Post Quake: Haiti Will Need Funds To Rebuild

Over the last 10 years, the U.S. has sent Haiti more than $16 million in disaster aid. But that didn't make the country better prepared when Tuesday's earthquake struck. Timothy Carney is a former U.S. ambassador to Haiti, and he talks to Deborah Amos about how difficult rebuilding efforts will be there.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DEBORAH AMOS, host:

Were still in the middle of the current disaster in Haiti, but were going to take a step back and look at what it might take to remake the country. Timothy Carney was U.S. ambassador there from 1998 to 1999, and he says both the international community and the Haitians need to do a better job in dealing with this crisis than with previous ones.

Good morning. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. TIMOTHY CARNEY (Former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti): Such a pleasure to be with you.

AMOS: Ambassador, you know Haiti - how can this country rebuild after such an enormous tragedy?

Mr. CARNEY: Well, the problem with rebuilding is, first of all, whos got the money to do it? Whos going to give the money? Second, where are the contractors going to come from? And third, what kind of supervisory structure of enforcement - because clearly, you need a decent building code there. It doesnt exist. How do you enforce a sensible combination of building code and zoning, if you will, on a place as free-wheeling, free-spirited and unenforceable as Haiti?

AMOS: Former President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are leading up the U.S. recovery efforts. What do you think Haiti expects from the United States?

Mr. CARNEY: I think at this point, Haitians expect everything. But it won't just be the United States. I think it's important to underscore that this has got to be a hemisphere-wide effort.

But I'll tell you frankly, the world also has to have some expectations of Haitians, and one of them is an end to this sterile politics of group and gang with an eye on personal advantage that has dominated the politics of Haiti for - well, since its independence.

AMOS: Is there any silver lining, then, in this horrible tragedy that the world is paying attention to a place that needs this much help, and probably did the day before the earthquake?

Mr. CARNEY: You know, I wouldn't look for silver linings anywhere in Haiti. It's going to be a slog. It's going to be tough. It's going to require serious politics and, frankly, even more serious decision making on the part of Haitians.

AMOS: The United States has such a close relationship with Haiti. We have had their leaders in exile. We have a huge Haitian community in Miami, in Washington and in Boston. Is it in our interest to fix Haiti this time?

Mr. CARNEY: I believe it is, because one of the statistics that you hear trotted out is $2 a week, $2 a month, is the average wage there. That completely ignores the reality that there's probably a billion dollars a year in remittances that go from the diaspora in Canada and the U.S. back to the families in Haiti. Now, most of that money gets used for school fees and uniforms. It goes for consumption, in other words. It is not something that can be captured for investment and creation of new wealth.

AMOS: The United States has spent a great deal of money in Haiti already. USAID has been in Haiti for years. And yet, in this earthquake, we saw that part of the problem is simply buildings aren't built to withstand an earthquake in a country that's on a fault line. Have we been taking the wrong approach there?

Mr. CARNEY: I think that's probably Monday morning quarterbacking. The fact is, we haven't really known for sure what approach to take. The problem in Haiti is on the one hand, you have this incredibly vibrant culture, as is reflected in the painting and in the music and in the sculpture, and indeed all of the arts. On the other hand, you have a record - in fact, the most dismal imaginable record of governance, one worthless dictator after another preying upon the people to line their pockets and to luxuriate in power. How do you break that in order to put Haiti into a new mold? I don't know.

AMOS: Thank you very much.

Mr. CARNEY: You're welcome.

AMOS: Timothy Carney was a former ambassador to Haiti.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

There was a warning, of sorts, that the Haitian disaster was coming. Almost two years ago in March 2008, experts met with Haitian officials and said that their region was ripe for an earthquake. Haitian officials, we're told, listened intently, but earthquake forecasting is imprecise, and even two years' warning was not enough to prepare a city that had been badly constructed for many years. It was around the time of that warning that the mayor of Port-au-Prince said most of his city's buildings were unsafe, even in normal times.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: It's NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: