At the United Nations headquarters in New York donor nations, international organizations, and the Haitian government will meet to discuss Haiti’s future next month. The focus will be on drawing up a preliminary plan for reconstruction. None of it will be possible however, without a strong ongoing commitment from the international community.
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says that the scale of the damage done to Haiti “has never happened to a country before. Forty percent of our GDP was destroyed in 30 seconds.”
In addition to cleaning up the wreckage, and rebuilding the country’s basic infrastructure there are several key features that need to be transformed. Port-au-Prince needs to decentralize, starting with the government. There are far too many people crammed into the city which is what allowed for so much loss of live. The government can start by moving state functions and jobs to local provinces. Tourism can be expanded into these provinces as well. Haiti’s agricultural industry needs a dramatic overhaul. Haiti imports a staggering 75% of its food. Producing food locally is an important way to drive down costs and create jobs.
One of the concerns that the meeting will have to address is how best to oversee the money. Haiti is notorious for corruption which is seen as a possible barrier to efficient reconstruction. Prime Minister Bellerive believes that it is a fear that can be easily overcome.
“Haitians will be at the leadership of the vision, the action plan and the implementation. That doesn’t mean we have to receive the money. In fact, if that’s the best way to prove we’re being totally transparent, it would be best that we not receive one dollar into government hands.” However, he also argues that “this notion that there is no government here, that you should somehow put Haiti under global control, is not only dishonest but demeaning to the country’s capacity to start again.”