Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

The first of two installments looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. Part two will be posted shortly. Deborah Sontag, writing in today’s New York Times, takes a detailed look at the new Caracol industrial park being built in northeastern Haiti, finding that in their rush to show reconstruction progress the plan’s backers have overlooked labor and environmental concerns. Sontag writes: Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself. The park, whose main tenant Sae-A expects to generate some 20,000 jobs over the next six years, has been made possible by generous subsidies from the U.S. and Haitian governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sae-A officials were invited to the U.S. embassy in Seoul to meet with Secretary of State Clinton in 2010. One concern the company had at the time was “uncertainty about whether Haiti’s minimum wage for textile workers, scheduled to increase to $5 from $3.75 a day this October, would continue to rise.” Wikileaks cables later revealed that the U.S. embassy in Haiti, along with some multinational companies had “aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers,” according to The Nation.  While the minimum wage has increased, 18 out of 20 factories monitored by the Better Work Haiti program were found to be non-compliant on the minimum wage in their most recent assessment published in April.Despite the “obstacles,” and convinced by legislation providing tariff-free access to the U.S. market, Sae-A officials were soon heading to sign an agreement -- but not in Haiti, in Washington: By late summer, they were flying with their investment plan to Washington for a meeting with Mrs. Clinton and other international officials in a historic treaty-signing room on the State Department’s seventh floor. While Sae-A originally estimated the project would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, American and international officials wanted more: “We would say, ‘We could probably do a factory with about 3,000 to 4,000 people.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. What would you need to make it bigger?’ I [Lon Garwood, senior advisor to Sae-A] said, ‘If we could get a loan for the machines, we could probably double that.’ They said, ‘What about 10,000?’ We said, ‘If we didn’t have to worry about purchasing the land, if we didn’t have to build the factory shells, then we could double it again.’ That’s where the 20,000 jobs figure came from.” In the end, the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government (evicting some 350 farmers in the process), the IDB agreed to provide $100 million to finance the building, while the U.S. would contribute $124 million for a power plant, housing and a port. Sae-A, which reported $1.1 billion in export business last year, only needs to invest $39.2 million. The $124 million provided by the U.S. is over a quarter of the money the U.S. earmarked for reconstruction. 
The first of two installments looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. Part two will be posted shortly. Deborah Sontag, writing in today’s New York Times, takes a detailed look at the new Caracol industrial park being built in northeastern Haiti, finding that in their rush to show reconstruction progress the plan’s backers have overlooked labor and environmental concerns. Sontag writes: Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself. The park, whose main tenant Sae-A expects to generate some 20,000 jobs over the next six years, has been made possible by generous subsidies from the U.S. and Haitian governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sae-A officials were invited to the U.S. embassy in Seoul to meet with Secretary of State Clinton in 2010. One concern the company had at the time was “uncertainty about whether Haiti’s minimum wage for textile workers, scheduled to increase to $5 from $3.75 a day this October, would continue to rise.” Wikileaks cables later revealed that the U.S. embassy in Haiti, along with some multinational companies had “aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers,” according to The Nation.  While the minimum wage has increased, 18 out of 20 factories monitored by the Better Work Haiti program were found to be non-compliant on the minimum wage in their most recent assessment published in April.Despite the “obstacles,” and convinced by legislation providing tariff-free access to the U.S. market, Sae-A officials were soon heading to sign an agreement -- but not in Haiti, in Washington: By late summer, they were flying with their investment plan to Washington for a meeting with Mrs. Clinton and other international officials in a historic treaty-signing room on the State Department’s seventh floor. While Sae-A originally estimated the project would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, American and international officials wanted more: “We would say, ‘We could probably do a factory with about 3,000 to 4,000 people.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. What would you need to make it bigger?’ I [Lon Garwood, senior advisor to Sae-A] said, ‘If we could get a loan for the machines, we could probably double that.’ They said, ‘What about 10,000?’ We said, ‘If we didn’t have to worry about purchasing the land, if we didn’t have to build the factory shells, then we could double it again.’ That’s where the 20,000 jobs figure came from.” In the end, the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government (evicting some 350 farmers in the process), the IDB agreed to provide $100 million to finance the building, while the U.S. would contribute $124 million for a power plant, housing and a port. Sae-A, which reported $1.1 billion in export business last year, only needs to invest $39.2 million. The $124 million provided by the U.S. is over a quarter of the money the U.S. earmarked for reconstruction. 
Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced a drop in Haiti’s internally displaced persons (IDP) population to below 400,000. AP reports: The reduction in the camp population is attributed to a combination of forced removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are better than the camp conditions. While previous reports of IDP population decreases were held up uncritically as signs of progress, this time IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle provided a more nuanced response. While the government-backed relocation efforts have only reached a small portion of the IDP population, Doyle notes that “As for the rest we don't know [where they ended up],” adding, “[a] lot of these people we know have pitched tents on the side of the mountains.” Indeed, a simple look at the available numbers suggests that many of those that have left the IDP camps monitored by the IOM have not found adequate shelter.The IOM touts a 75 percent reduction in the camp population since July 2010, amounting to a decrease of over 1.1 million people. Yet as of April 2012, only 12,000 rental subsidies were given out, 13,000 houses were repaired and just fewer than 5,000 new homes were constructed. In total, these three solutions account for only about 12 percent of the reduction in IDP population. Additionally, about 108,000 transitional shelters have been built, which would account for an additional 42 percent. However this likely overstates the effects of the transitional shelter, as it is estimated that only about 40 percent of transitional shelters actually went to IDPs.Figure I compares the number of households exiting the camps with the number of new housing solutions completed. As can be seen, the majority of the IDP population decrease occurred when shelter implementation was far too low to absorb all the people exiting the camps. This backs up previous studies which have shown that forced evictions and declining services were the primary drivers of the reduction in IDP population.Figure I.Graph: CEPR, Author's Calculation Source: E-Shelter and CCCM Cluster
Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced a drop in Haiti’s internally displaced persons (IDP) population to below 400,000. AP reports: The reduction in the camp population is attributed to a combination of forced removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are better than the camp conditions. While previous reports of IDP population decreases were held up uncritically as signs of progress, this time IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle provided a more nuanced response. While the government-backed relocation efforts have only reached a small portion of the IDP population, Doyle notes that “As for the rest we don't know [where they ended up],” adding, “[a] lot of these people we know have pitched tents on the side of the mountains.” Indeed, a simple look at the available numbers suggests that many of those that have left the IDP camps monitored by the IOM have not found adequate shelter.The IOM touts a 75 percent reduction in the camp population since July 2010, amounting to a decrease of over 1.1 million people. Yet as of April 2012, only 12,000 rental subsidies were given out, 13,000 houses were repaired and just fewer than 5,000 new homes were constructed. In total, these three solutions account for only about 12 percent of the reduction in IDP population. Additionally, about 108,000 transitional shelters have been built, which would account for an additional 42 percent. However this likely overstates the effects of the transitional shelter, as it is estimated that only about 40 percent of transitional shelters actually went to IDPs.Figure I compares the number of households exiting the camps with the number of new housing solutions completed. As can be seen, the majority of the IDP population decrease occurred when shelter implementation was far too low to absorb all the people exiting the camps. This backs up previous studies which have shown that forced evictions and declining services were the primary drivers of the reduction in IDP population.Figure I.Graph: CEPR, Author's Calculation Source: E-Shelter and CCCM Cluster
On June 5, Ministers of Defense and Foreign Relations from South American countries met in Asunción, Paraguay  to discuss the future of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti – or  MINUSTAH. Ten of the twelve countries in the regional group known as UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations - contribute troops to MINUSTAH and make up nearly 50 percent of the entire force. As we have described in other posts, there has been quite a bit of debate regarding  MINUSTAH in troop-contributing countries, especially Brazil, the largest contributor.Since last summer, there has also been a wave of civil society opposition to the ongoing presence of foreign military troops in Haiti, as attested by separate letters addressed to Latin American presidents and the UN Secretary General and signed by prominent intellectuals and human rights defenders from throughout Latin America. This opposition has been bolstered by a string of recent sexual abuse cases, including more than one involving troops from UNASUR member country Uruguay, as well as the overwhelming evidence suggesting that MINUSTAH bears responsibility for introducing cholera into Haiti.As the Telesur correspondent in Paraguay, Amanda Huerta explained, there were two competing positions among UNASUR countries: those that favored a rapid reduction of troops and a shift in focus to reconstruction and humanitarian activities and those who favored maintaining current troop levels until 2014. The final declaration on MINUSTAH noted the need to develop a policy of sustained cooperation which “respects the sovereignty and the self-determination of the Haitian people”. Further, ministers agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Given the large role South American countries play in MINUSTAH (an importance clearly recognized by the United States), any decision made on reducing troops would have a tremendous impact on MINUSTAH’s future in Haiti.
On June 5, Ministers of Defense and Foreign Relations from South American countries met in Asunción, Paraguay  to discuss the future of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti – or  MINUSTAH. Ten of the twelve countries in the regional group known as UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations - contribute troops to MINUSTAH and make up nearly 50 percent of the entire force. As we have described in other posts, there has been quite a bit of debate regarding  MINUSTAH in troop-contributing countries, especially Brazil, the largest contributor.Since last summer, there has also been a wave of civil society opposition to the ongoing presence of foreign military troops in Haiti, as attested by separate letters addressed to Latin American presidents and the UN Secretary General and signed by prominent intellectuals and human rights defenders from throughout Latin America. This opposition has been bolstered by a string of recent sexual abuse cases, including more than one involving troops from UNASUR member country Uruguay, as well as the overwhelming evidence suggesting that MINUSTAH bears responsibility for introducing cholera into Haiti.As the Telesur correspondent in Paraguay, Amanda Huerta explained, there were two competing positions among UNASUR countries: those that favored a rapid reduction of troops and a shift in focus to reconstruction and humanitarian activities and those who favored maintaining current troop levels until 2014. The final declaration on MINUSTAH noted the need to develop a policy of sustained cooperation which “respects the sovereignty and the self-determination of the Haitian people”. Further, ministers agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Given the large role South American countries play in MINUSTAH (an importance clearly recognized by the United States), any decision made on reducing troops would have a tremendous impact on MINUSTAH’s future in Haiti.
A piece yesterday on the Christian Science Monitor's website, written by investigative journalist Kathie Klarreich, discusses the increasing unpopularity of UN troops in Haiti in the wake of multiple sexual abuse incidents and the introduction of cholera in late 2010.  As the article explains, the negative feelings that these scandals have stirred up among Haitians are compounded by the general lack of accountability of foreign soldiers and police personnel that are part of the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti, or MINUSTAH.The Monitor highlights two recent sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel, both of which we’ve documented on the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog: the rape of an 18 year-old boy by Uruguayan soldiers in Port Salud last year and the rape of a fourteen year-old boy by Pakistani police officers.  In both these cases, after the scandals became public, the alleged rapists have faced judicial pursuits in their countries of origin, though the Pakistani officers only received a one-year sentence, and the trial of the Uruguayan soldiers has moved forward at a snail’s pace. But there’s no indication that other abuse incidents involving MINUSTAH have resulted in judicial pursuits of any kind.  The Monitor mentions the case of “more than 100 Sri Lankan troops expelled in 2007 on suspicion of sexual exploitation of Haitian women and girls.” But, writes Klarreich: “no information about what happened to those Sri Lankan peacekeepers was ever made public by either the UN or Sri Lanka.  Member states are not required to divulge the outcome of their internal inquiries.” In a report that focuses on the case of the Port Salut rape case, Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network, lists a number of other cases of human rights abuses allegedly committed by MINUSTAH agents since 2005 that – as far as we know – haven’t been properly investigated or prosecuted.
A piece yesterday on the Christian Science Monitor's website, written by investigative journalist Kathie Klarreich, discusses the increasing unpopularity of UN troops in Haiti in the wake of multiple sexual abuse incidents and the introduction of cholera in late 2010.  As the article explains, the negative feelings that these scandals have stirred up among Haitians are compounded by the general lack of accountability of foreign soldiers and police personnel that are part of the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti, or MINUSTAH.The Monitor highlights two recent sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel, both of which we’ve documented on the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog: the rape of an 18 year-old boy by Uruguayan soldiers in Port Salud last year and the rape of a fourteen year-old boy by Pakistani police officers.  In both these cases, after the scandals became public, the alleged rapists have faced judicial pursuits in their countries of origin, though the Pakistani officers only received a one-year sentence, and the trial of the Uruguayan soldiers has moved forward at a snail’s pace. But there’s no indication that other abuse incidents involving MINUSTAH have resulted in judicial pursuits of any kind.  The Monitor mentions the case of “more than 100 Sri Lankan troops expelled in 2007 on suspicion of sexual exploitation of Haitian women and girls.” But, writes Klarreich: “no information about what happened to those Sri Lankan peacekeepers was ever made public by either the UN or Sri Lanka.  Member states are not required to divulge the outcome of their internal inquiries.” In a report that focuses on the case of the Port Salut rape case, Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network, lists a number of other cases of human rights abuses allegedly committed by MINUSTAH agents since 2005 that – as far as we know – haven’t been properly investigated or prosecuted.
The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports on the planned Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti today, noting that while the project’s funders tout it as “the most visible symbol of post-quake progress”, it remains a source of controversy. Charles writes: Desperate for any good news after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, the Haitian government signed off on the 600-acre industrial park in this remote rural village without preparing for how the region should eventually look — or absorb the promised jobs. Only now is a zoning plan being developed, but residents and Haiti watchers wonder if it’s coming too late.Their anxiety is fueled by Haiti’s historically weak institutions and the rush by the international community and Haiti’s leaders to show progress. It is also a reflection of the challenges of working in Haiti where there is continuous friction between need-to-spend foreign aid agencies, which are often perceived as arrogant, and a weak central government.As a result, Haiti analysts say, projects are often haphazardly started with too little preliminary planning, lopsided consultation and inadequate environmental impact studies.“The international community has been under immense pressure to show movement and this is the closest they’ve come to have something significantly positive to say about Haiti, investments and jobs,” said Carlo Dade, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies. “But on the other hand, this is really one case where there is no excuse for not getting it done right.” A major issue is what the effect will be of an estimated influx of 300,000 people into the area, where town populations range from 1,500 to 25,000. Charles reports: “When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor. Alex Dupuy, Haiti-born sociology professor at Wesleyan University, comments: “It’s about tapping a source of cheap labor…They did the same thing in Port-au-Prince, which had people leaving the countryside because of the free-trade policies that have devastated the Haitian agriculture sector. So the fear that the region will be flooded is very real.” Dupuy adds that the push to support the garment manufacturing industry “has absolutely nothing to do with creating a sustainable growth economy in Haiti.”
The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports on the planned Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti today, noting that while the project’s funders tout it as “the most visible symbol of post-quake progress”, it remains a source of controversy. Charles writes: Desperate for any good news after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, the Haitian government signed off on the 600-acre industrial park in this remote rural village without preparing for how the region should eventually look — or absorb the promised jobs. Only now is a zoning plan being developed, but residents and Haiti watchers wonder if it’s coming too late.Their anxiety is fueled by Haiti’s historically weak institutions and the rush by the international community and Haiti’s leaders to show progress. It is also a reflection of the challenges of working in Haiti where there is continuous friction between need-to-spend foreign aid agencies, which are often perceived as arrogant, and a weak central government.As a result, Haiti analysts say, projects are often haphazardly started with too little preliminary planning, lopsided consultation and inadequate environmental impact studies.“The international community has been under immense pressure to show movement and this is the closest they’ve come to have something significantly positive to say about Haiti, investments and jobs,” said Carlo Dade, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies. “But on the other hand, this is really one case where there is no excuse for not getting it done right.” A major issue is what the effect will be of an estimated influx of 300,000 people into the area, where town populations range from 1,500 to 25,000. Charles reports: “When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor. Alex Dupuy, Haiti-born sociology professor at Wesleyan University, comments: “It’s about tapping a source of cheap labor…They did the same thing in Port-au-Prince, which had people leaving the countryside because of the free-trade policies that have devastated the Haitian agriculture sector. So the fear that the region will be flooded is very real.” Dupuy adds that the push to support the garment manufacturing industry “has absolutely nothing to do with creating a sustainable growth economy in Haiti.”
As previously mentioned, a release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week makes an important call for renewed efforts to combat cholera as infections rise with the rainy season. But further on, the release states
As previously mentioned, a release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week makes an important call for renewed efforts to combat cholera as infections rise with the rainy season. But further on, the release states

Kolera 2012: “It gets worse”

While most major U.S. media attention focuses elsewhere, NGO’s and UN agencies are sounding alarm bells about rising rates of cholera infection. A release today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states Grave concerns
While most major U.S. media attention focuses elsewhere, NGO’s and UN agencies are sounding alarm bells about rising rates of cholera infection. A release today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states Grave concerns
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Wednesday that not enough has been done to prepare for the rainy season and the corresponding surge in cholera that is expected. The international humanitarian organization stated: While Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Populations claims to be in control of the situation, health facilities in many regions of the country remain incapable of responding to the seasonal fluctuations of the cholera epidemic. The surveillance system, which is supposed to monitor the situation and raise the alarm, is still dysfunctional, MSF said. The number of people treated by MSF alone in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has quadrupled in less than a month, reaching 1,600 cases in April. Data from the Ministry of Health (MSPP) backs up this increase noted by MSF. While the average daily case load reported by the MSPP was around 50 throughout March and early April, in the last two weeks of reporting (April 10-23) the average number of daily cases has increased to over 150. MSPP reports that 25 people have died due to cholera through in the first 23 days of April. While these numbers are still lower than last year, they point to an increasing caseload as the rainy season begins. Last year, just as cases were spiking, many NGOs were winding down their operations as donors pulled funding. MSF notes that the same phenomenon may be occurring this year as well: “Too little has been done in terms of prevention to think that cholera would not surge again in 2012,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF head of mission in Haiti. “It is concerning that the health authorities are not better prepared and that they cling to reassuring messages that bear no resemblance to reality. There are many meetings going on between the government, the United Nations and their humanitarian partners, but there are few concrete solutions,” he said.An MSF study in the Artibonite region, where approximately 20 percent of cholera cases have been reported, has revealed a clear reduction of cholera prevention measures since 2011. More than half of the organizations working in the region last year are now gone. Additionally, health centers are short of drugs and some staff have not been paid since January.“Rain is just one of the risk factors for contamination. But as soon as the rains end, cholera subsides, and funding stops until the next rainy season, instead of money being channeled towards cholera prevention activities. As a consequence, people are still highly vulnerable when cholera comes back,” said Maya Allan, MSF epidemiologist.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Wednesday that not enough has been done to prepare for the rainy season and the corresponding surge in cholera that is expected. The international humanitarian organization stated: While Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Populations claims to be in control of the situation, health facilities in many regions of the country remain incapable of responding to the seasonal fluctuations of the cholera epidemic. The surveillance system, which is supposed to monitor the situation and raise the alarm, is still dysfunctional, MSF said. The number of people treated by MSF alone in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has quadrupled in less than a month, reaching 1,600 cases in April. Data from the Ministry of Health (MSPP) backs up this increase noted by MSF. While the average daily case load reported by the MSPP was around 50 throughout March and early April, in the last two weeks of reporting (April 10-23) the average number of daily cases has increased to over 150. MSPP reports that 25 people have died due to cholera through in the first 23 days of April. While these numbers are still lower than last year, they point to an increasing caseload as the rainy season begins. Last year, just as cases were spiking, many NGOs were winding down their operations as donors pulled funding. MSF notes that the same phenomenon may be occurring this year as well: “Too little has been done in terms of prevention to think that cholera would not surge again in 2012,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF head of mission in Haiti. “It is concerning that the health authorities are not better prepared and that they cling to reassuring messages that bear no resemblance to reality. There are many meetings going on between the government, the United Nations and their humanitarian partners, but there are few concrete solutions,” he said.An MSF study in the Artibonite region, where approximately 20 percent of cholera cases have been reported, has revealed a clear reduction of cholera prevention measures since 2011. More than half of the organizations working in the region last year are now gone. Additionally, health centers are short of drugs and some staff have not been paid since January.“Rain is just one of the risk factors for contamination. But as soon as the rains end, cholera subsides, and funding stops until the next rainy season, instead of money being channeled towards cholera prevention activities. As a consequence, people are still highly vulnerable when cholera comes back,” said Maya Allan, MSF epidemiologist.
An article by Tate Watkins in The American Interest attempts to explain some of the reasons why, as the title puts it, Haiti’s rebuilding “is…taking so long?”Among the factors Watkins details are the often quick staff turn-overs at NGO’s and agencies, the
An article by Tate Watkins in The American Interest attempts to explain some of the reasons why, as the title puts it, Haiti’s rebuilding “is…taking so long?”Among the factors Watkins details are the often quick staff turn-overs at NGO’s and agencies, the

CEPR Researcher Jake Johnston wrote in the Caribbean Journal yesterday:

In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, donors pledged billions of dollars for reconstruction efforts. With those dollars was a commitment to “build back better”; this time was supposed to be different from previous big aid campaigns. But so far less than half of donor pledges have been disbursed, and it has become clear that “building back better” remains nothing more than a slogan. While there clearly have been successes in Haiti since the earthquake and the hard work of thousands of aid workers shouldn’t be discounted, nearly half-a-million remain homeless and hundreds of thousands more are living in desperate conditions. With a visible lack of results and little hard data with which to assess progress, one question naturally arises: “where did the money go?” At the Center for Economic and Policy Research and together with many other organizations, we’ve been trying to track where exactly the money that did get spent, went. It hasn’t been easy. 

To be sure, aid projects shouldn’t be judged solely on what percent of an aid budget went to overhead, or how much went to American consultants or was spent on American products as opposed to Haitian consultants and products. Ideally, the effectiveness of projects should be based on their outcomes, not just on the breakdown of how funds are spent. But measuring outcomes often isn’t feasible. A nominally independent review of the U.S. government’s response in Haiti attempted to measure the quality and impact of aid, but “a disquieting lack of data on baselines against which to measure progress or even impact” prevented them from doing so.

As taxpayers, we have the right to know how our tax dollars are being used and if they are used effectively.  Specifically, this means looking at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has spent well over a billion dollars in Haiti since 2010.  To their credit, it’s not difficult to obtain the first level of transparency: to which organizations USAID gave funds.  USAID factsheets reveal that close to 100 percent of humanitarian funds for Haiti were channeled through NGOs, U.N. agencies or right back to other U.S. government agencies. Included in this billion-plus dollars hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts which have gone overwhelmingly to “beltway bandits” — firms located in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Only 0.02% by our latest tally has gone to Haitian firms.

But this isn’t the end of the line when it comes to transparency.  Once funds are given to an organization, what are they spent on? What were they meant to achieve? How much goes back to the U.S. and how much goes to local firms? In a meeting last October in Port-au-Prince a USAID official defended the awarding of contracts to so-called “beltway bandits”, telling me that while certainly some money goes off the top for their profits, much gets spent in country or is given to local subcontractors. It was a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but he estimated that each international worker sent to Haiti could cost up to $250,000 a year.  The important part, he stressed, was that this money would be spent in Haiti on electricity, security, housing, etc. “He has to live here, eat here, dance here, whatever,” the official reasoned.

Read the rest here.

CEPR Researcher Jake Johnston wrote in the Caribbean Journal yesterday:

In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, donors pledged billions of dollars for reconstruction efforts. With those dollars was a commitment to “build back better”; this time was supposed to be different from previous big aid campaigns. But so far less than half of donor pledges have been disbursed, and it has become clear that “building back better” remains nothing more than a slogan. While there clearly have been successes in Haiti since the earthquake and the hard work of thousands of aid workers shouldn’t be discounted, nearly half-a-million remain homeless and hundreds of thousands more are living in desperate conditions. With a visible lack of results and little hard data with which to assess progress, one question naturally arises: “where did the money go?” At the Center for Economic and Policy Research and together with many other organizations, we’ve been trying to track where exactly the money that did get spent, went. It hasn’t been easy. 

To be sure, aid projects shouldn’t be judged solely on what percent of an aid budget went to overhead, or how much went to American consultants or was spent on American products as opposed to Haitian consultants and products. Ideally, the effectiveness of projects should be based on their outcomes, not just on the breakdown of how funds are spent. But measuring outcomes often isn’t feasible. A nominally independent review of the U.S. government’s response in Haiti attempted to measure the quality and impact of aid, but “a disquieting lack of data on baselines against which to measure progress or even impact” prevented them from doing so.

As taxpayers, we have the right to know how our tax dollars are being used and if they are used effectively.  Specifically, this means looking at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has spent well over a billion dollars in Haiti since 2010.  To their credit, it’s not difficult to obtain the first level of transparency: to which organizations USAID gave funds.  USAID factsheets reveal that close to 100 percent of humanitarian funds for Haiti were channeled through NGOs, U.N. agencies or right back to other U.S. government agencies. Included in this billion-plus dollars hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts which have gone overwhelmingly to “beltway bandits” — firms located in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Only 0.02% by our latest tally has gone to Haitian firms.

But this isn’t the end of the line when it comes to transparency.  Once funds are given to an organization, what are they spent on? What were they meant to achieve? How much goes back to the U.S. and how much goes to local firms? In a meeting last October in Port-au-Prince a USAID official defended the awarding of contracts to so-called “beltway bandits”, telling me that while certainly some money goes off the top for their profits, much gets spent in country or is given to local subcontractors. It was a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but he estimated that each international worker sent to Haiti could cost up to $250,000 a year.  The important part, he stressed, was that this money would be spent in Haiti on electricity, security, housing, etc. “He has to live here, eat here, dance here, whatever,” the official reasoned.

Read the rest here.

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