Where did all that Haiti aid money go?

2011-01-12 14:01

Port-au-Prince - International donors pledged almost $10bn to reconstruct Haiti. So, one year after the earthquake, where is all that money and why has so little progress been made?

Most of the $5.3bn pledged for the first 18 months has been legally committed, but only $1.2bn has been allocated to specific reconstruction projects and donors are reluctant to disburse funds.

Future cash commitments are drying up as confidence evaporates in an effort that has only managed to clear 5% of the rubble, leaving more than one million survivors subsisting in tent cities that look more and more permanent with every passing day.

Of $2.1bn pledged in 2010 for reconstruction, less than half has been given. The United States, the biggest single donor, has delayed disbursing most of its $1.17bn pledge until 2011, spending only one-tenth of that.

Haitian officials voice fears the country is turning into a republic run by foreign NGOs - estimates of how many operate here vary between 1 000 and 10 000. Donors prefer to channel money through the non-governmental organisations as they fear they will otherwise just feed into a bottomless pit of government corruption and incompetence.

Transparency International ranked Haiti near the bottom of its world corruption index in 2009. The US Congress made the State Department prove money would not be stolen or misused before allowing American aid pledges to be honoured.

Aid oversight

NGOs have ended up running key sectors such as schooling and hospitals while the longer-term need to address the Haitian government's infrastructural shortcomings has been neglected.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), co-chaired by former US president Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, was established in April, giving the international community strong oversight over aid funds.

Tasked with co-ordinating reconstruction for the first 18 months, its efforts were criticised this week as "lacklustre" and it was accused of having failed to "cut through the quagmire of indecision and delay."

"Many Haitian officials still do not have the technical ability to lead projects, and almost no major reconstruction projects have started," a report by humanitarian group Oxfam said.

Tellingly, the IHRC only this week proposed an anti-corruption office to vet potential aid projects. It is unlikely it will become an effective coordinating agency before its mandate expires at the end of October.

Deadly riots following disputed elections last month provided a grim reminder of Haiti's violent past. Until a bona fide successor to President Rene Preval is in place, international donors will be reluctant to sign any blank checks towards Haiti's recovery, fearful that political upheaval could return.

Class system shake-up

The quake highlighted glaring land ownership issues. Relocation of survivors into safer, cleaner camps was held up interminably because rich families owned the large tracts of land around Port-au-Prince. Many survivors had no papers to prove ownership of their lots after the quake.

Many observers say a radical shake-up of Haiti's class system is needed. A wealthy elite dominated by a handful of families controls the bulk of the economy and enjoys political hegemony, making substantial progress difficult.

Despite a high infant mortality rate, the 10 million-strong Haitian population is growing by almost 2% each year. Four in 10 Haitians are under the age of 14, and most of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

Port-au-Prince's estimated population of three million is expected to double over the next 15 years. Haitians are drawn here to escape poverty but most end up in sprawling slums. Haiti would likely benefit from having several smaller growth poles rather than a single, swollen metropolis.

  • seriass - 2011-01-12 14:31

    the hand of darkness took it

  • Beefcake - 2011-01-12 14:54

    Ha Ha. Typical!

  • Slapper - 2011-01-12 14:57

    WHy is it I think of Africa, when I read this story?

  • Stu_GrdnRute - 2011-01-12 15:35

    are we not still looking after the ousted president of haiti Aristeed? Is he still being paid a kings ransom to stay in RSA at our expense?

  • Riaan - 2011-01-12 15:43

    What Did You Expect ! I wouldn’t be surprised if some SA Politicians have their fingers in the pie as well . . . .

  • Wonderboy - 2011-01-12 15:43

    Shortly after the quake in Haiti, Chile was struck by an even bigger one. This did not turn into a disaster. I wonder if this was due to better building regulations and better organisation.

  • whatevafreakshow - 2011-01-12 15:55

    Strange how South Africa was run by a white Government and the whole world turned on us. The old black folk want apartheid back they say they were better looked after. They had free water and electricity and now they live in slums riddled with disease and have to pay for water and electricity. That said the Apartheid government was not any better they enriched themselves giving themselves and their cronies huge farms and mines. The A.N.C. took over this legacy and just continued doing the same. So what does this prove Black and white governments are Corrupt......If government does not support the people VOTE the A HOLES out of power they will soon learn to serve the people who voted them into power......Im not a RACIST Im a realist who dislikes government.

      comurray - 2011-01-13 10:11

      You have hit the nail on the head, I totally agree. Africa actually thrives on hand outs which does nothing for the people only governments pocket more and more.

  • daboss247365 - 2011-01-12 16:02

    I feel nothing for the haitians. did you guys see how they behaved, worse than mutated animals after the quake.. robbing each other, the doctors that were trying to help them, clothes off their dead collegues, looting, etc... if you ask me the whole place should have been sunk in the sea or bombed afterwards, they behaved like utter savages.

      seastarhennie - 2011-01-12 20:18

      Remember Mbeki was there to celebrate 200 years of independence (first country run by Africans) BEFORE the quake and he had to stay onboard his ship because the accommodation on land was not GOOD enough? Also wether you like it or not, natural selection and survival of the fittest are facts and Haiti is just going where nature leads it.

      franssmith100 - 2011-01-12 21:35

      @seastarhennie - mbeki should have stayed there and he should have taken zuma and malema with. Thsi would have given them a good look at what sa is going to look like under their leadership.

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