I read with great disappointment a Wall Street Journal op-ed about Haiti's recovery efforts ("Bill, Hillary and the Haiti Debacle," May 19). Unfortunately, the piece gets many key facts about the approval of recovery projects wrong, and ignores the work that has helped improve the lives of thousands of people across Haiti.
President Clinton and Jean Max Bellerive, the then Haitian Prime Minister, co-chaired the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), which approved projects for consideration that aligned with the Government of Haiti's action plan for recovery. The projects then went to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF), which was responsible for disbursement of project funds. The HRF, which was chaired by Haiti's Minister of Finance and administered by the World Bank, made the decisions on how to fund projects, along with partner entities. One of the three partners -- the World Bank, United Nations, and Inter-American Development Bank -- partnered with each approved project.
The IHRC did not enter into contracts with recovery projects, and it did not disburse money collected by the international community to these projects. Funding decisions were made by the HRF, and did so in a fully transparent manner that included a public audit of the decision-making process.
I was personally involved with the administration of one large project approved by the IHRC and funded by the HRF -- the 16/6 program.
The 16/6 program was designed to rebuild 16 communities affected by the 2010 earthquake while closing six major IDPs (internally displaced persons) camps. The effort has helped to rebuild damaged houses, construct new homes, and rehabilitate community infrastructure. In addition, families received rental subsidies for permanent housing. The project served humanitarian needs by moving people out of camps and promoting economic development through the construction and rehabilitation of communities.
Another project was the development of a viable economy in the North. Decentralization is critical to Haiti's long-term prosperity. This means creating robust economies outside of Port-au-Prince. At the center of this effort is the Caracol Industrial Park, which opened in October 2012. The industrial park is run by the Government of Haiti. Our international partners, including the United States, have been extremely helpful and responsive to requests, in the case of the North, helping to revitalize the local economy. To date there are thousands of Haitians working in the Park, the vast majority of whom did not previously have employment or income, and are women. The anchor tenant in the industrial park is Korean apparel manufacturer Sae-A, and other companies include local Haitian manufacturers and companies looking to expand from the Dominican Republic. More tenants are moving in each year. When fully utilized, the park has the potential to create up to 60,000 jobs.
We know that while an industrial park can serve as an economic anchor, it does not make a community. That is why the Government of Haiti has worked closely with the U.S. Government, local and international banks and developers to build safe housing nearby at Caracol EKAM. Many of the residents of the community moved to the North after the earthquake. These houses, unlike many in Haiti, will be connected to an electric grid, funded by the U.S. Government in response to Haiti's request. As someone who worked on housing, I can say that these houses will be home to thousands of Haitians for years to come and serve as the center of many community activities and celebrations.
These projects, and several others, have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Unfortunately, facts like these were totally ignored in the Wall Street Journal piece.
President Clinton has been actively engaged with Haiti for over 30 years. Even before the earthquake, his foundation was helping to bring investors and businesses to Haiti to spur economic development. His work continues to this day, and our country owes him a debt of gratitude for his work.