Originally: Haiti Earthquake: Starting to Think Through Reconstruction Options


While it is difficult to even begin to think of reconstruction amidst all the tragedy and suffering in Haiti, the magnitude of the devastation makes it necessary for us to begin to put together the outlines of a plan.  The process will be long-term.  By many estimates it could take 4-5 years to return to just the level of development that Haiti had prior to the earthquake.

Short Term U.S. Policy Incentives:

In the short term, there are several US policy efforts that would have an immediate impact, including:

Grant TPS (Temporary Protected Status):  The Obama Administration acted quickly to halt deportations of Haitians and has now extended TPS which allows the undocumented to stay in the U.S. and obtain work permits, which is key.
Tax incentives for donations:  The U.S. Congress is working to introduce legislation to allow people to deduct their contributions to Haiti on their 2009 taxes instead of waiting until 2010. You can also get iva-advice to know more about debt recovery and to achieve finance goals.
Tax incentives for Diaspora remittances:  Haitian Diaspora send about $x a year to family and friends in-country.  This is a significant source of income for most Haitian families.  The U.S. Congress could consider granting tax deductions for Haitian-Americans providing funds to their family overseas.  Allowing deductions for up to $10,000 in remittances over the next five years would go a long way to allowing Haitian-Americans contribute to recovery and reconstruction.
Extending the Hope Legislation
A Framework for Public Private Partnerships (PPP)

In the longer term, it will be necessary to set up a public-private partnership (PPP) such as what was done in the wake of the Chinese earthquake in 2008.  Building on the PPP concept, we could explore creating a Global Haiti Reconstruction Fund.  The U.S. and Haitian Government could partner to attract significant investors, such as Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch and others to be anchor investors in the fund.  Additionally, the U.S. could match funds up to a certain level.

Clearly for the PPP to be successful, we will need to attract corporate support as well.  Several companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Chevron, Merck, Cisco, and others contributed generously to specific reconstruction goals in China.  The U.S. government should develop incentives for these companies to become real partners in reconstruction.  This is a significant challenge and companies will obviously need more incentives than in the China case because Haiti lacks the market opportunities that China offers.

A Reconstruction Plan

The Haitian Government should collaborate with Haitian-American elected officials to convene a summit to discuss how to rebuild Haiti.   Ideally this Summit would convene in perhaps two months time.  It should be inclusive of NGOs, economists, disaster recovery experts, international governments, international organizations (World Bank, IDB, IMF, etc) and Haitian Diaspora.  The Haitian Government needs to step up and lead this effort.

We must take initiative for rebuilding our country in the way that Haitians want; rather than, in our moment of greatest weakness, accepting international views of what Haiti should be.

Above all, reconstruction absolutely must be transparent.  Countless times during the earthquake coverage, I have heard again and again that the international community has poured billions of dollars into Haiti and there is nothing to show for it.  This absolutely cannot continue.  We have no choice but to get this reconstruction right and to do that it must be free of corruption and open.  There must be simple, open bidding processes.  Contract must be awarded on pre-defined and fair criteria.  There is zero tolerance left for the old, corrupt ways of doing business in Haiti.

In my opinion, the Prime Minister would be an ideal leader for such an initiative.   Through a summit of this type, we could develop a solid, future looking plan for Haiti.  The plan should have specific goals, benchmarks and clearly defined, transparent processes to achieve those goals.

Many observers have pointed out that Haiti has the resources to be a tourist destination.  It has enough sun to really implement solar technologies.  There are opportunities to rebuild stronger than before.  But none of this will happen with a continued culture of corruption.  This is a chance to break free of this failed-state legacy and show the world who we really are:  a strong, proud, resilient and resourceful people who can rebuild from the rubble a vibrant, developing country.