Monday, January 24, 2011

One Year After Earthquake Reconstruction for Haiti Looks Slow

Sources: Haiti PM Criticises Post-Earthquake Rebuilding Efforts Foreign Aid Keeps the Country from Shaping Its Own Future Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, Mission Statement Charges Filed Against ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier in Haiti The Year of Surviving in Squalor

Ten days ago marked the one-year anniversary of the 7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti, killed an estimated 250,000 thousand Haitians, and left over a million homeless. The international community responded by pledging $5.8 billion toward the reconstruction of Haiti. However, one year after the earthquake, not much has changed since that devastating day. Nearly one million Haitians remain homeless and are living in tents sprawled across the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. If anything, the situation has worsened given the cholera outbreak that claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Haitians and infected more than 150,000 others. The nationwide rioting following the failed December 2010 elections and the recent return of former Haitian dictator, “Baby Doc” Duvalier, only highlight the Haitian government’s inability to cure current problems and free itself from past problems.

Haiti’s unstable government has deterred investors and donors from investing in the country because they dont know if the funds will be properly managed and allocated to areas that need it most. The unstable government has earned it the moniker “Republic of NGOs,” connoting how investments into Haiti bypass the government and go directly to support NGOs in the country.

Many blame the unstable government for why over half the pledged aid has not been delivered to the country. Thus far, the majority of outside funding has gone to pay the country’s debt and not for reconstruction efforts. In an effort to speed reconstruction and build investor confidence, the Haitian Government created the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (“IHRC”) by presidential decree on April 21, 2010. Co-chaired by Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the goal of the IHRC is to develop a reconstruction plan for Haiti by assessing the needs and investment priorities of the country, coordinating reconstruction efforts, and allocating donor investments accordingly.

Unfortunately many criticize the IRHC’s action plan as “more of the same” old policies focused on making Haiti a source of cheap labor in the region and reducing protective tariffs on imported goods—policies Haitians claim failed to work for the country in the past. Critics further allege that although the IHRC is comprised equally of both foreigners and Haitian members, Haitians are largely left out of planning reconstruction policies. Without incorporating Haitian people into the creation of a plan for reconstruction, many believe foreigners will encourage policies that continue to fail. However, some see signs of hope. Pamela Cox, a World Bank official who sits on the IHRC, claims that although IHRC efforts toward reconstruction should have started earlier, reconstruction is indeed happening and the economy has “held up.”

1) IHRC member and World Bank official, Pamela Cox claims that the commission has made progress toward reconstruction. Given that nearly 1 million people are homeless and living in tent shanty towns, should Haitians continue to trust the commission to provide actual and substantial reconstruction for the country?2) There has been rioting in the country over the December elections. Should funding and aid continue to bypass the Haitian government and go directly to NGOs while the state of the government is so precarious?

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