Monday, September 27, 2010

Haiti ... rain and wind raises big question about the relief and development sector performance!

Dear Colleagues

Rain and wind ... and perhaps a million people living under canvas ... does not add up to a good situation.

I am following progress ... or lack of ... in Haiti, quite closely, and I am appalled at the state of affairs. I am disgusted by the lack of progress and the pathetic performance of the major organizations involved. The essay below is now becoming the norm ... not the exception. The URL is:

It is really very sad that the funds raised to help with the rescue, relief and rebuilding of Haiti are flowing with near zero transparency and accountability. But why am I surprised ... this is the way money usually flows, with a whole array of big "insiders" doing well while beneficiaries are starved of resources.

I know how powerful good accounting can be. Good accounting serves to keep control of the resources and allocate them to activities with high utility ... but there is nowhere in the relief and development industry where good accounting is the norm ... rather the accounting is sub-standard and does little or nothing to further the goal of performance and accountability.

Yes ... the Haiti situation is heading in a bad direction. But the problem of poor allocation of resources is a bigger problem than just Haiti. The use of resources in developing countries has given rise to phrases like "The Resource Curse" and similar ... there is no "resource curse", there is simply the normal outcome to be expected from corruption, greed and abysmal bad management and bad governance on the part of leadership and powerful elites.

Some of the problem is that the main system of "scorekeeping" is all about money ... when in fact there is a need for a system of scorekeeping that celebrates quality of life. When it is quality of life that is the primary goal, then there can be way better use of resources. With so much resource, the idea that Africa is so poor, is plain ridiculous. My goal is for a system of value accounting to be deployed that will change this framework for scorekeeping.

Sadly ... the solutions that have been promoted by international experts over many years have often been at odds with real progress for the beneficiaries, an issue quite well documented by John Perkins in his book "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man". And Dambissa Moyo is another writer who talks about failed development in her book "Dead Aid". She talks about 60 years and a trillion dollars and little to be seen for it ... there has to be a better way! "Blood Bankers" is another book that raises questions about the way development is managed ... how international banks do private banking that enables corruption to flourish and the proceeds to move into money centers where they are difficult to recover.

Good accounting ... ubiquitous value accounting ... can make a difference. Hopefully it will get done sooner rather than later.

Peter Burgess
Commentary: Haiti a missed opportunity!
Published on August 28, 2010

By Jean H Charles

Haiti, the first and only successful slave revolt experience to become a nation, has been a failed opportunity to polish its raw material and remain the pearl of the islands. After the earthquake of January 12, 2010, Haiti has failed to embark into a mode of development to recuperate the two hundred years of failed opportunity.

Some will say it is too early to tell. Seven months into the process, is not enough for a prediction into the future! Yet it is enough time to indicate the direction of the wind, is it towards change or towards the status quo?

On the ground in Haiti, I am witnessing all the elements are in place for a complete disaster in the coming months as well as the harbinger of years of unrest in the future.

I have developed in this journal, for the past two weeks, the conceptual framework attributing the notion of the failed state business systematically replacing the slaving business. I have also advanced the hypothesis that Haiti was the first nationally and internationally organized failed state entity.

Alexander Petion and his successor Jean Pierre Boyer, in accepting to negotiate the price of French recognition, has set a mortgage so high on the back of the brand new nation, it was designed to fail. When later that mortgage has been renegotiated, it was not to pay the installments but to kill each other in clan politics. This tragedy or that drama lasted two hundred years.

In this modern day era where an event of biblical proportion happened to Haiti, one should expect a new national and international order; it is business as usual in Haiti. Alie Kabbar of the United African organization on CBS today complained that “the American Red Cross that collected 465 million dollars on behalf of the people of Haiti is spending the money on five figure salaries, hotels, car rentals, air-conditioned offices for its staff instead of (or in addition) to spend the money for real people with real needs on the ground.”

Lionel Trouillot, the celebrated Haitian essayist wrote in a piece signed as of today, there is a smell of putrefaction in the air in Haiti. It is the smell of lies, the smell of big salaries of the multinational NGOs mixed with the fetid smell of the camp right across the hotel on the main plaza of Port au Prince.

I would add there is also the smell of resignation, the smell of laissez faire. I was invaded by that smell, because as of yesterday, I could not get myself into writing this essay, I was telling myself, it does not matter to raise the world consciousness about Haiti; things will remain the same.

I have in mind this lady in the camp right across the main hotel of Port au Prince, the Plaza Hotel, who told me not to take her picture. She is tired of people taking her picture and promising to do something for her and for her baby. Nothing has happened.

The machine set by the Haitian government, the United Nations, the OAS and Caricom for a faked election where the three main political parties have been ostracized, with the result, selected by the president, is already in motion. The thousands of NGOs from all over the world faking development initiatives while building mainly latrines and paraphernalia of that sort is suffocating.

The mammoth UN agency MINUSTHA faking support to the people of Haiti with the entire material one can order all over the world used only for its own needs. The city of Port au Prince at night is a ghost town with only the UN complexes lighted as in a developed country.

I am constantly stimulated by the high and down of feeling of anger and bliss – anger, because of the arrogance and the lack of empathy of the UN people vis a vis the displaced Haitians and the populace in general as well as the feeling of bliss for living in a land so lush where the cost of living is so low and the opportunity so plentiful that maybe Haiti is the lost paradise!

Speaking with a an investor friend at the hotel, musing on why Haiti cannot take off, he told me that Haiti needs the creative strength of the United States. I retort that no country in the Caribbean has so many creative people as Haiti! His answer was illuminating:

“They may be creative in arts! They need to be creative in engineering, in machinery, in planting, in soil conservation, in husbandry. Any farmer from the United States can help the Haitian people with those skills you do not need any PhDs for that.

“That is the reason why I am here to show them how to build their own anti-earthquake home. How to recycle the plastic material with scrap wood to produce building blocks stronger and cheaper than the cement block in use in Haiti now.”

He has been looking for an audience with those in authority, so far with not much success. Containers of prefabricated homes have already been secured by those close to the power base!

Will Haiti recover from this devastating earthquake? Or will it surge from its failed state status to an enlightened one? I suspect it will take a critical mass of Haitian people to understand that they have the undeniable right to the pursuit of happiness and to justice in their own land.

The national and international apparatus in place now is ensuring that critical mass of understanding does not occur. I am not optimistic for or about Haiti!

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol

No comments:

Post a Comment