In a four-year span, two foreign officials from different countries have questioned Haiti’s ability to manage large sum of money. After a short visit to Haiti, a former French Cooperation minister said that the government and the private sector lacked the necessary competence to handle the millions that were promised to Haiti.
Most recently, more than 30 donor countries and multilateral organizations attended a conference to discuss how to coordinate efforts that can help the Haitian government take steps to reduce poverty, and rebuild infrastructure devastated by four hurricanes last summer that killed some 800 people, and caused about $1 billion in damage.
The strategy requires more than $3.8 billion by 2010 and the Haitian government asked donor countries for direct budgetary support to help finance the plan. However, Canada’s International Cooperation Minister, Bev Oda, told reporters that his government is not ready to reconsider distributing its aid solely through non-governmental organizations and multilateral organizations such as the United Nations “because the Haitian government is still grappling with corruption … consequently as they improve their abilities for accountability and transparency, we will then be considering budgetary support,”
As much as Canada’s reluctance may be justified, it did not influenced the concerned decision of the other conference participants that included former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, the current U.S. Secretary of State; the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the heads of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others, at the headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Collectively, they pledged $324 million over the next two years in additional aid to help Haiti recover from food riots and damage to roads and other key infrastructure caused by four ravaging hurricanes last summer. The new commitments, including $41 million to reduce the government’s anticipated deficit this year, came amid growing concern that Haiti’s economy faces daunting challenges not only in recovering from the hurricanes that effectively erased 15 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) last year, but also in coping with the global financial crisis which, among other effects, has reduced remittances to Haiti from the U.S. It was observed that for the first time in several decades, the economy’s growth in 2007 – 3.4 percent – exceeded the increase in its population. But the hurricanes, which hit the country’s third-largest city, Gonaives, particularly hard, more than reversed the advances of the previous year.
According to World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who visited the country shortly after the storms, “Haiti’s economy was beginning to show the first signs of a turnaround, but the results haven’t yet reached critical mass or visibility. Now, set back once again by global recession, there is a real danger that we fail to seize the moment of Haiti’s promise … long-term ‘Haiti fatigue’ may prove more devastating to the country’s future than natural disasters.” At the end of the conference U.N. BANKI-MOON proclaimed it Haiti’s Big Chance. “It is easy to visit Haiti and see only poverty”, he said “but when I visited recently with former President Bill Clinton, we saw opportunity”. This is encouraging and realistic to the extent that today’s efforts are sustained within a 25-year comprehensive planned undertakings with emphasis on productive agriculture, including irrigation, seeds, fertilizing, inter-communal roads, support technique, cooperatives, reforestation; practical education to meet technical and scientific challenges; comprehensive public health, including drinking water, drainage, waste treatments, dispensaries and clinics.
They are the three true pillars of sustainable growth, stability and economic development. They insure a well informed, healthy and productive population.