Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Haiti's $8.3 Billion

I'm pulling that figure from USA Today, which gives an inadvertent lesson on how not to disburse foreign aid:

After receiving $8.3 billion in foreign aid since 1969, Haiti is 25% poorer than it was in 1945, according to statistics compiled by Nicholas Eberstadt, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute. Even before the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed at least 100,000 people, three-quarters of Haiti's 9 million people lived on less than $2 a day, the United Nations says.

Where did that money go? USA Today is not specific, but makes general noises about the corruption that permeates every level of officialdom in Haiti. Regardless, precious little of this fortune has made it thru to the Haitian people; and based on the devastation wrought by January's earthquake, it seems as if very little was invested in civilian infrastructure, medical facilities, and transportation routes.

It is heartbreaking what happened in Haiti, and it does point out the huge gulf between the rich and the poor: mainly, that rich nations survive such seismic events with minimal death and damage, while poorer nations can lose hundreds of thousands of lives and be set back decades in development.

But this is not an argument for wealth transfer; we've already moved over $8 billion from the rich (and not so rich) to Haiti, and it couldn't save them. What failed them was not the West, but their own corrupt government, who enriched themselves on the West's largess and left their countrymen to die in last month's rubble.

Any future aid to Haiti must be done around, not with, the Haitian government. In no uncertain terms, we must tell them that we will set up the necessary agencies, we will oversee the disbursement of aid, and we will demand accountability and results. No doubt it is an infringement upon the sovereignty of the Haitian government, but without the West (preferably the US and not the UN) stepping in and taking charge, we can expect that the next $8.3 billion will go where the first $8.3 billion went.

Liberals will howl, but that's to be expected. Aid for them is about feeling good about themselves - "hey, we sent money, it's not our fault it didn't get into the right hands" - and not about results, and their squeamishness about reaching out to Haiti with an open but firm hand will be rejected in the name of their feelings.

The result of liberal aid? Projects such as:

....the five German-built windmills that overlook the bay of Port-de-Paix, says American anthropologist Timothy Schwartz, a fluent Creole-speaker who spent eight years living in rural Haiti. The windmills were never hooked up and quickly stripped for parts...

But they meant well. And still, they bury the dead in Haiti.

The United States is planning spending close to $400 million for Haitian relief - for openers.

Let's disperse it with kindness...and moral strength.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You *know* what will happen if we evil Ameri-Nazis were to go around the Haitian government right? We'd be accused (again) of trying to invade.

Remember, we're damned if we help and we're damned if we help.