On Saturday, the Prime Minister of Haiti was forced to resign after a several days of riots resulted in widespread pillaging and looting after the government tried to cut a fuel subsidy. The Jamaica Observer looks at how Haiti got to this point, and why it has been lurching from crisis to crisis through the last decade. One major culprit has been foreign NGOs which misallocated or stole most of the aid money sent to Haiti:
This institutional weakness was evident in the relief efforts following the devastating earthquake in 2010 in which over 200,000 people were killed. More than US$16 billion in financial assistance was pledged by governments, multilateral agencies and private donors. Less than 10 per cent of the monies disbursed reached the Government of Haiti. The bulk of the funds was disbursed to international NGOs and foreign contractors, and because of the lack of proper accounting procedures the net benefit to the people of Haiti has never been satisfactorily established. Haiti’s lack of capacity provided a convenient explanation for donors bypassing the government in expending the funds.
Haiti’s political infrastructure is also an issue. Its biggest problem is not its poverty or lack of development but the weakness of its political institutions and government apparatus and, hence, the fragility of its government. Even the process of electing a president and forming a government has shown itself to be uncertain, protracted, tortuous and contentious. The last presidential election had a field of 27 candidates-representing almost as many parties — and voter turnout of less than 20 per cent, due as much to apathy as to voter registration difficulties. Political parties are hurriedly put together as each election approaches; few of them survive to the next.
It is not surprising, therefore, that in the face of widespread protests, President Moïse decided that a major policy reversal was his only viable option. Successive Haitian leaders invariably find themselves catching up from behind rather than leading from the front.
The Haitian experience demonstrates, yet again, that orthodox economic policies do not have universal application. Haiti does need to undertake a serious programme of structural reforms to reorientate its economy toward sustainable management, investment and growth. However, this requires enormous political capital that elected presidents, with the exception of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, have not commanded.
Haiti’s situation is not irredeemable, even with the devastating earthquake of 2010 that caused damage estimated at 120 per cent of GDP, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that wiped out 32 per cent of GDP.
The fact that the NGOs who took that aid money have never accounted for it is astonishing, and makes me question why NGOs should be allowed to legally exist. It appears that more than $14 billion in aid dollars were at best misallocated and at worst, outright stolen. NGOs are also a major driver of the illegal immigration crisis in Europe, if the Italian Interior Minister Salvini is to be believed.