Haiti reveals ambitious reconstruction plan
By Andrew Gully
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Mar 16 (AFP) — Haiti unveiled the first draft of a grand reconstruction plan, saying 11.5 billion dollars would be needed to help the country rebuild after January's devastating earthquake.
Prepared by the government with the help of the international community, the Preliminary Damage and Needs Assessment (PDNA) will provide the framework for discussions at a major donors conference in New York on March 31.
The plan, published online, goes far beyond the immediate priorities of post-quake reconstruction and looks at the massive economic and governance challenges Haiti faces if it wants to become a fully functional state.
"This is a process. This is not a final document. This represents a vision which is going to be constantly developed to arrive at a final version," Tourism Minister Patrick Delatour told AFP.
It comes more than two months after the January 12 quake, which flattened large parts of Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns and villages, claiming more than 220,000 lives from more than two dozen nations.
A version of the PDNA, given Tuesday to 28 delegations from countries and organizations gathered in the Dominican Republic capital Santo Domingo for a preparatory summit ahead of New York, gave a new toll of 222,570.
"The earthquake has created an unprecedented situation, amplified by the fact that it struck the country's most populous region and its economic and administrative center," the assessment said.
Compiled with the help of 250 Haitian and international experts, the study put the total damage from the 7.0-magnitude quake at a massive 7.9 billion dollars, or a massive 120 percent of Haiti's gross domestic product.
More than 70 percent of those losses were sustained by the private sector and 4.4 billion dollars worth of damage was to schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, buildings, ports and airports.
"The total amount of money needed stands at 11.5 billion dollars and breaks down like this: 50 percent for the social sector, 17 percent for infrastructure including housing, and 15 percent for the environment and disaster risk management," the document said.
Delatour stressed that 11.5 billion dollars -- a sum reached by World Bank and UN experts -- was only a ballpark figure and that estimates for the total reconstruction cost ranged anywhere between eight and 14 billion dollars.
In addition to trying to answer Haiti's immediate short-term concerns, the plan also listed idealistic longer-term goals such as "reconstructing the state and the economy in the service of all Haitians," and reforming the judiciary.
One focus, already mentioned by President Rene Preval and heavily promoted in the draft, was regenerating the rest of Haiti to end years of congestion and abject poverty in the capital.
"Following the quake, more than 500,000 people were displaced to secondary towns. This new distribution of the population is an opportunity to develop other poles of growth," the plan said.
The government vowed in the draft to develop infrastructure and drive new economic opportunities outside the capital while accelerating the process of decentralization.
The plan identified the main short-term priority as preparing those without shelter for heavier rains, which begin in earnest next month, and the hurricane season starting June 1.
Some 1.3 million Haitians were left homeless by the quake and 218,000 survivors are living in makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince at grave risk from flooding and landslides, according to the latest UN figures.
The government also stressed the need to enforce stricter building codes -- poor housing is thought to have been the biggest factor in the staggering death toll from the quake.
Other priorities listed were reinforcing disaster alert and evacuation systems and improving an appalling environmental record that has seen the nation lose more than 98 percent of its woodland.
Addressing delegates in Santo Domingo, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive defended the government against criticism it had been slow to get on with the giant task of reconstruction.
Also Tuesday, eight Haitian human rights groups denounced alleged corruption in the distribution of humanitarian aid and said the conditions in some of the camps was a flagrant violation of survivors' social and economic rights.