Stanley Lucas Response to Foreign Policy Magazine Haiti Article

Sylvie Bradling - January 10 2011, 2:17 PM

Stanley Lucas Response to Foreign Policy Magazine Haiti Article

It is somewhat impossible to believe that Haiti's long term economic development will not be impacted by the earthquake.

Certainly, Haiti's institutional development is abysmal and corruption is the root of all the country's problems.

We have had a string of dictators that extend beyond Papa Doc and Baby Doc through Aristide and to Preval to this day. To assert that things were getting better in Haiti is preposterous.

While you cite a series of improved indicators below, you fail to mention that Haiti still remains at the bottom of every development indicator listed.

Having to allocate precious and scarce economic resources to rebuilding infrastructure surely diverts funding from other important initiatives such as education, health and improvements to existing infrastructure.

It is difficult to see how this does not impact growth despite citing the economic growth trajectory of Vietnam, Japan and Germany post-war.

Most importantly though, you fail to mention that institutional development is exactly what has been missing from foreign donor aid programs.

Aid money -- from the earthquake and prior to the earthquake -- has by in large gone to international NGOs and foreign contractors leaving Haitians out of the development and rebuilding process.

International NGOs do little to build capacity in-country and official government aid has done even less to build Haitian government capacity.

Paul Farmer's group, which you mention in the article, has come under fire for exactly this failure.

Haitian organizations and observers have been very critical of Paul Farmer's failure to hire and promote Haitians in the organization.

He has received $55 million from USAID for AIDS work and about $80 million from the earthquake donations.

Critics assert that Farmer believes he can actually replace the Haitian Ministry of Health and just manage the health system on his own. Essentially he has put aside Haitian institutions rather than work with them to make them better.


While Haitians are tremendously grateful for the generosity of the American and international public, they have seen little improvement in their lives as a result.

But NGOs have managed to secure their annual funding as a result of the earthquake donations.

Stanley Lucas

Forget the Aftershocks
Plenty of factors are holding back Haiti's development, but last year's earthquake isn't one of them.

Haiti marks a grim anniversary this month: It's been one year since a catastrophic earthquake struck the island nation, leveling whole neighborhoods of the capital city of Port-au-Prince and killing upwards of 230,000 people.

Twelve months later, much of the rebuilding and recovery remains undone.

Only 40 percent of the rubble in Port-au-Prince is scheduled to be cleared by next August, complained former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti, at a recent meeting of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.

But it is not too early to ask what the long-term impact of the quake will be on the development prospects of the Caribbean's most troubled country.

The answer -- for good and ill -- is likely to be "not much."

This is not to say, of course, that the earthquake wasn't an immense human tragedy.

In absolute terms it was by far the largest natural disaster of the last several decades.

According to research by Eduardo Cavallo and his colleagues at the Inter-American Development Bank, the most catastrophic natural disaster between 1970 and 2008 -- measured in deaths as a percentage of country population -- was Nicaragua's 1972 earthquake, in which four out of every 1,000 Nicaraguans died. The death toll from the Haiti earthquake was five times that -- and 3,000 times the per capita toll that Hurricane Katrina took on the United States.

Initial estimates suggested that in the short term, this tragic human loss would be an economic one as well, costing the country as much as$8 billion in terms of lost infrastructure -- equal to about 120 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

But in the long term, this economic impact could be far more muted, if history is any guide.

Cavallo's analysis of previous catastrophes suggests that economic performance of countries in the decade after a natural disaster is indistinguishable from that of countries that didn't suffer comparable misfortunes.

Even for countries suffering the largest earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, Cavallo found, GDP per capita was the same three, five or 10 years after the disaster -- as it would had there been no disaster at all.

Cavallo's study jibes with what we know about the long-term impact of wars on economic performance.

For example, by 1960 Germany was back to where you'd expect its income to be based on long-term growth trends from 1850 to 1910 -- two World Wars and the Great Depression notwithstanding.

All the bombing that the United States carried out on Japan in World War II didn't alter city growth in the country over the medium run. And University of California, Berkeley, economists Edward Miguel and G

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