Haiti on the Mend
U.S. companies looking to access medium to long-term reconstruction opportunities in Haiti must register with the United Nations Global Marketplace (www.ungm.org), the Inter-American Development Bank (www.iadb.org) and the World Bank (www.worldbank.org).
“These three organizations hold the key to accessing work in Haiti that most small businesses — architects, in particular — are not leveraging,” says Atim Annette Oton, co-owner of Calabar Imports, Brooklyn, N.Y., and a co-founder of Black Design News Network (www.blackdesignnews.com), a portal for Black design professionals.
Oton was among the attendees at a seminar in May in Brooklyn on precisely this topic. The seminar, hosted by the New York U.S. Export Assistance Center and the Brooklyn International Trade Development Center, covered Haiti’s on-the-ground realities from a business perspective; the bidding processes for procurement opportunities; investment financing and political risk insurance; resources for infrastructure-related feasibility studies and technical assistance; key contacts for accessing future opportunities; and the experiences of companies currently doing business in Haiti.
Professionals in the Haitian Diaspora and wider Black-American community are keeping a close watch on rebuilding efforts, as well as participating in those efforts. For example, Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon, designer of the African Burial Ground Memorial in New York City and a member of the National Organization of Minority Architects, designed a Haiti Soft House, described as “a flexible and sustainable approach to shelter that provides an immediate transitional solution for short-term housing, community development and reconstruction.”
The shelter was designed to withstand tropical storms and hurricanes with up to 130 mph winds, resist earthquakes and provide a healthy, well-ventilated environment. The flexibility of the structure allows for multiple unit combinations, addressing domestic space needs, institutional needs and community needs, the designers say.
With Deutsche Bank kicking in the first round of funds, efforts are under way to raise money to replicate the “soft house” in Haiti, where about 1.3 million still live in temporary shelters in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area and more than 600,000 fled to other parts of the country seeking a place to live. The Jan. 12 earthquake destroyed some 105,000 homes and damaged more than 208,000.
Addressing the human, physical and environmental toll from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake will require massive public and private-sector input. Haiti officials say roughly 1.5 million people —15 percent of the population — were directly affected, with more than 300,000 killed and as many injured.
More than 1,300 educational institutions and more than 50 hospitals and health centers collapsed or are unusable; the country’s main port cannot be used, and the Presidential Palace, Parliament, law courts and most ministerial and public administration buildings are destroyed. Small and medium-sized enterprises suffered more than 75 percent of all private-sector losses.
Haiti’s Action Plan for National Recovery and Development calls for a three-phase approach, with a key role for local and overseas private companies, including SMEs. “Private investment in the economy, as well as in the social sector, will form the backbone of the country’s reconstruction,” the plan promises.
“The economic renewal is based on the close collaboration between the private sector, which will be the engine of wealth, and the State, which will take all the necessary measures to provide Haiti with the legal and regulatory framework that can meet the requirements of a modern country open to investments. The State will also make available the necessary service infrastructure to stimulate these investments.”
The action plan covers the next 20 years, beginning with the “emergency period” that focuses on accommodation for the homeless; returning pupils to school and students to university and vocational training centers; preparing for the hurricane season; restoring a sense of normality to economic life, especially by creating large numbers of jobs through high-intensity work; guaranteeing stability in the financial sector and access to credit for SMEs; reorganizing state structures; developing strategies and plans for selected new economic centers; equipping reception zones for the displaced; setting up an electoral process.
An “implementation period (18 months)” follows, with projects getting under way to kick-start the future of Haiti, and the establishment of a framework of incentives and supervision for private investment. The “reality period (10 years),” comes next, in which reconstruction and recovery projects in full blast put Haiti back on the road to development. The next 10 years are devoted to making Haiti “a real emerging country.”
The plan proposes to set up a Temporary Committee for Rebuilding Haiti, which will eventually become the Agency for the Development of Haiti. “It is vital for businesses to read the action plan put together from the […] International Donors’ Conference Toward a New Future for Haiti,” Oton says. A copy of the plan can be downloaded at Blackdesignnews.com.
HAITI’S EARTHQUAKE TOLL
• Estimated overall damage and losses: $7.9 billion, more than 120 percent
of 2009 GDP
• Private-sector damage and losses: $5.5 billion, 70 percent of total
• Public-sector damage and losses: $2.4 billion, 30 percent of total
• Value of destroyed physical assets (includes homes, schools, hospitals, buildings, roads, bridges, ports and airports): $4.3 billion est., 55 percent of the overall cost of the disaster
• Effect on economic flows (production losses, reduction of turnover, loss of employment and wages, increase in production costs, etc.): $3.6 billion, 45 percent of overall cost
KEY PROJECT AREAS FOR HAITI’S RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT
• River basin development, including building of dykes, construction of hill-retaining walls to control the flow of water
• Reforestation and soil conservation
• Agricultural production, including purchase and distribution of fertilizers, seeds, plowing equipment and tractors for farmers and modern tools and equipment for fishermen build/improve rural roads; improve conditions for slaughtering and preservation of animal, livestock and fishing products
• Restoration and development of electricity production, transmission and distribution infrastructure
• Temporary and permanent housing
• Education, including building of 4,000+ shelters for students, psychosocial assistance, support for professional training and higher education, curriculum and evaluation systems, equipment
• Health care, food security and nutrition
• Water and sanitation
• Institutional rebuilding