Franck: Six months after the earthquake, what grade would you give the Haitian Government in addressing the tragedy and why?
Stanley Lucas by SL
Stanley Lucas: That's an easy one they would get a solid F-. They were completely unprepared. The Haitian Bureau of Mines issued a report in October 2002 stating that there was a 100% chance that Haiti would experience and earthquake in the near future. Aristide and then Preval had eight years to put together an emergency plan, to conduct civil education, to strengthen building codes, etc. They did nothing but enrich themselves and their cronies. And the country has now paid dearly for their corruption and incompetence.
Then when the earthquake hit they ran around like keystone cops and basically ceded the country to the international community to manage the response because they were totally incapable. Preval was wandering around the airport telling reporters he was just there to "see if he could help out". Can you imagine the President of the country trying to support efforts rather than lead response efforts? It was appalling.
Franck: And, the international community? What grade would you give them and why?
Stanley Lucas: I would give the individual international donors an A+ for their tremendous heart and outpouring of support in the aftermath of the earthquake. People really stepped up to the plate and offered support big and small. The most inspiring and impactful stories that you hear are individual efforts or small group efforts. There is a businessman in New Jersey who has donated his own time and funding to help fit 400 Haitians with prosthetics. The mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty, responded immediately by providing an emergency response capability with WebEOC that allowed us to organize and target intervention.
The news at the government/official level is quite a bit less inspiring. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, there was a huge international response with huge pledges of support. Haitians are most grateful for this response and particularly for the US Government's efforts to provide immediate assistance and response.
However, in the past six months, despite the huge pledges of support that poured in, the actual funding has only trickled in. The international community of governments has only remitted 2% of what was pledged. Efforts are essentially a patchwork of stopgap measures that unfortunately are not sustainable in the long term. Despite good intentions, we just haven't seen the impact of all that money. For that I will give them a F-.
Everyone is focusing on the "stalemate" between the international community and the Haitian Government. The international community blames the Haitian government for raising roadblocks and is reticent to remit funds based on past experience with incompetence and corruption. The Haitian Government really the Preval Administration blames the international community saying that the path for them is clear but they are holding back to pressure him into accepting their priorities.
The international community has good reason to be weary of the Preval Administration for sure, but at the end of the day it is only the Haitian people that are suffering. So I'm not interested in this stalemate. I'm interested in how to get the help to the people.
For me, the biggest roadblock is actually a lack of vision, coordination and big thinking. There are no ideas out there to get behind which is part of the reason a stalemate occurs. No one has put forward big anchor projects let alone a recovery plan that people can get behind. Everyone is focusing on their own agendas, rather than on the greater good. If there were a compelling plan that people could get behind, the Preval Administration would have no choice but to follow along.
Franck: Then what do you see as the major priorities now for helping the people of Haiti and how should it be done?
Stanley Lucas: It is glaringly obvious that the number one issue is housing. About 2.1 million people are still living in makeshift tents spread out between 1,360 unofficial tent cities or refugees camps that do not meet international standards. It's appalling it's been six months. The scope of the problem is massive and requires a long-term solution. People rely on their houses to access credit. So now with 450,000 houses destroyed these people have nothing to leverage to get credit. We can get better tents. We can put people in refugee camp situations. But that's not sustainable and will not lead to recover.
We need a two-part solution to the immediate housing crisis:
1. The international community could support the creation of Haitian housing institution to manage a public-private partnership "Housing Fund". This program could operate as a low interest mortgage program. This would require probably about $2 billion, which could be raised from the already donated funds from multilateral institutions, governments and NGOs (that have collected more than $50 million). As a first step, this institution could identify and vet all individual owners that lost their homes and evaluate the cost to rebuild each unit. As a second step, low interest mortgages could be given for rebuilding or renovating homes. However, for this to be sustainable in the long run, the fund should work with the Ministry of Public Works with the support of Habitat for Humanity or states such as California that have effective codes to develop a new construction code that mandates earthquake and hurricane resistant construction. We'd have to carefully vet the claims and then determine appropriate loan amounts for traditional 30 year fixed rate mortgages at let's say a 2% APR. The donors would actually generate a small return, but more importantly this would be a sustainable project that would also create much-needed jobs in the construction sector.
2. We cannot have recovery without access to credit beyond the housing market. We need to establish a "Recovery Fund" as well that would provide micro-credit loans to the informal sector of the economy to start small businesses or assist the existing medium sized businesses to expand or rebuild. Haitian cooperatives were successful in the past, and this model could be used to launch such a micro credit program. I am positive the Haitian Diaspora community would be receptive to this idea if we could find an organization like the Grameen Bank to set it up and provide guidance to manage it.
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