Unthinkable? Curb aid in Haiti
long before the earthquake hit, much of Haiti was run not by its government but by NGOs
- The Guardian,
- Saturday 27 March 2010
The role the United States and France played in the impoverishment of Haiti must count among the less glorious achievements of both countries. Successive US presidents, from Ronald Reagan to George Bush, have contributed to the destruction of Haitian agriculture, with the result that Haiti, a natural rice producer, had to import subsidised US rice. This accelerated the flight into the cities, with the cataclysmic consequences witnessed when the earthquake struck. So that when Bill Clinton, now the UN envoy to Haiti, this week questioned whether the aid effort was helping Haiti to become self-sufficient, one had to remind oneself what happened to Haiti under Mr Clinton's presidency. He was, nevertheless, asking the right question. Long before the earthquake hit, much of Haiti was run not by its government but by NGOs. A World Bank study in 2006 counted 10,000 of them alone, the highest per capita concentration in the world. Of those, 800 alone were employed in agriculture, managing $85m of the $91m budgeted for public investment in 2006-07. Disaster relief has merely accelerated this process, and the UN's role has been to co-ordinate 900 NGO groups registered with it. The excuse for circumventing the Haitian government has been either its corruption or its complete absence, but the cure has become worse than the disease. The aid ought to be going to Haitians and their popular movements should decide how to rebuild the country. Foreign agendas for Haiti have not worked.