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IDB approves $200 million emergency credit line to help meet Y2K emergency

The Inter-American Development Bank today declared the year 2000 computer problem a "technological emergency" and announced it has opened a $200 million emergency line of credit to assist Latin American and Caribbean countries in preparing and adapting their informatics systems to year 2000 requirements.
The Bank in a statement warned that many countries of the region were behind in reprogramming existing data systems or purchasing new systems that are needed to face "a technological emergency generally known as the Year 2000 Problem. " Among the activities that will be financed are those related to preparing contingency plans to manage and cope with system failures that might occur after Dec. 31, 1999.
The problem stems from the fact that, in early years of computer systems development, programmers to save memory stored the years as two-digit numbers (75 for 1975) instead of four digits. Therefore, computers beginning Jan. 1, 2000, may read the year 2000 as 1900.
"This lack of numeric capability will cause these programs to make fundamental errors in the computations and processing, which in turn could cause the collapse of many data systems now used in public and private sector operations," the IDB said.
The so-called Y2K problem could affect nearly all areas of daily life, including surface, air and maritime transportation; electric power production and distribution; potable water and solid waste treatment; hospitals; manufacturing; finance and insurance; and all types of public sector operations, such as tax collections, police, emergency systems; and social services.
"The year 2000 Problem is unprecedented because the entire world has to meet the same deadline," the IDB said. "The result is massive competition for the services of computer programmers and test experts, which compounds the problem."
In addition to contingency planning, the emergency credit line will finance training of computer personnel in preparing and implementing upgrades in computerized systems, crisis management and recovery, testing, and procurement of new programs, equipment and consulting services.
Today's announcement is a new step in continuing IDB efforts to contribute to building responses to the Y2K problem. Previously, the Bank has organized and participated in several awareness seminars and meetings, both at the level of individual countries and at the regional level, to alert authorities about the impending emergency.
In addition, Bank staff has collaborated with and visited a number of countries in the region to evaluate the capacity of their executing agencies to deal with the Y2K problem and to survey financial needs related to it.

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