December 18, 2010
Haitian diaspora gathering in Washington, DC, March 2010 -- was that the last one?
Editor’s Note: You require transparency from us but none from yourselves. That’s the charge leveled at USAID by Liberia’s finance minister (and a couple of other people), at a recent Brookings Institution panel on the lack of transparency among aid organizations. Haiti’s finance minister probably feels the same way. As poorly as Haiti ranks on the corruption index the US ranks near the bottom in international aid transparency. And what comes out of this panel is that while we’re great at measuring other governments’ corruption, we apparently suck at competently measuring ourselves, the donors. Read on for the Liberian minister’s edited remarks, which also raise the question, is the Haitian diaspora lobbying Congress to improve USAID?
Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, minister of finance, Liberia I concur fully with the assessment … that aid transparency is a necessary condition for effectiveness…. Liberia is a highly aid-dependent country. I don’t want to go through the history of civil war, the destruction, and the reconstruction efforts. As we speak we receive more flows to the country through aid than even our domestic revenue. [And] although the amount of [aid passing] through our budget [had] been very insignificant–around 2-5 percent–it has gradually gone up to 15 percent. We are hoping that as we improve our country’s systems, more donors can use them.
Now, [however]… we have a situation where most donors want to use parallel [NGO] systems [and not] government systems. [But] the parallel systems [have to] give us better development outcomes … otherwise, the moral justification of using the parallel system does not exist.
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December 15, 2010
Sometimes the Haitian diaspora gets so caught up in old school methods of helping Haiti (remittances, barrel shipping, Haitian politics), it forgets to read the tea leaves of US foreign policy–and act before policy gets made or shot down. Key word: before. Reform is all about timing; miss the boat one year, the opportunity won’t come around again for another 20 years.
Making the rounds this week is an Associated Press report that Haitian firms get $1.60 of every $100 of U.S. contracts paid out since January 12th to rebuild Haiti–or, less than 2 percent of $267 million. It is possible to tip that ratio in favor of local business owners (and the U.S. firms who sub-contract to them), but the Haitian diaspora has to act now.
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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?