June 10, 2010
I’ve just finished a story about New York area businesses that are trying to get a slice of the $10 billion reconstruction pie. I plan to continue reporting in the vein of profit and business, particularly those firms that are creating employment in Haiti. I figure there’re enough reporters covering aid as charity, how it works and then blaming the usual suspects when it doesn’t. That’s a valuable frame but there’re so many other ways to frame how development goes down in Haiti. I’m open to other ideas so, holler.
Unfortunately, my story’s behind a pay wall so I’ll reproduce a bit here:
[Jean] Petrus belongs to a small coterie of New York-area businesses, most owned by Haitian-Americans, pushed by a slow recovery at home and pulled by both patriotism and profit to help reconstruct Haiti.
[According to the Associated Press] more than 105,000 homes need to be rebuilt, along with 1,300 schools, 50 hospitals, the presidential palace, parliament and courts, not to mention debris removal and technology and infrastructure development.
These Haitian-American owners are new to the world of federal procurement, however. Since January 12th, other American firms with extensive international experience in disaster clean-up and construction—many with lessons learned from post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction—have been setting up offices, camps and mess halls for an anticipated workforce in Port-au-Prince.
It remains to be seen whether and how effectively Haitian-American firms can compete for the more than $1 billion in aid pledged by the United States over the next decade.
June 9, 2010
an interview with agronomist Volny Paultre on agrarian reform in Haiti:
Agriculture is part of the solution to the problems of Haiti. But most of the opportunities are not directly in farming. Farming is saturated.
One candidate for the upcoming presidential elections apparently disagrees.
And while not one construction contract has yet been awarded, foreign firms are drumming their fingers. Meanwhile, debris removal hinders progress.
… there is so much debris to dispose of — 20 million to 25 million cubic yards (15 million to 19 million cubic meters), enough to fill the Louisiana Superdome five times — and only one approved dumping site for the entire country, the Port-au-Prince terminal Varreux.
June 9, 2010
The U.S. takes the lead behind Venezuela in aid pledged for Haiti's reconstruction
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?