New Projects Aim to Move Haiti in the Right Direction

A year and a half after the devastating quake, newly announced housing and business initiatives target two of the nation’s biggest issues.

Posted: 08/18/2011 05:43 PM EDT
Bill Clinton

It’s been over a year and a half since the devastating quake hit Haiti and, unfortunately, not much has improved for many in the nation. Thousands of citizens are still homeless and many parts of the capital remain under rubble.

 

But this week a couple of new initiatives, spawned by the Bill Clinton co-chaired Haitian reconstruction panel, were announced that are aimed to move the nation in the right direction.

 

On Wednesday, Clinton announced a big-time $78 million project to renovate 16 neighborhoods and provide housing for about 30,000 people living in temporary quake settlement camps. Funding for the project will mostly come from the Haiti Reconstruction Fund.

 

“This is a big day for the Haitian people,” President Michel Martelly said during the announcement. “Removing the people from under the tents is urgent.” There are an estimated 630,000 people living in temporary camps, according to the International Organization for Migration.

 

In addition to providing housing, the undertaking will also create about 4,500 jobs, Clinton said.

 

The project also stands to “generate the lasting change, the permanent housing solutions that Haitians are depending on,” he said.

 

The panel, charged with disbursing about $5.5 billion in promised aid, has been much criticized for not being able to move along reconstruction projects in a timely manner. Notably, a former prime minister nominee called the group “dysfunctional” and even went as far as suggesting the panel be scrapped. Only about five reconstruction projects, summing $84 million, have been completed, the Miami Herald reports.

 

The other initiative, Clinton announced Tuesday, is a new $20 million business loan program aimed at boosting the economy. Caribbean Craft, a local mask and sculpture maker, was chosen as the first recipient of a loan and will get $415,000 to go towards rebuilding their business, which lost a workshop in the quake. The company will have to pay the loan back with interest, to ensure there’s money for future loans for other small businesses.

 

"One of the biggest problems in growing the Haitian economy is that there is really no facility that grants small business loans on reasonable terms," Clinton said during the announcement.

 

Another hurdle for Martelly is trying to form a complete government. Two of his prime minister nominees have been rejected by lawmakers, and without someone in the No. 2 spot, foreign investors can’t invest in the nation with confidence.

(Photo: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

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