Should (competent) Haitian-American professionals and business owners get first dibs at federal contracts to help rebuild Haiti? Should they be allowed to skip the line ahead of other American businesses–including minority and women suppliers? Tough questions. Who in the Haitian diaspora is asking them? Do they even feel as though they can demand preferential treatment from the U.S. government to rebuild their native country?
I’ve been reporting a story about Haitian-American business owners who want to get in on the $9.9 billion in aid for Haiti’s reconstruction. Haiti needs everything after all: roads, homes, schools, IT, etc. Most of the people I spoke to were just now learning how to procure federal contracts with USAID not to mention the 20-something other federal agencies that outsource international development to US firms. In short, they don’t really have a clue and are trying to get one.
All of them feel–very strongly–that the diaspora should help to rebuild Haiti. And when asked, say, yes, of course, (competent) Haitian-American businesses and professionals should be first in line to receive federal contracts. But what are they doing about it? Nada. Interestingly, they’re not taking this notion of having a ‘natural right’ to rebuild Haiti to its logical political conclusion — which is to lobby federal agencies for first dibs at those reconstruction contracts.
I don’t know the right answer to the above questions. I am interested in however, in considering a future where the US outsources international development primarily to hyphenated-Americans originally from the target country. Certainly more aid money would circulate in the target country’s economy instead of accruing in a foreigner’s foreign bank account. For example, Haitian-Americans are more likely than foreigners to lend, spend or share their earnings with Haitians.
So, would development happen faster? In a fairer way? And isn’t that possibility worth the political effort to find out?