‘Lift Haiti out of misery for good’ – minister

23/03/2010 | Greg Brosnan

Island’s finance minister urges international donors not to miss historic chance ‘to design another Haiti’

Haiti’s finance minister has urged international donors not just to help his country rebuild after its devastating earthquake, but to lift it out of misery for good.

“We want to take this opportunity to design another Haiti,” Ronald Boudin told Emerging Markets in an exclusive interview in Cancún.

The IDB agreed this weekend to erase $479 million of Haitian debt and to provide an extra $200 million in annual grants to the country as part of its recapitalization deal.

Now the ball is in the court of the international donor community, which meets on March 31 at the United Nations in New York to decide how much to donate and how.

The current proposal is for Haiti – which was the western hemisphere’s poorest country even before the earthquake – to receive $3.8 billion in aid for the 18 next months, and a total for the next decade of $11.5 billion.

Ciro de Falco, the head of the IDB’s Special Task Force for Haiti, which is coordinating the international aid effort, said: “We’re focusing on $3.8 billion, and if we get $3.8 billion in New York that will be a great success.”

Boudin said of the proposed amounts: “That’s the minimum. The message for the international community is to help Haiti rebuild the country, to manifest their solidarity [...] and not to forget the urgent needs now before they pledge.

“We have to restart the schools, we have to provide seeds and fertilizers for the farmers so that they can have a good season,” he said.

Boudin said a major purpose of aid would be to help Haiti decentralize. Having government so centered on the capital Port-au-Prince meant that when the quake struck, the country was paralyzed.

De Falco said there is little dispute over the initial $3.8 billion, and that discussions will more likely centre on whether Haiti has the capacity effectively to distribute this much money in such a short period of time.

He said international organizations could take a cue from the American public, as half of the households in the US had donated money to Haiti in some form.

A senior IMF official said the Haitian government is facing a budget gap of between $250 million and $350 million this year, and that donor countries should consider contributing towards this.

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno said: “We will use all the tools we have to help President Rene Preval and his government so that they leave this episode behind as soon as possible.”

He said it was unacceptable that Haitians could only expect to live to 52 on average, and that 8 out of 10 of them lived on less than $2 a day. Now it was time to change the country for good.

“I’ve looked into eyes of the children of Port-au-Prince,” he said. “I’ve seen the trust they’ve deposited in us and their hope that this time we won’t leave them alone.”

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