Monday, January 18, 2010

Fernandez Calls for Massive Aid ¨Package

* Dominican Republic leader proposes $2 bln-a-year fund

* Haitian president appeals for long-term aid from donors (Adds Dominican president's comments, details)

By Manuel Jimenez

SANTO DOMINGO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez proposed to international donors on Monday the creation of a $10 billion five-year assistance program to support Haiti's recovery from a devastating earthquake.

As a huge international relief effort gained momentum to help survivors of Tuesday's earthquake, which wrecked the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, donors held a preliminary meeting in neighboring Dominican Republic to try to gauge the cost of reconstruction and longer-term recovery.

"Haiti will need an integral national development plan of about $2 billion a year ... We'd be talking about a five-year program of some $10 billion," Fernandez told representatives of foreign governments and international financial institutions at the conference in Santo Domingo.

The Dominican Republic leader said forgiveness of Haiti's debt should be part of any assistance program to the nation which was already the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

Governments and institutions have come forward with offers of financial aid to Haiti. European Union institutions and member states have offered more than 400 million euros ($575.6 million) in emergency and longer-term assistance. [ID:nLDE60H1FI]

The Inter-American Development Bank was proposing an assistance program for Haiti that would include forgiveness of $480 million in debt and provision of $444 million in grants and loans, the IADB representative in Santo Domingo, Manuel Labrado, said.

Speaking at the same meeting, Haitian President Rene Preval appealed to international donors to focus not just on immediate aid for his quake-hit country but also on its long-term development needs.

"We cannot just cure the wounds of the earthquake, we must develop the economy, agriculture, education, health, and reinforce the democratic institutions," Preval said.

Haitian authorities estimate up to 200,000 people may have been killed in the massive quake and say three-quarters of Port-au-Prince will have to be rebuilt. The Haitian Red Cross has estimated 3 million people have been left homeless or injured in the country of 9 million. Emergency assistance is already flowing into Haiti from around the world.


Fernandez, who was the first foreign head of state to visit Haiti after the quake struck, said he proposed to host in April in Dominican Republic an international donors' conference to coordinate contributions and strategies for Haiti's recovery.

Prior to this, Canada will host a meeting of foreign ministers in Montreal on Jan. 25 to prepare a major donors' meeting. [ID:nN18232197]

Among those set to attend the Montreal meeting of the informal Friends of Haiti Group are U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. France and several Latin American nations belong to the group.

Preval said Haiti was "already in a difficult situation" before the magnitude 7.0 earthquake demolished swathes of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

Haiti has struggled for decades with political turmoil and conflict, grinding poverty and devastating natural disasters such as floods and landslides, which has kept it at the bottom of development rankings in the Americas. [ID:nN12212029]

Fernandez said political stability in Haiti would be fundamental for any rebuilding program. "This can only be achieved with the application of measures that strengthen the rule of law in Haiti and guarantee internal security".

The Dominican leader said any assistance program would have to rebuild and upgrade bridges, roads, schools, hospitals, ports, airports, the power system, telecommunications and the tourism sector.

"Haiti is a country which with the help of the international community can perfectly well develop, rebuild and modernize," he said. (Reporting by Manuel Jimenez, editing by Pascal Fletcher and Jackie Frank)

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