US Pledge to Help Rebuild Haiti Better and with Transparency Faltering

Trenton Daniel and Martha Mendoza, Washington Post, July 22, 2012

The deadly earthquake that leveled Haiti’s capital more than two years ago brought a thread of hope: a promise of renewal. With the United States taking the lead, international donors pledged billions of dollars to help the country “build back better,” breaking its cycle of dependency.

But after the rubble was cleared and the dead buried, what the quake laid bare was the depth of Haiti’s dysfunction. Today, the fruits of an ambitious, $1.8 billion U.S. reconstruction promise are hard to find. Immediate, basic needs for bottled water, temporary shelter and medicine were the obvious priorities. But projects fundamental to Haiti’s transformation out of poverty, such as permanent housing and electric plants in the heavily hit capital of Port-au-Prince have not taken off.

Critics say the U.S. effort to reconstruct Haiti was flawed from the start. While “build back better” was a comforting notion, there wasn’t much of a foundation to build upon. Haiti’s chronic political instability and lack of coordinated leadership between Haiti and the U.S. meant crucial decisions about construction projects were slow to be approved. Red tape stalled those that were.

The international community’s $10 billion effort was also hindered by its pledge to get approval for projects from the Haitian government. For more than a year then-President Rene Preval was, as he later described it, “paralyzed,” while his government was mostly obliterated, with 16,000 civil servants killed and most ministries in ruins. It wasn’t until earlier this year that a fully operational government was in place to sign paperwork, adopt codes and write regulations. Other delays included challenges to contracts, underestimates of what needed to be done, and land disputes.

{snip} Contracts, budgets and a 300-item spreadsheet obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request show:

—Of the $988 million spent so far, a quarter went toward debt relief to unburden the hemisphere’s poorest nation of repayments. But after Haiti’s loans were paid off, the government began borrowing again: $657 million so far, largely for oil imports rather than development projects.

—Less than 12 percent of the reconstruction money sent to Haiti after the earthquake has gone toward energy, shelter, ports or other infrastructure. At least a third, $329 million, went to projects that were awarded before the 2010 catastrophe and had little to do with the recovery—such as HIV/AIDS programs.

—Half of the $1.8 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding is still in the Treasury, its disbursement stymied by an understaffed U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in the months after the quake and by a Haitian government that was barely functional for more than a year.

{snip}

The U.S. Special Coordinator for Haiti Thomas C. Adams, who oversees USAID spending here, says the first priority in the critical days after the quake that killed more than 300,000 was crisis management, and the U.S. government spent $1.3 billion on critical rescue operations, saving untold lives.

Three months later, the goals shifted from rescue to what would become a $1.8 billion reconstruction package aimed at building new foundations.

“U.S. taxpayers, in the past, have spent billions of dollars in Haiti that haven’t resulted in sustainable improvement in the lives of Haitians,” said Adams. “The emphasis was never on ‘spend the money quickly.’ The emphasis was on spending the money so that in a year or two, we could look at these projects and see that we’ve helped create a real base to jump-start economic development and give Haitian families and businesses the kind of opportunities they deserve.”

{snip}

Within months of the quake, Congress approved a 27-page plan detailing a partnership with the Haitian government to “lay the foundation for long-term stability and economic growth.” USAID, an agency within the State Department, was held responsible for getting the job done by choosing contractors, selecting projects and overseeing the work. But just as there’s little to show for the $2 billion the U.S. spent in Haiti in the two decades before the earthquake, it hasn’t built much that is permanent with the new influx of cash.

{snip}

Lack of education has long been a problem. Haiti has about 4.5 million school-age children, about half of whom were attending school before the earthquake. The largest U.S. education program after the quake was through the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research, which was a few years into a $25.6 million U.S.-funded project to train teachers.

{snip}

The organization left Haiti last year after building 120 temporary schools. Today, about half of Haiti’s school age children attend school, about the same as before the catastrophe. The Haitian government says it wants to put another 1.5 million children into school—by 2016.

{snip}

One of USAID’s most tangible post-earthquake accomplishments was the construction of a bridge across the muddy, winding Ennery River. The strong and well-engineered span eases a key route from the north to the south 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Port-au-Prince. The bridge had been down for more than a year before the earthquake, a casualty of the 2008 hurricane season. Plans had been sketched for a new bridge, but there wasn’t funding.

Engineer Larry Wright, who temporarily moved to Haiti from Wyoming to lead the $4 million project, said he didn’t know the funding came from earthquake reconstruction funds.

“This had nothing to do with the quake,” said Wright.

{snip}

When the earthquake hit, world lenders were already several years into forgiving Haiti’s substantial debts, many of which dated back to millions in loans taken by the dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was overthrown in 1986 and suddenly returned last year. In June 2009, seven months before the earthquake, donors wiped out $1.2 billion of the Haitian government’s debt. In January 2010, as the capital lay in ruins, it still was $828 million in the red.

{snip}

And to date, debt relief is the largest single item the U.S. has spent toward Haiti’s rebuilding: $245 million.

But since taking office in May 2011, President Michel Martelly’s administration has borrowed $657 million, largely from Venezuela for basic fuel needs, but also from Taiwan, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Monetary Fund and OPEC. Next year Haiti is expected to spend close to $10 million servicing those debts, according to the IMF.

{snip}

More than half of Haiti’s annual $1 billion budget comes from foreign aid.

{snip}

A major frustration for watchdogs of the U.S. effort is a lack of transparency over how the millions of dollars are being spent.

From interviews to records requests, efforts to track spending in Haiti by members of Congress, university researchers and news organizations have sometimes been met with resistance and even, in some cases, outright refusals.

{snip}

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  • WmarkW

    Haiti is Exhibit A about the relationship between national IQ and wealth.
    No one but blacks who hate whites could have turned their Caribbean paradise into Hell on Earth.
    Even black nations that build on their colonial past (Barbados, Bahamas)  did OK with their weather gift.

  • Rocky Bass,

    And this surprises whom?

  • Church_of_Jed

    Watch Obamau-mau delcare Haiti a disaster zone and give them all free rides to USA and automatic voter registration, and ship them into swing districts where one vote can tilt the election.

  • $2billion did not do much because none of it ever got to Haiti.  Haiti is what you get when a nation is run by 100% blacks.  America is headed that way fast.  We will soon become a province of Haiti.

  • I hate to say it but no amount of money can transform Haiti since there is no stable government and various factions are fighting each other.

    • alastairabbacle

      I would like to start a breeding program for Japanese, and have them run all of the islands instead.  Can you imagine what a group of Japanese could do to Haiti?

      I’m sure China is thinkin about it…….

      • The__Bobster

        Why bother? Just send all our Japs there instead.

  • Oil Can Harry

    Why did the international community pour $10 billion dollars into a country whose net worth is the cost of a McDonald’s Happy Meal?

    • bluffcreek1967

      That ‘international community’ is actually gullible, guilt-ridden Western White countries who did it so they could feel good about themselves. Another complete waste of money and resources! 

  • Your daily reminder of Malcolm X Scholars who go to Haiti to ask for rape:

    http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/04/23/we-are-not-your-weapons-we-are-women/

    “Though I take issue with my brother’s behavior, I am grateful for the experience… This in hand, I feel comfortable in speaking for Haitian women…”

  • MartelC

    You can just change the dates and official names, and republish the same story every 5 years or so. 

  • The__Bobster

    Haiti is one country that can have a major earthquake without people noticing much of a change.

    • The Worlds Scapegoat

       Actually the earthquake might help settle all the garbage laying around and make it look better. Kind of like shaking a garbage can so you can put more inside.

  • The__Bobster

    Part 2: After a couple of decades, they invited back the Whites who had managed to escape. Some took them up on their offer. Can you guess what happened next?

  • Major

    “U.S. taxpayers, in the past, have spent billions of dollars in Haiti that haven’t resulted in sustainable improvement in the lives of Haitians,” said Adams…”

    Truly…the definition of insanity. Why do we bother at all?

  • The Worlds Scapegoat

     Those billions will help destroy this country and all other white countries. That is the intended purpose not helping Haiti.

  •  I see that the moderator deleted all comments from Exodus: Israel to Drive Africans from Holy Land.  He did so because he didn’t like the ideas I was expressing, not because of any uncivil behavior in the comments.  I blogged about it (and uploaded a copy of the thread comments to the web) here, in the adult swimming area.

    • I did it because I knew exactly what would happen.  Another 2006 all over again.  

      You openly despise AR, insult it as a “kiddie pool,” yet you keep coming back. Another thing: I’m getting tired of you and others blaming the cop because you don’t like the laws that the politicians passed.

      This message and yours will self-destruct in a few hours.