Promises… Promises… Promises

Reginald Dumas
Reginald Dumas

The most stunning statistic to emerge from the recent meeting of the world’s richest nations at the G-20 Summit in Toronto came from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. According to him, less than one percent of the more than $5 billion pledged to Haiti has been delivered upon. Of all the nations that pledged aid, only Brazil has kept its promise with its payment of $40 million.

It would seem that in a world of nations distracted by domestic problems of their own, the needs of Haiti are receding into memory while good intentions die the death of the stillborn.

Just over a week ago, on June 22 in London,

REGINALD DUMAS, one of the Caribbean’s foremost advocates of the Haitian cause, tackled the issue of aid to Haiti in a paper  presented at an International Conference titled “From Duvalier to Preval: Haiti Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow” at the Institute of the Americas, University of London.  In the following excerpt, Mr Dumas discusses the aid measures that have actually emerged from the flurry of meetings and conferences on Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 12.


The World Bank announced on March 31 that it was making USD479 million available to Haiti through June 2011. USD250 million of this would be new funding which itself would include USD151 million in grants, a USD39 million write-off of Haiti’s remaining debt to the Bank, and  USD60 million in investments from the Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).  Where the debt write-off is concerned, you must not assume that the Bank was simply giving up USD39 million.  Rather, it was that 14 donor countries had pledged to provide that sum to the Bank to facilitate the cancellation.

A mechanism being considered by the Bank for Haiti is the use of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (CCT), under which poor families receive a basic income in exchange for a commitment to keep their children in school and take them for regular medical check-ups.


For its part, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on January 27 that it had, under its Extended Credit Facility (ECF), approved an augmentation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) 65.5 million (about USD102 million), and that USD114 million would be disbursed within a few days.  The augmentation, the Fund said, would provide “urgently needed cash resources to the government, which (would) allow the authorities to acquire emergency imports without depleting Haiti’s reserves.”  This assistance would be interest-free, and repayments of principal would be done only after a grace period of 5½ years.

On March 31 in New York, the Fund’s Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, spoke of the need for budget support, careful monitoring of monies, the involvement of the private sector, and   debt relief. He also stressed the need for the Haitian authorities “to be in the driver’s seat.”


The IDB said it would forgive all of Haiti’s debt, for a total relief package of USD479 million.  (Strangely, the figure is the same as that of the World Bank.)  It would set up a new Haiti Department within the Bank, and it would also transfer up to USD200 million annually of its Ordinary Capital income to the Haiti Grant Facility through the year 2020.

Further, it would convert into grants an undisbursed balance of USD186 million from existing loans to Haiti.  In addition, its Multilateral Investment Fund, or FOMIN, would set up a support facility, called the Haitian Emergency Liquidity Programme (HELP), to provide grants and capital to qualified and approved Haitian micro-finance institutions.  And earlier this month it said it would make USD200 million in grants over five years to strengthen land tenure rights, boost agricultural production, increase market access for farmers and reinforce food security.


In April the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), to which Haiti owes USD50.7million, approved a debt-relief package for the country.  The intention is that IFAD will contribute up to 30 per cent of the debt relief requirement, with member states being responsible for the remaining 70 per cent.


Having met with CARIFORUM in Jamaica on March 23 – CARIFORUM is CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic – the European Union (EU) pledged €1.235 billion (or USD1.6 billion) at the March 31 meeting in New York.  This sum was additional to the €295 million in humanitarian aid and to the €650 million contributed by citizens across Europe.  The total contribution from Europe was close to USD3 billion.  I might add that the detailed figures from March 31 do not indicate any pledge at all from the United Kingdom.


The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) agreed on February 9 in Quito to provide USD300 million, comprising a USD100 million fund as well as a credit of up to USD200 million from the IDB.  The money would be used in areas such as agriculture, health and education. In addition, assistance was provided separately by Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.


The OAS does not command a great deal of money; its actions lean towards the hortatory and the administrative.  Immediately after the earthquake it called for donations to be channelled through the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), and it convened a meeting of the OAS Group of Friends of Haiti.  As usual in regional and international meetings, it laid the emphasis on coordination of effort.  Subsequently, it said that it would, in the medium and long terms, concentrate “on governance and institutional strengthening, especially in assistance to the electoral process and the relevant institutions, the registry of citizens…and the cadastral system.”


ALBA pledged USD 2.42 billion over six years.  Most of that money is expected to come from Venezuela.


The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) provided USD200,000 in emergency aid through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and will be providing USD770,000 to purchase refurbished containers for some government office accommodation.  On March 31 it pledged USD36 million In new funds for 2010/11, to be added to reprogrammed funds of slightly more than USD14 million for a total of over USD50 million.


At the first CARICOM-Mexico summit held in Mexico on February 21,

the two sides agreed to work together in Haiti’s interest.  Trinidad and Tobago pledged USD5 million, Barbados USD1 million.  CARICOM had, the month before, set up a Haiti Unit within the CARICOM Secretariat and had been providing emergency assistance within 24 hours of the earthquake: search-and-rescue as well as escort and convoy operations, medical and surgical help, etc.

Particular tribute should be paid to Jamaica, whose Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, went into Haiti at once with medical and army personnel, and which, despite its difficult financial situation, bore the brunt of the expenses of that intervention.  Tribute must also be paid to Barbados and Guyana, which on a per capita basis contributed in money far more than their fair share of CARICOM help.

In mid-March the University of the West Indies announced that it would be offering places to Haitian students as part of the efforts to assist the tertiary education sector in Haiti.  This project is in the process of elaboration.

Unfortunately, the health assistance that was being provided by CARICOM ended rather abruptly.  At a meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in March in Dominica, a decision was taken, at the request of President René Préval, that the funds pledged for the third phase of the organisation’s health sector intervention would be contributed directly to the Haitian government as budget support.  Within days, the 200-strong CARICOM presence, centred on Léogane, west of Port-au-Prince, vanished. It has not been replaced.


Assistance to Haiti did not, of course, come only from regional and international bodies.  One of the first countries on the ground after the earthquake was China, which within 24 hours had sent search-and-rescue and medical teams.  The effort has not been sustained, however – at the New York conference on March 31 China pledged less than USD1.5 million for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.


By contrast, Canada, of whose aid Haiti has for years been the largest beneficiary in the Western Hemisphere, immediately provided up to Can$5 million for urgent humanitarian assistance, sent ships with medical supplies and equipment as well as planes with food and water, co-funded a Red Cross field hospital, supported Canadian NGOs and gave Can$60 million to UN agencies such as the World Food Programme and UNICEF.  All that happened within one week of the earthquake. Subsequently, the Canadian government matched more than Can$220 million in donations from the Canadian people.  On March 31 the government announced Can$400 million for humanitarian and reconstruction programmes. Part of that amount will come from the matched donations.


By mid-May, the American public had donated USD1.3 billion in disaster assistance.  The US government had already provided funds to UN agencies and to the Pan American Health Organisation, and had sent its military into Haiti – at one point, there were, according to the Pentagon, about 22,000 troops in the country.  It would be fair to add that there was also a hospital ship called the Comfort.

Also, material for shelter was being provided, as well as communications support and mobile light towers. A Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund was established, and in March President Barack Obama promised President Préval that the USA would remain committed to helping Haiti.

For its part, the US Congress fairly exploded into legislative action.  Among others, there were the Haiti Action Initiative and Tax Incentive (HAITI) Act; the Haiti Private Sector Encouragement Act; the Haiti Debt Relief and Earthquake Recovery Act; the Haiti Empowerment, Assistance and Rebuilding (HEAR) Act; the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act; and the Help Haitian Adoptees Immediately to Integrate Act (another “Haiti” Act).  It has been a virtual orgy of innovative acronyms, happily inspired, in this case, by chaste desires of profound goodwill.

Outside the Congress, a US Air Force Sergeant has been included by Time magazine on its 2010 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The Sergeant seems to have received this accolade because of his efforts to manage the flow of aircraft traffic at Port-au-Prince airport, a process which has been confidently described by the US Air Force National Media Outreach Office as “the largest single-runway operation in history”.


Despite her traditionally uneasy relationship with Haiti, France responded promptly to the disaster – search-and-rescue team, military and fire service personnel, a field hospital etc.  Funding was also made available.  On February 17 President Nicolas Sarkozy, the first French Head of State to visit independent Haiti, announced an aid package of €326 million (USD447 million), which included debt cancellation and new monies.


Venezuela has provided food, electrical generators, water purification systems, tents, gasoline, etc.  She has also written off Haiti’s debt to her – over USD350 million – and, as indicated above, has participated in assistance from ALBA.  On March 31 Venezuela pledged a total of USD2.41 billion, far more than the EU.


Within a week of the earthquake, Brazil had pledged USD15 million for humanitarian assistance, contributed to the WFP and the UN Population Fund, dispatched food and personnel, etc.

Later, it co-funded with the USA a soil preparation project (each country contributed USD250,000).

On May 11 Brazil became the first country to make a deposit – USD55 million – to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund agreed to on March 31 in New York.


The role of Cuba in Haiti has not been given the attention it deserves.  Its healthcare assistance over the years has been understated but nonetheless crucial: in the period 1998 to 2007, Cuban medical personnel worked in nearly all municipalities offering free healthcare.

Over 550 Haitian doctors have been trained by Cuba; nearly 600 are currently in training.

In New York on March 31 following the signature on March 27 of a Cuba-Haiti Memorandum of Understanding, Cuba announced an ambitious programme to rebuild Haiti’s entire national health service through the establishment of primary, secondary- and tertiary-level clinics and hospitals, provision of over 300 additional medical scholarships, etc.

The estimated annual cost is USD170 million.

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