Wall Street Journal: Haiti Disappointed in Clintons' Assistance

Image: Wall Street Journal: Haiti Disappointed in Clintons' Assistance

Monday, 19 May 2014 10:02 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Haitians are disappointed in the performance of former President Bill Clinton's management of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, but an opinion piece in Sunday's Wall Street Journal says the outcome was "predictable" given his supervision and his wife's involvement.

"In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, Mr. Clinton has gone from hero to goat," writes Wall Street Journal columnist Mary O'Grady.

Last month, she explains, the news site Tout Haiti reported that two lawyers are demanding an audit of Clinton's management of the IHRC, petitioning Haiti's Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes.

"There are powerful interests that won't want to see the petition succeed, and it may go nowhere," O'Grady said. "But the sentiment it expresses is spreading fast."

Four years after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince, and damaged other parts of the country, hundreds of millions of dollars allocated from the State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to the IHRC are gone, and even more donations to the IHRC have been spent on unfinished projects.

"I really cannot understand how you could raise so much money, put a former U.S. president in charge, and get this outcome," O'Grady quoted a former Haitian official as saying.

But, she noted, while Bill Clinton was managing the IHRC, his wife was the U.S. Secretary of State, so he was reporting to his wife. In addition, Hillary Clinton's chief of staff and counselor to the State Department traveled to Haiti 30 times in four years, which the department said reflected the United States' "high priority" on the country's recovery.

In June 2013, a Government Accountability Office report barely passed USAID's Haiti reconstruction effort, saying $170 million was allocated to build a power plant and a port near the Caracol Industrial Park, not far from Cap-Haïtien, two interdependent projects.

But while the power plant's first phase was finished on time and under budget, the port's construction has been delayed, in part because USAID lacked experience in port planning. This left a shortfall of $117 million to $189 million, and GAO said it is uncertain if Haiti will be able to find a sponsor to foot the bill.

USAID also underestimated funding requirements, increasing its budget by 65 percent, while the number of houses to be built was reduced by 80 percent.

"Foreign aid is notoriously wasteful and often counterproductive," O'Grady wrote. "Even when the money is not going directly to Swiss bank accounts, it is rarely allocated to its highest use because the process is fundamentally political."

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