More than two years after a devastating earthquake leveled Haiti’s capital, the United States has not kept up their promise to help the country, “build back better,” despite taking the lead for international donors, who were supposed to help the country break away from dependency on international aid.
Yahoo News reports that, instead of aid and independence, the devastating earthquake instead unearthed the depth of Haiti’s dysfunction. Today, it is tough to see where the $1.8 billion in U.S. reconstruction went, although it should be noted that basic needs for things like bottled water, temporary shelter, and medicine were obvious priorities in the days and months following the quake.
Projects that were fundamental to Haiti’s transformation out of poverty, like permanent housing and electric plants, have yet to take off. Former U.S. Ambassador Brian Curran stated of the situation that:
“The challenges were absolutely huge and although there was a huge amount of money pledged, the structures were not there for this to be done quickly. The concept of build back better is a good one, but we were way over-optimistic about the pace we could do it.”
Thomas C. Adams, who is the U.S. Special Coordinator for Haiti, is responsible for overseeing USAID spent in the third-world-country. He stated that $1.3 billion was spent on critical rescue operations to save untold lives. Three months after, the goal shifted to reconstruction. Adams stated:
“U.S. taxpayers, in the past, have spent billions of dollars in Haiti that haven’t resulted in sustainable improvement in the lives of Haitians. The emphasis was never on ‘spend the money quickly.’ The emphasis was on spending the money so that in a year or two, we could look at these projects and see that we’ve helped create a real base to jump-start economic development and give Haitian families and businesses the kind of opportunities they deserve.”
The Fall River Herald News reports that under a Freedom of Information Act request, which was submitted by The Associated Press, comprehensive details about where U.S. funds are being put to use have been released, which include contracts, budgets, and a 300-item spreadsheet.
These documents show a few interesting things, like that a quarter of the $988 million spent so far has gone toward debt relief, in order to help unburden Haiti from repayments. Unfortunately, after the country’s loans were paid off, the government began borrowing again, with $657 million spent already, for oil imports more so than development projects.
Another staggering fact is that less than 12% of the reconstruction money provided has gone toward energy, shelter, ports, or other forms of infrastructure. Also, half of the U.S.’s pledged $1.8 billion is stuck in the Treasury, with its disbursement halted by the understaffed U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in the months following the quake, as well as by the Haitian government, which was barely functional for over a year.
Finally, even though the State Department has promised to keep spending public, some members of Congress and watchdogs state they are not receiving detailed information about how the millions are being spent, because dozens of contractors working for the U.S. government in Haiti are leaving a complicated money trail.
Do you think that the United States needs to step up and help Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, like they promised after a devastating earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and leveled the nation’s capital?