On Oct. 6 Haitian president René Préval, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) attended a meeting in Port-au-Prince of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (CIRH), the group in charge of monitoring the use of international aid to help the country recover from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. This was only the third time the group has met since it was formally established on April 21.
At the Oct. 6 meeting the CIRH approved 18 new projects, expected to cost $803.2 million; the group has now approved a total of 49 projects. But Bellerive and Clinton, the CIRH’s two co-presidents, said the new focus needs to be on executing projects, not just approving them. According to Clinton, the priorities should be creating a system of universal education, providing women’s health services, constructing new homes and removing the rubble left by the earthquake. Clinton expressed regret for delays in the delivery of promised funds from the US, which he said would start flowing within days, and he called on other donor nations to expedite their payments. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Oct. 6; AlterPresse, Haiti, Oct. 6; Haïti Libre, Haiti, Oct. 7)
At least some of the CIRH’s reconstruction projects seem intended to benefit the private sector in the donor countries, including the US and Brazil. During the week of Oct. 4 details were released on an agreement the Haitian and US governments signed on Sept. 20 for creating two industrial parks for assembly plants where low-wage workers will stitch together garments for export, principally to North American manufacturers and retailers. The first will be, as expected, near the government-organized camp for displaced persons at Corail-Cesselesse just north of Port-au-Prince; the 220-hectare park is to be leased by Seoul-based Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd. The Inter-American Development Bank (IBD) is paying for the planning studies, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) is building the park, and the US government is giving support for electric power and supplying 10,000 housing units. The second industrial park will be in the north of the country at a location to be determined; the South Korean Hansol Textile, Ltd company will lease the park, and the US will supply power and 12,000 housing units. (AlterPresse, Oct. 7)
During a Sept. 29-30 visit to Haiti, Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim presented the results of a study for building a hydroelectric dam on the Artibonite River in the Central Plateau at a cost of $190 million. Brazil is putting up $40 million, and Haiti is seeking the rest from international institutions like the IBD. Although Brazil is donating the money through the CIRH, the project has been being planned for three years, since long before the earthquake. (AlterPresse, Sept. 30) Brazilian companies are expected to build the dam. (HydroWorld.com, March 2)
The day before the CIRH meeting economist Camille Chalmers, executive secretary of the nonprofit Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), held a press conference criticizing the international efforts at reconstruction. “Nine months after the earthquake it is unacceptable that only 4% of the rubble has been removed, only 2-3% of the promised funds have been disbursed,” he said. He also criticized the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which he said continues to charge interest on loans. Some international institutions, including the IDB, cancelled Haiti’s debts, but they have attached conditions to the cancellations.
Chalmers called for reducing Haitian dependence on these institutions. “An extraordinary inter-Haitian solidarity was already displayed after Jan. 12 and needs to be supported by concrete policies and alternative financing mechanisms,” he said. (AlterPresse, Oct. 5)
Riot police turn on striking teachers
In other news, on Oct. 8—two days after Bill Clinton called for a system of universal education—riot police used tear gas to disperse teachers, students and parents demonstrating outside the National Education and Professional Training Ministry (MENFP) in Port-au-Prince to call for the government to expand the education system. Two people were wounded. A police bullet reportedly hit math and physics teacher Jean Philbert Louis (or Jean Louis Filbert) in the head; he died the next day at the Hospital of the State University of Haiti (HUEH). Jean Pierre Edouard, who denied being part of the protest, was lightly injured and didn’t need to be hospitalized. (Agence Haïtienne de Presse, Haiti, Oct. 8; Radio Kiskeya, Oct. 9)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 10.
See our last post on Haiti.