Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

HAITI: POLITICAL CRISIS CAUSING FOREIGN AID TO FALL

Ives Marie Chanel

Port-au-Prince, Dec 27 1999 (IPS) - Desperately needed foreign aid has been withheld from Haiti by some donors due to the country’s failure to consolidate its political infrastructure, according to a new report on international development released here.

The report presented last week by the resident representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Oscar Fernandez Taranco, and Haitian Minister for Planning and Foreign Cooperation, Anthony Dessources, noted that in 1998 Haiti received (US) 356 million dollars in development aid from the international community, far less that it received four years before.

The continuing failure to name either a prime minister or establish working parliament created a political crisis here which dragged on from June, 1998 to March, 1999, and made the international community disinclined to provide much aid to Haiti, the report states.

The 1998 disbursements for development aid by the international community were substantially less than the grants made to the country in the years following the return to power of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Between 1995 and 1996, the Haitian government received about 957 million US dollars from the international community for development programmes, not counting additional monies provided by some non- governmental organizations (NGOs).

The breakdown of 1998 assistance showed that multilateral contributions amounted to about 187million dollars, bilateral aid accounted for 167 million dollars with just under 3 million dollars coming from NGOs, the report says.

The report indicates that the institutional vacuum in both executive and legislative branches made it difficult to approve cooperation activities in the country.

Because the crisis was so persistent, some grantors did not approve new projects applied for by the Haitian government. Others, while continuing their assistance, removed Haiti’s name from the list of priority countries, the report revealed.

“Development aid”, Mr. Fernandez Taranco, the UNDP representative acknowledged, “is an important element in helping developing countries and plays an even more decisive role for countries with the smallest revenues, such as Haiti”.

However, he added, efforts by Haiti’s international partners can also have a considerable impact if they respond to the clear political and strategic choices made by the country itself, and are fully briefed about them by Haitian authorities. Fernandez Taranco, during the course of his presentation, exhorted Haitian leaders to create an environment favorable to formulating and implementing development policies and strategies, beginning, he says, by making sure that the coming legislative, municipal and local elections take place on time and without hitch.

Planning Minister Dessources expressed the government’s disappointment at the shortfall in funding being provided by the international community for the Government Action Plan (PAG), presented last May by Jacques Edouard Alexis, the country’s prime minister.

The Minister said that financial aid from the international community was not enough to effectively implement the PAG’s programmes, which include a plan to substantially boost living conditions for the Haitian population.

“At the official presentation of the plan by Prime Minister Alexis”, Dessources indicated, “we knew that international financial assistance was going to be limited because the parliament had not yet ratified certain lending agreements.”

He bemoaned the fact that new accords signed by the government and international grantors, including the Inter- American Development Bank (BID) had been blocked in parliament. However, he added, the government had believed that the international community, which had been enthusiastic about the plan, was going to make a special effort to help the newly installed government reach its goals. But unfortunately, lamented the Planning Minister, “we have not obtained this hoped- for assistance seven months after the PAG was officially presented”.

While saying the amount was insufficient, Mr. Dessources would not reveal exact numbers regarding the contribution of the international community toward the PAG.

According to Dessources, Prime Minister Alexis had hoped to improve living conditions for the population substantially and to create a favorable climate for the coming elections through full implementation of the PAG.

 
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