Nearly three months after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, killing as many as 230,000 and leaving another 1 million homeless, donors met this week in New York to pledge their help in reconstructing the impoverished island state. The aid response so far has been marked by unprecedented generosity -- from governments, NGOs, and the world's citizens. But it has also suffered from poor coordination, a slow start, and logistical complications that have led many Haitians and observers to question how helpful the help has been. Speaking with Foreign Policy's Elizabeth Dickinson, Haiti's ambassador to the United States says that the key to rebuilding his country in the coming months is simple: The money must come quickly, and rather than going through NGOs, it should be channeled through the government. He wants to see an end to Haiti as a "republic of NGOs."
Foreign Policy: You're just coming out of the donors conference for Haiti. Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Raymond A. Joseph: Very much satisfied. The government was asking for $3.5 billion over the next 18 months, and pledges amounted to $5.168 billion.
Now, it's going to be [about] disbursements. In the past, donors have pledged, and we've had problems getting these disbursements. This time, we have a trust fund in place that will be run by the World Bank. I think all the pieces are now in place for a good management of the money. And because of that, I think we will see quicker disbursement.
FP: How would you evaluate the aid response so far? What has worked and what hasn't?
RJ: What has not worked well is that about $2 billion have been collected for Haiti, but the Haitian government has only seen about $10 million. The money has been pledged and collected by NGOs. That's one thing we have to change in the future. Governments [of donor countries] have to work with the government of Haiti. I can understand in the past where they worked with NGOs [because at that time] the Haitian government was not responsible or transparent. However, Haiti has met quite a few benchmarks on corruption and [good governance] such that the international community forgave $1.2 billion of Haiti's debt last June. The remaining $800 million is being forgiven right now. We've shown we're on the way, so now donors should have more trust in the government to carry out the projects.
The money should not be sent to NGOs because NGOs cannot develop the country: NGOs cannot take care of the infrastructure, they cannot build the roads, and they cannot have electric plants. It has been said that Haiti is a republic of NGOs.
FP: What's your assessment of the U.S. aid package that was offered at the conference?
RJ: The Haitian government has made a plea for budget support because the earthquake destroyed the economic base of the country. One-fifth of the country was hit, but 80 percent of revenues were affected. For the government to operate, it needs some budget support. The U.S. does not usually give budget support.
I don't know what happened this time, but I know some of the money that was pledged was budget support. I don't know how much; we'll find out after the government figures are out. We're looking for $350 million, and I hope we got it all.
FP: What's the best way for the diaspora to contribute to the recovery?
RJ: The diaspora is going to try to find out how to volunteer their services to Haiti, and the government is trying to find [a way] to subsidize some of their pay. I would think we will see more diaspora people coming in. What's hindered them in the past is that they have to leave their family, they have to pay their bills, and the salary structure in Haiti is too low. So we are probably going back to a [program that took place about 10 years ago], when the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB, would subsidize the pay of some of the employees. I don't know how they're going to do it, if the IDB is still going to do it, or if they're going to do it differently, but I'm quite sure it's going to be done.