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Haiti: Let the Pontificating Begin

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Reconstruction plans for Haiti proliferate, but who decides which plan goes forward?

The Haitian people still do not have tents to live in or regular access to drinking water and food, but attentions have shifted to reconstruction. There are now as many reconstruction plans as there are aid organizations. Everyone who has even had tangential exposure to Haiti has put forth an opinion on how it should be rebuilt. Bill Clinton has a plan and the funds to implement it developed by pre-eminent poverty experts, including Paul Farmer, Jeffrey Sachs and others. The US State Department has put together several rebuilding scenarios and shared them with the Haitian Government. The French have a plan. The Canadians have a plan. The Haitian Diaspora are developing a plan. The World Bank, IMF and UN have plans. Economists are writing op-eds about what the plan should and should not include. Conferences and seminars are being convened to discuss myriad plans. Prominent development experts are advocating for a Marshall Plan and other are pointing out why that will not work. In short, there is a proliferation of pontification. Surely, there will be many areas of accord and many areas of discord. However, no one has addressed the central question the elephant in the room namely, who will decide which plan will go forward?

In most countries, the government would have the authority to set forth the national priorities and then develop, organize, oversee, and implement the plan to achieve those priorities. In Haiti, however, the government is not in the position to develop a plan or manage reconstruction on its own for three main reasons:

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First, the international community has completely lost confidence in the Haitian government. While most actors are likely willing to work with the government, they do not trust the current regime, which has come under so much fire for corruption, to undertake such a massive humanitarian effort. As evidence of this lack of confidence, currently, only one cent of every aid dollar flowing into Haiti is under the control of the Haitian government. This is a clear vote of no confidence.

Second, the government lacks the capacity to develop, vet or implement a massive reconstruction plan. They simply do not have the bandwidth. Only three of the 18 Cabinet ministers are competent and qualified for their job. The Prime Minister is extremely qualified, but the President has been implicated in numerous corruption scandals and is completely beholden to the business cartel, the Groupe de Bourdon. Furthermore, more than 10% of Haiti's civil service was lost in the earthquake.

And third, the Preval Administration is facing the very real possibility that simmering frustration as a result of their inability to get basic necessities to the victims will come to a full boil, and people will riot in the streets demanding a change in government. Hopefully, this type of political instability can be avoided because Haiti is in no position to be able to absorb this stress to the system.

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Stanley Lucas is a specialist in political development projects. He has worked as a Senior Program Officer in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Lucas is currently the Executive Director for for the Washington Democracy (more...)
 

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