Lessons of the Haitian Earthquake - Beyond the Crisis
by State Senator John L. Sampson
Feb 02, 2010 | 3487 views | 1 1 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When the Caribbean island nation of Haiti was recently devastated by a powerful 7.0 category earthquake, the ensuing catastrophe and chaos prompted the international community into immediate and swift action. There is no doubt that Haiti is now in dire straits and that its recovery will be many, many years in the making.

There has been, by and large, some measure of balance in the public discourse on Haiti, but many people are still wondering how and why did this catastrophe happen. Indeed, there are many lessons to be learned from the Haitian earthquake and tragedy. Still, there is a need to look beyond the crisis as we work to help rebuild this beautiful Caribbean island-nation - the first black independent republic in the world with a population today of just over 10 million people.

Haiti – unique in the Caribbean – has had no institutions of democracy or democratic rule for over 200 years. Successive dictatorial regimes continued to deepen the social and economic divide between the majority poor and a tiny ruling elite kept in power by a brutal army and paramilitary goon squads aided and abetted by covert and overt meddling by former colonial powers.

Today, the end result of these complex socio-economic and political shenanigans is that before the earthquake hit, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with the vast majority of the population subsisting on about $2 a day; where unemployment was at the 80 percent mark; where HIV/AIDS ran rampant; where a weak central government and poor infrastructural development added to the recipe for disaster.

So what is the way forward?

First, the robust recovery effort must be continued and sustained by the international community – including the United States. The $100 million that the Obama Administration has pledged is a small first start but much more financial resources are needed to rebuild Haiti.

Next, at some point the international community needs to convene a major donors conference like the one organized for Afghanistan to do a needs assessment and put in place all of the tools for rebuilding Haiti – including money. Haiti needs a Marshall Plan.

Next, Haiti’s national debt, pegged at about $900 million, must be immediately forgiven. There is no way that Haiti can grow and develop if it remains strangled by a debt that it will not be able to repay. This debt will make Haiti’s nation-building impossible. It needs to be written off.

Next, stakeholders in the Caribbean must help Haiti and Haitians (Haiti is a member of CARICOM) put in place a strong central government and help build democratic institutions that will oversee the rebuilding efforts and make sure that financial transactions are open and transparent.

Finally, the international community must help Haiti by providing all of the resources – technical, human and financial – to make effective long term planning part of the modus operandi of the Central government and guarantee that rebuilding will be bigger and better.

I believe that if we achieve all of the above in tandem with ongoing, sustained relief and rebuilding efforts, then Haiti will usher in a bright new day and end the decades of human suffering once and for all.

State Senator John Sampson represents Brooklyn’s 19th District, which includes Canarsie, Brownsville, and Flatlands.

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r. bocklet
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February 05, 2010
"Next, stakeholders in the Caribbean must help Haiti and Haitians (Haiti is a member of CARICOM) put in place a strong central government and help build democratic institutions that will oversee the rebuilding efforts and make sure that financial transactions are open and transparent," the senator writes. This is a dream. Pleases tell us, senator, how this will be realistically done.