Five smart ways to rebuild Haiti
Haiti doesn’t need a Marshall Plan imposed by global elites. It needs improved conditions that empower all its people.
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4. Get cash into the hands of the poor. The key to recovery is not charity, but rather getting capital to grass-roots entrepreneurs, including small farmers. The United Nations Development Program has already mobilized cash-for-work schemes in Port-au-Prince to positive effect. Likewise, a 10 percent increase in man-hour labor on farms could create up to 40,000 new jobs.Skip to next paragraph
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A conditional cash transfer program would also stimulate bottom-up capitalism. Drawing on the positive experiences of Brazil and Mexico, cash support can be tied to the attendance of children in schools and clinics. Ensuring that women administer these funds is central. But these kinds of activities will only succeed if educational and health systems are upgraded and extended to rural areas.
5. Support leaders who embrace greater inclusion and enact socially responsible investment strategies. More jobs in the manufacturing sector should be part of Haiti’s future. The easing of duties on Haitian goods will be an important driver. But if the country is really to be “built back better,” industrial growth must be accompanied by free universal education and agrarian investment.
At a minimum, investment in factories and assembly plants should also be aggressively decentralized beyond Port-au-Prince. Port and transportation infrastructure can be expanded in at least a dozen other coastal cities. A decentralized growth strategy will result in balanced economic growth.
Above all else, any efforts to promote the rebalancing of Haiti must be accompanied with respect for its people. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted last year that in Haiti, “talent is universal; opportunity is not.” To be successful, Haiti’s rebirth must improve the conditions for growth and opportunity for all. Haiti’s impressive diaspora from Florida and New York to Montreal and Paris offers evidence of what can be achieved when opportunities are twinned with talent.
Robert Muggah is research director of the Small Arms Survey and a principal of the SecDev Group. Robert Maguire is a professor of international affairs at Trinity Washington University and chair of the Haiti Working Group at the US Institute of Peace.