PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Nearly two years after a devastating earthquake in Haiti, about US$9 million of the US$16 million spent on Disaster Relief by the Mennonite Central Committee for projects to revitalize the lives of Haitians. In January 2019, nine years after the earthquake, USAid spent $2.3 billion in Haiti. Most of them were given to American companies and almost none went through Haitian hands. Less than 3% of these expenditures, according to a CEPR study, went directly to Haitian organizations or companies. In contrast, 55% of the money was distributed to U.S. companies based in Washington and its neighbors. Most likely, the majority of what USAid would have spent on Haiti`s recovery ended directly in the United States. But all this international trade has rarely benefited the vast majority of Haitians. Few of the wealth produced in the country has ever remained there. For most of its history, Haiti has owed trade debts to other nations, including a $21 billion charge (in today`s money) that France accumulated after independence. Over the next two centuries, these debts greatly impoverished the country and forced the rich nations that acted as their creditors. Over the past 100 years, the United States and the international financial institutions with which they work have been the largest of these creditors, and they have indebted Haiti by extending foreign development credits and creating a trade imbalance – an early form of neoliberal model. MCC signs a compact agreement or threshold agreement with a partner country.
A compact is a five-year grant awarded to certain countries, assessing the selection criteria. If a country does not have a passing score, but has a positive upward trend in selection criteria, it may still be eligible for a threshold program. The growth agenda is a small program focused on political and institutional reforms. The government of each partner country of excellence must create a special purpose legal entity responsible for the implementation of the grant program. Over the past 12 months, I have repeatedly asked USAid spokespeople for a breakdown of how the $70 million allocated to the Port of Cape Haiti was finally spent. In July 2018, I filed a Freedom of Information Act application for port expenditure documents, and last October I again submitted the request in more detail after discussing it by telephone with a USAid official. The Agency has confirmed my question, but has not yet sent me a single document as an answer. The Clintons and their allies believed that the Caracol project would attract international builders, which they saw as the main solution to the weakening of the Haitian economy.
“Haiti failed, failed and failed again,” wrote British economist Paul Collier and his colleague Jean-Louis Warnholz, who both advised the Clintons two weeks after the earthquake in the Financial Times. By creating “critical assets such as ports,” the United States and its allies could help Haiti attract foreign private investment and create the stable jobs they needed to prosper.