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Haiti: The Politics of Recovery

The last thing that Haiti needs as it faces the monumental task of recovering from the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and its environs on January 12 is a lack of good governance. Yet, some members of the Haitian blogosphere are bracing themselves for more of the same when it comes to the 2010 earthquake recovery effort.

Twitter, as has been the case since the dolorous news broke, proved the quickest way to transmit opinions: Musician and hotelier Richard Morse, who has been regularly tweeting as RAMhaiti, continues to be quite candid with his:

What happened to money from 6 years of devastation.Big Black Hole.Go visit Gonaives if u don't believe me.We need new people involved,NOW

Six years ago was presumably September 2004: About 3,000 people died when Tropical Storm Jeanne unleashed her wrath on the northeastern end of the island, causing disastrous floods and mudslides in Gonaïves. Calamity struck again in September 2008, thanks to a seemingly unending succession of storms which battered the already beleaguered country.

The recovery process becomes more complicated when Haiti's political climate comes into play. Morse seems to have little faith that relief money will get into the hands of those who will use it properly:

Has anyone ever heard of an audit??? Historically, devastation funds don't go where they're supposed to. What's the difference this time??

He explains in a later tweet:

Haiti's former Prime Minister asked for an audit so she was dumped. The team that's now in place feared the audit.

He is referring to Michèle Pierre-Louis, who, after President René Préval nominated her for the post in June 2008, faced a tough battle for approval by the country's Parliament. She was eventually confirmed, but lasted just over a year in the post, causing some bloggers to question the circumstances of her discharge. But that wasn't the only controversial development in the country's political arena: Fanmi Lavalas, the party of ousted former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, which still enjoys considerable grassroots support in Haiti, was barred from contesting the country's next elections, which had been carded to take place at the end of February this year.

Morse continues:

OUT WITH THE OLD; IN WITH THE NEW. Let's hear what the candidates want. Let's hear what the PEOPLE want. No one wants current STATUS QUO

Haiti falls at position 168 out of 180 countries on Transparency International‘s 2009 Corruption Perception Index ranking. Morse unabashedly refers to 2009 as “the YEAR of FRAUD” in Haiti, adding in another Twitter update:

It's not recovery if it's embedded in FRAUD and CORRUPTION.Did you see those elections last year? Internat. Comm. 100% approve @ZOEmagazine

He also responds to @ZOEmagazine quite sardonically:

If Haiti is part of IMF auditing system, then why is no one in JAIL? @ZOEmagazine

…but is careful to clarify his statements:

The UN was becoming part of the problem.Never said anything about disappearing AID and approved fraudulent elections @Dohnanyi

Morse is not the only Haitian blogger talking about alleged corruption on Twitter. thehaitian puts the practice in context with this tweet:

You can not expect an underpaid or unpaid govt workforce to not be corrupt. Hospital staff and teachers can go years w/out pay.#haiti

Still, he concedes that the government's track record leaves something to be desired:

Quick. Who trusts the Haitian govt to rebuild even one govt building? Honest question.#haiti

RAMhaiti seems to concur, sharing a bit of his own experience:

I'm getting visits from people.They're concerned about how the AID to Haiti is going 2 be distributed. Very concerned about locals in charge

thehaitian yearns for transparency in the way the aid money is disbursed:

I need to know where all this money is going to go. I really do. Is the point to get back to where we were? That's a bad idea.#haiti

…and suggests that:

Any funds going to the haitian govt should require a top to bottom rebuilding of the tax collection office and property rights reform#haiti

Interestingly enough, New American Media conducted a poll of the Haitian diaspora in the U.S. and one of the major findings revealed that:

Haitians in the United States appear to have lost confidence in the current Haitian government and its handling of the aftermath of the earthquake. Three-fifths of the respondents agree that the Haitian government has practically disappeared since the earthquake and 63 percent disapprove of the reaction of President Rene Preval and the Haitian government to the earthquake. The concern about the ability of the Haitian government to deal with the crisis is so strong that a majority of Haitians in the United States feel that officials from the United Nations and the international community should govern Haiti “at the very least until it recovers from this catastrophe.” And the poll reveals that most Haitians are not concerned about the large American military presence in their country.

Other netizens also put in their two cents’ worth on Twitter, with a critical contribution to the discourse coming from melindayiti:

We need to have a voice in the plan for Haiti, more importantly, our HAITIAN partners need to be the ones creating that plan for #Haiti

Finally, meandering posts a link on his blog to the Haiti Business Portal and suggests that the international community also has a critical role to play:

$1-3 billion is coming Haiti’s way: maybe more Will the crowd pay attention, or will they buy their relief, recovery, and reconstruction goods and services abroad? At the risk of being politically incorrect, perhaps the international community might consider Rwanda strong man Paul Kagame’s words: “TRADE not AID”.

The thumbnail image used in this post, Carribbean Market Jan 16, 2010, is by AIDG, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit AIDG's fickr photostream.

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