Port-au-Prince: A US-based think tank is painting a grim picture of the earthquake recovery effort in Haiti, adding its voice to widespread accusations of ineffectual local leadership.
The RAND Corp report being released on Friday ticks off a crushing litany of problems in the Caribbean nation, many predating the January 12 earthquake — unqualified government workers, general lawlessness, horrific prisons, incapable police, an onerous business climate.
But it was the post-earthquake landscape that shocked James Dobbins, a former US special envoy to Haiti and director of the RAND International Security and Defence Policy Centre.
"Clearly the scale of the damage was surprising," he said. "We`re also somewhat surprised at the Haitian and international response. Not the humanitarian response, which was actually dramatically quick. But the second stage — so little of the rubble has been cleared, and so few of the basic decisions have been made."
Leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee have portrayed Haitian President Rene Preval as an ineffectual leader who has hindered recovery from the quake and urged their colleagues to reconsider sending money to Haiti if reforms are not made.
That Haiti is in disarray comes as no surprise to Jill Marie Michel, a 33-year-old mother of two living in a tent in one of the dozens of sprawling camps for Haitians left homeless by the quake.
She joined about 100 people in a public protest on Thursday in front of the collapsed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. She and others said the government is failing on its promises to provide housing as private landowners pressure the camp residents to leave.
At a large tent camp across the street, naked children bathed in buckets wedged between the gutters and tents.
"I don`t know where that change is going to come from," said Michel, who also cares for an orphaned niece and goddaughter whose families died in the earthquake.
The report from the Santa Monica, California-based think tank gives recommendations on what the Haitian government and donor governments and groups should focus on in coming years, identifying key areas such as governance, education, health, security, justice and economic policies.
Donors, it says, should focus more on "state building" rather than rebuilding earthquake damaged structures.
The most important tasks, according to the report:
Dobbins said the current situation stems not only from hundreds of years of corruption and mismanagement but also from Preval`s inaction.
"Preval is well intended, but he`s characteristically indecisive," said Dobbins. "We`re seeing results of that."
Washington takes some of the blame in the report, and Dobbins recommends the Obama administration appoint a special envoy to Haiti.