Haiti to unveil $3.9B restructuring plan at the U.N.

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 29, 2010; 9:44 PM

UNITED NATIONS -- Haitian President René Préval will unveil a $3.9 billion plan Wednesday to begin radically reshaping his country's post-earthquake economy and infrastructure, according to a Haitian reconstruction action plan.

The plan, which Préval will present to donors at a U.N. conference in New York, would essentially redirect much of Haiti's economic development outside Port-au-Prince, creating provisional economic hubs to compete with the capital.

"Rebuilding Haiti does not mean returning to the situation that prevailed before the earthquake," according to the 56-page action plan, the first detailed account of how Haiti and its international backers plan to spend their money over the next 18 months. "It means addressing all these areas of vulnerability, so that the vagaries of nature or natural disasters never again inflict such suffering or cause so much damage and loss."

Haiti's reconstruction action plan marks the first phase of a highly ambitious reconstruction effort that could pour more than $11 billion in international aid into Haiti over the next decade. It calls for refurbishing the airport and main port, building a new airport and two new seaports, and laying 600 kilometers of road through the country to promote trade, tourism and access to health-care centers.

The Haitian proposal is based on the findings of a needs assessment study that was carried out by Haitian and international reconstruction specialists. It calls for the establishment a "Multiple-Donor Fiduciary Fund," which would help oversee international reconstruction funds.

"The situation that the country is facing is difficult but not desperate," the action plan states. "In many ways it is an opportunity to unite Haitians of all classes and origins in a shared project to rebuild the country on new foundations."

The Jan. 12 earthquake was Haiti's worst natural catastrophe in 200 years; the 7.3-magnitude temblor killed more than 200,000 people, destroyed 105,000 homes, 50 hospitals and health centers, 1,300 school and university buildings and wiped out the presidential palace, parliament and most other government buildings in the capital.

The overall cost of the damage and losses to economic productivity amounted to more than $8 billion, according to the plan. More than 1.3 million people have been displaced by the earthquake and are living in hundreds of settlements and makeshift camps.

"That is our challenge in New York -- not to rebuild but to 'build back better,' to create a new Haiti," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote Monday in an op-ed in The Washington Post. "Under the plan, an Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission would channel nearly $4 billion into specific projects and programs during the next 18 months. Over the next 10 years, reconstruction needs will total an estimated $11.5 billion."

At the conference Wednesday, Ban is expected to announce that he will instruct Edmond Mulet, who is serving as his temporary envoy in Haiti, to head the U.N. mission and help support the reconstruction effort over the next year. Mulet told reporters in New York on Monday that Haiti would have to play a central role in leading the relief and reconstruction effort in Haiti.

Mulet acknowledged that the government's capacity to oversee such a massive rebuilding effort was limited, noting that about a quarter of the country's civil servants were killed in the earthquake. But he said that if the international community does not focus more attention on supporting Haiti's capacity to rebuild and govern itself, the United Nations may be required to keep peacekeepers in the country "for the next 200 years."

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