Haiti dependent on donors

Call
it the $100 million club.

That’s
the amount each donor nation will have to ante up for a say in Haiti’s early
recovery under a plan Haitian President René Préval plans to present at an international
donors conference in New York at month’s end.

Many
businesses, organisations, agencies and individuals in the Cayman Islands have
sent monetary aid to Haiti. The total amount is not known. The Cayman Islands
Government has reimbursed $70,000 to the Cayman Islands Red Cross for its
efforts in the Haiti relief.

While
Haitian and foreign disaster experts were tallying the cost to rebuild after
the 12 January 7.0-magnitude earthquake — $11.5 billion — Préval and his
advisors have been quietly negotiating the blueprint of the development plan
that will shape Haiti’s reconstruction over the next decade.

“It
moves it in the right direction,” Mark Schneider, senior vice president of the
Washington DC-based International Crisis Group, said of the plan, which he has
seen. “I’ve said the first phase of reconstruction is a decade. The real test
is a generation and hopefully with partnerships both inside and outside of
Haiti, it will continue for that time period.”

The
plan includes creation of an Interim Haitian Recovery Commission that will —
for the first time — seek to guide how and where aid is spent by giving both
Haitians and foreigners a vote in reconstruction priorities and projects over
the next 18 months. Haiti’s president will retain veto power and there’s a
starring role for former US President Bill Clinton if he wants it.

The
blueprint is certain to come under plenty of scrutiny in Haiti, a country
plagued and in-fighting among donors. Over the years, billions of dollars in
aid — often delivered after hurricanes or political coups — has failed to produce
any signs of lasting progress in a country that remains the poorest in the
Western Hemisphere.

Clinton,
who is to visit Haiti Monday along with former President George W. Bush, will
be asked to help lead Haiti’s reconstruction planning over the short-term as
co-chair — along with the Haitian prime minister — of the commission, several
sources confirmed to The Miami Herald.

Clinton,
who is already in charge of the international relief effort for the United
Nations, has not said whether he’ll accept the job as Haiti’s reconstruction
czar but he has championed the strategy, saying the goal is to provide to
Haitians the success that has long eluded them.He and Bush are visiting Haiti,
where more than 200,000 people were killed in the quake, in their roles as
co-chairs of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. The private U.S. fundraising effort,
initiated by President Obama, has raised more than $36 million.

The
commission’s goal will be to plan and coordinate reconstruction priorities and
projects over the next 18 months with recommendations from a 20-member board
made up of Haitians and foreign donors. Eventually, the commission would morph
into the Haiti Development Authority, a central planning agency tasked with
approving all reconstruction projects in Haiti regardless of which country or
aid agency is funding it.

The
authority’s executive director, like that of the commission, likely would be a
well-respected Haitian.

“Haitians
must have the chance to lead the rebuilding of Haiti,” said U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, a key person in talks.
“Development authorities have helped other countries that have large donor
communities to accomplish their visions — we want no less for Haiti and its
citizens.”

The
original plan, first reported by The Herald last month, was modeled on the
successful reconstruction authority created in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami
and presented by Mills to Préval and top Haitian officials last month. Other
countries and multilateral institutions also presented plans to the Haitian
government.

The
U.S. plan has since undergone several revisions at Préval’s urging.

Among
them: offering a voting seat on the commission’s board to each donor pledging
$100 million or more over the next two years and donors who provide $200
million in debt cancellation. As a result, Venezuela is among the likely donors
to help review and approve projects. Initially 16 members, the board was
expanded to give a say-so to Haiti’s private sector and labor unions and the
15-nation sub-regional Caribbean Community. The plan also establishes a
Multi-donor Trust Fund, administered by the World Bank, to possibly pool donors’
dollars for reconstruction projects.

For
decades, Haiti has been plagued by a lack of planning and coordination among
donor nations and aid groups as they battled among each other in the
poverty-stricken country.

Using
the Indonesian model employed in Indonesia after the Asian tsunami, plan supporters
say the reconstruction commission offers Haiti the best chance to lead its own
redevelopment and to change the way donors do business, ending an era where aid
groups spend budgets larger than Haitian ministries without any accountability
to the Haitian people. But that can only be achieved in Haiti, say supporters,
if donors and their projects are coordinated, and in line with Haiti’s vision
and post-disaster reconstruction needs, which will be presented at the March 31
New York conference and remains a work in progress while the government seeks
input from various Haitian groups, including the Diaspora. Also Haiti’s parliament
must vote on the creation of the Interim Haitian Recovery Commission.

Still,
the idea of putting Haiti’s reconstruction into the hands of one central
authority — or having some donors channel their money into a trust fund — is
not without detractors. Some argue that the authority could render government
ministries obsolete because projects would now bypass them, while others point
out that a similar World Bank fund in the Sudan has been troubled by rules
leaving schools and healthcare facilities undone as hundreds of millions of
dollars remain unspent.

Meanwhile,
Haitian government officials worry that donors may not want to change the way
they do business with Haiti, rendering the reconstruction a failure before it
gets started.

“The
creation of the [trust fund] or the [Haiti Development Authority] are
improvements to changing the paradigm if and only if everybody plays the game
— putting most of their money in the fund — and access to the funds is more
flexible than the usual process of disbursing from the international donors,”
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told The Herald.

In
the past, donors have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to assist Haiti
but have fallen short in disbursing those dollars — or at times spent the
money on projects without consulting the Haitian government about whether the
projects were needed.

Last week, as representatives
of the Haitian government and others met to prepare for the New York
conference, Bellerive warned that “New York could be a failure if we don’t
reach an agreement on the structure for the coordination and the organization
of the trust fund…(and) don’t manage to establish together the priorities for
immediate investments,” to begin reconstructing the country.

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