The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission was set up after the Jan. 12 earthquake as a joint Haitian-international effort to ineffectively channel billions of dollars of donated reconstruction aid.
Like everything else about the recovery effort, the commission, led by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former President Bill Clinton, has been too slow off the mark. But we were encouraged by its second meeting in Port-au-Prince this month, where it announced dozens of new projects with clear benchmarks and the commitment of more than $1 billion to complete them.
The commission finally has its executive director, a Haitian, Gabriel Verret, a former economic adviser to President René Préval. About 30 crucial staff positions are still unfilled, a troubling sign. Without a full, permanent staff, the commission will surely have a harder time showing results and pressing donors to meet pledges.
The goals outlined at the meeting include clearing a million cubic meters of rubble in Port-au-Prince and building enough short-term hurricane shelters for 400,000 to 500,000 people — both by November. The longer-term plans include a two-year, $4.3 billion reinvention of Haiti’s public school system, a $200 million program for agricultural development, and a $15 million, 320-bed teaching hospital in Mirebalais, in central Haiti.
The hospital is a project of Partners in Health, an exemplary nongovernmental organization whose founder, Paul Farmer, has spoken forcefully about the need to break bad old habits of international aid, which in half a century has never reached the goal of creating a functioning country run by Haitians for Haitians. At a Capitol Hill hearing in July, he noted that only 3 percent of earthquake aid had gone to the Haitian government.
The low figure is understandable, since the government was weak to begin with and devastated by the quake. Dr. Farmer’s larger point is valid. Rebuilding Haiti requires building a functioning, responsive Haitian state. A hospital that teaches a new generation of Haitian doctors and nurses, meeting an aching need for medical care while spurring the home-grown economy, is a fine example of how to do that.
Commission members and supporters insist that by the standards of international bureaucracies, they are moving quickly and efficiently. Perhaps. But Haiti’s urgent and unmet needs are staggering.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies recently announced that it was distributing new plastic tarps to 80,000 families. They are replacing old tarps that have frayed in the last seven months while people have waited, fruitlessly, for homes.
Why is it that I don’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I learn that Gabriel Verret is set to be Executive Director of our reconstruction efforts?
I can remember when Gabriel Verret was working for USAID and had been sent to represent the American Government at a meeting with Preval. Preval said…”You talk too much…” and placed a piece of tape over Verret’s mouth. The American representative sat there like a tame dog, throughout the meeting, with the tape across his lips.
This is the man we trust with running Haiti’s survival project???
He is firmly, completely, and totally under the control of President Rene Preval.
The fact that 30 critical executive positions have not been filled should only come as a surprise to the naïve who do not understand the game. (30 high paying slots could be filled with the speed of light.) This naivety includes most foreign diplomats and 99% of the media.
Haitians understand the game and cannot believe the foreigner is so stupid, or does he simply strive to be stupid, which is worse?
Preval continues with his plan to delay/stop/block all positive actions until the last moment, before the elections, when he will release a Lavalas of material to be distributed by his UNITE candidates, so they will win the elections in a landslide. He has just stolen $107,000,000 from the Petro-Caraibe Fund for the purchase of heavy equipment….when he actually plans to distribute this to his UNITE party candidates to the tune of $1,000,000 each. In a land of the poor, the democratic process stands little chance.
Paul Farmer continues to be a Preval/Aristide man by insisting money be channeled through the Haitian government. Farmer is not a stupid man and, because of this, we must wonder at his motivation, or agenda. Like everyone else he knows that every penny, passing through Haitian government accounts, is likely to be stolen. Why then, does Farmer continue to press for a complete and total waste of badly needed funding by insisting the Preval government have control?
Farmer should be judged favorably for his work with AIDS patients in Haiti.
The other Paul Farmer should get a failing mark for his unbalanced support of the Aristide/Preval regimes. Perhaps this flaw is simply a human one, based upon the fortunes that Preval is willing to give those influential people who support his criminal goals.
Is Paul Farmer one of these??
The jury is still out and while it awaits thousands of children will die of starvation.
Commission members and supporters insist that by the standards of international bureaucracies, they are moving quickly and efficiently
This is a particularly stupid comment.
My houseboy could organize things more efficiently and quickly than this band of international and Haitian incompetents. President Clinton has only managed to hold 2 meetings in 6 months. This isn’t serious!
Bill Clinton hopes for a Nobel Prize. Haitians are suspicious of Clinton’s love of money and believe he continues to benefit from his involvement with Haiti. They are sure he took a lot from the Aristide period.
The entire post-quake effort is a ghastly joke.
One might find some humor to laugh at were it not for the daily reality that shows collapsed buildings beneath which are trapped tens of thousands who were not rescued….a land of collapsed structures and rubble that is not being cleared…. Thousands of amputees whose only possessions..if they are lucky…are sets of aluminum crutches.