By Matthew Bigg
Credit: Reuters/Matthew Bigg
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Government planners and international experts are racing to produce a blueprint this week to reconstruct Haiti’s economy after the earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and devastated its infrastructure.
A team of 150 Haitian government officials and 90 international experts is to submit the plan to the government by Friday, said Doekle Wielinga, a World Bank disaster recovery specialist in charge of the effort.
The document will then be assessed at a meeting of international technical experts in the Dominican Republic on March 16 before a donor conference in New York on March 31.
“What we are working on is what the requirements will be in terms of recovery and reconstruction,” Wielinga told Reuters.
“This is the first PDNA (post-disaster needs assessment) where we have almost the entire international community participating physically,” Wielinga said, adding that Haitian communities outside the country were also being consulted.
An outstanding question remains the scope of recovery and whether to attempt to restore the economic status quo that existed prior to the January 12 quake, or go further.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Its society is divided among a tiny elite, many of whom dwell in sumptuous villas on hills overlooking the capital, a small middle class and a majority who earn just a few dollars a day.
At the same time, the fractured relationship between the government and people could undermine long-term recovery.
Wielinga stressed that a single recovery plan produced by international actors and the Haitian government would likely produce more coherence, but he acknowledged the difficulties of restoring a country beset by long-term structural weaknesses.
“Doing this thing in a joint or coherent manner, the ordinary Haitian will see a uniformly managed reconstruction process and therefore get more bang for your buck,” he said.
MISTRUST OF GOVERNMENT
Haitians in a series of interviews on Saturday said they had little confidence in the government and criticized its efforts since the earthquake.
The country saw modest stabilization under President Rene Preval, who was elected in 2006. But the views expressed by poor and middle-class Haitians reflected a cynicism bred from decades of political upheaval.
“We have never had the impression that the government was on the side of the people. Never ever,” said Florence Romain, a civil engineer. “Haitians got used to it. They ended up counting on God.”
“I have the impression that we are in a boat without a captain,” said Gaelle Ambroise, who runs a pet food store in Petionville. “We get no help from the government, though we still have to pay taxes.”
At a camp in Petionville for around 25,000 people displaced by the quake, several noted that it was international aid groups, rather than the government, who provided assistance.
“The government does nothing for us. It is the international community and that’s what everyone says,” said Wesner Lafond, an accountant who is living in a tent.
The plan will address eight areas of reconstruction including education, housing, telecommunications, transport and energy. One aspect will deal with boosting the effectiveness of government and macro economic recovery.
Another will look at how to improve the agricultural sector to provide an alternative livelihood for the thousands who have fled the capital, which was overcrowded prior to the earthquake.
At the same time, there would be a special focus on preparing for the storms and hurricanes that regularly batter the country — as well as for the possibility of another big quake.
The plan would look at what can be done in an initial period of six to 18 months, then within the next three years and finally over a 10-year period, and the aim was to fund the first period at the donor conference, he said.
(Editing by Jane Sutton and Paul Simao)