Haiti’s politics of blame
As foreigners ask where aid money went, Haitians turn inward, demanding answers from their own government.
PORT-AU-PRINCE — For all the talk about a Haitian people who have grown impatient with the slow pace of a largely foreign-led reconstruction effort, what Haitians are clamoring for most is accountability from their own government for promises that remain unfulfilled two years after the earthquake.
Many Haitians thought they had found the man who could help the country break out of a cycle of failure and finger-pointing, former pop star Michel Martelly, when he was a candidate vying for the presidency early last year.
After Haiti’s electoral council announced that Martelly had not made it to the second round of voting, tens of thousands of Haitians took to the streets of Haiti’s capital city, burning tires and parked cars and shutting down Port-au-Prince.
When Martelly was reinstated and won the runoff last March, Haitians around the country celebrated that the country could finally move past months of election controversy and focus on rebuilding itself. Supporters were confident their new president would jump-start a lagging reconstruction process following the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake that caused an estimated $7.8 billion in damages and economic losses — equivalent to two-thirds of the country’s pre-quake GDP. Martelly’s mantra, and his promise, became “change.”
On the second anniversary of the quake, most Haitians say that few of these promises of change have been fulfilled. Over half a million people remain displaced in tents and makeshift shacks. Many of the 300,000 buildings that collapsed in the quake remain in ruins, and rampant unemployment prevents families from lifting themselves out of poverty.
The Martelly administration blames a stubborn parliament dominated by an opposition party still sore after seeing their presidential candidate lose last year. The parliament says Martelly has largely refused to even meet with legislators much less cooperate to compromise on issues critical to the reconstruction. Both parties say they have no means by which to oversee the NGOs that are implementing the majority of the billions of dollars in aid money — and the NGOs say that engaging more directly with an inefficient and bureaucratic Haitian government would cause the reconstruction process to slow down even further.
As the foreign press questions how $2.4 billion in disbursed public aid and approximately $3 billion more in private donations has failed to achieve lasting impact two years after the catastrophe, most Haitians are looking inward, demanding accountability from their recently elected government that promised so much but has delivered so little.