LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s new president, Martin Vizcarra, promised to rev up government spending on infrastructure and housing destroyed by severe floods more than a year ago, criticizing delays under his recently-toppled predecessor.
In his first trip outside of Lima since taking office on Friday, Vizcarra said that in the past year, the government has only spent 10 percent of the 25 billion soles ($7.8 billion) needed for the overall reconstruction effort.
“If we continue like this, we’re going to finish rebuilding in 10 years,” Vizcarra told residents of a small town in the coastal desert region of Piura, where flooding destroyed scores of homes. “We can’t wait that long.”
Hundreds of people continue to live in tents in Piura and other regions along Peru’s northern coast since a surprise warming of Pacific waters unleashed deadly downpours in early 2017.
Vizcarra has sought to distance himself from the unpopular government of former president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former banker who resigned last week in the face of near-certain impeachment on graft allegations.
Vizcarra, Kuczynski’s vice president, was sworn in on Friday.
But most Peruvians could not name Vizcarra in an Ipsos poll two weeks ago, and the 55-year-old former governor of a mining region must now build support across Peru while repairing relations with the opposition-ruled Congress as a massive graft scandal continues to roil the country.
On Tuesday, Vizcarra greeted residents in Piura who lost their homes to the floods last year and promised local officials he would work closely with them to ensure their needs were met.
Vizcarra said laws must be changed to make sure it does not take the government between six and nine months to award public work contracts.
“We can’t create expectations that everything will be done in the short-term, but we have to set deadlines that are respected,” Vizcarra told cheering crowds.
Shares in construction conglomerate Grana y Montero rose more than 9 percent on Tuesday amid expectations Vizcarra would oversee a revival in construction.
The center-right government of Kuczynski was credited with leading a rapid emergency effort when the floods hit but was later criticized for not following through with rapid rebuilding.
Kuczynski has said the opposition party that controls Congress did not allow him to govern freely and has denied the graft allegations that led to his downfall.
Vizcarra has yet to unveil the “completely new” Cabinet that he has promised to form, but said would do so by Monday of next week.
Reporting By Reuters TV and Mitra Taj; Editing by Marguerita Choy