenon of extraordinary conditions that caused enormous devastation in our state,” Salgado said Wednesday morning.
How long will the reconstruction of Acapulco take?
The Mexican Chamber of the Construction Industry estimates that it will take at least five years to fully rebuild the city, while local business people have spoken about a period of up to two years.
Asked about the latter estimate on Wednesday, López Obrador said he believed that the reconstruction of the resort city could be finished sooner.
“This tragedy occurred a week ago and electricity service has already been almost completely reestablished,” he said, adding that the period of time it will take to fully rebuild Acapulco “will depend on the investment that is made to repair hotels.”
López Obrador said that work to repair houses and ensure public services are functioning properly will be completed by the end of the year.
“The changes will already be noticeable in December. In December we’ll be finishing the public works, but the rehabilitation of hotels will take more time,” he said.
“We want Christmas to be different, we don’t want it to be a bitter Christmas,” López Obrador added.
A pledge from the president
AMLO told reporters that the government doesn’t consider the monetary outlay on the recovery plan an “expense” but rather an “investment.”
“We fortunately have healthy public finances and when it comes to providing benefits to the people we have unlimited resources,” he said.
López Obrador said that the 61-billion-peso cost of the recovery plan is “an estimate” and that if more money is needed, “we’ll increase the budget.”
The total cost of damage caused by Hurricane Otis is likely around US $15 billion, according to Enki Research, a United States-based company that tracks storms and models the cost of their damage.