Haiti to release far-reaching spending plan to rebuild country

By Colum Lynch
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

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 53-page document, 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 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 carried out by Haitian and international reconstruction specialists. It also calls for the establishment of 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 7.3-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12 was Haiti's worst natural catastrophe in 200 years; it 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 government buildings in the capital.

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