Bill Quigley and Amber Ramanauskas, truthout have one of those mind-bending posts about foreign aid that makes one think that the US government should never be trusted with charitable works abroad. Haiti supposedly got $1.6B to reconstruct from the earthquake. But a look at the fine print reveals that:
The overall $1.6 billion allocated for relief by the US was spent much the same way according to an August 2010 report by the US Congressional Research Office: $655 million was reimbursed to the Department of Defense; $220 million to Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to individual US states to cover services for Haitian evacuees; $350 million to USAID disaster assistance; $150 million to the US Department of Agriculture for emergency food assistance; $15 million to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration fees, and so on.
OK, so $655M off the top of our charitable aid goes to…the US military.
So, from the US aid, only $725M even went to Haiti. And this has not been deployed effectively:
Nearly two years after the quake, less than 1 percent of the $412 million in US funds specifically allocated for infrastructure reconstruction activities in Haiti had been spent by USAID and the US State Department and only 12 percent has even been obligated according to a November 2011 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Other countries have mostly pretended to donate money:
In March 2010, UN countries pledged $5.3 billion over two years and a total of $9.9 billion over three years in a conference March 2010. The money was to be deposited with the World Bank and distributed by the IHRC. The IHRC was co-chaired by Bill Clinton and the Haitian Prime Minister. By July 2010, Bill Clinton reported only 10 percent of the pledges had been given to the IHRC.
And then there’s the NGOs. Their spending is difficult to trace, which should not be the case for organizations subsidized by the US tax code. In some cases, their projects have been questionable, like $2M spent by the Red Cross to build a luxury hotel. In other cases–and the Haitian aid situation overall is riddled with this problem–there is a suggestion of cronyism. Instead of hiring local people and using local companies, foreign companies are brought in at great expense:
The Center for Economic and Policy Research, the absolute best source for accurate information on this issue, analyzed all the 1490 contracts awarded by the US government after the January 2010 earthquake until April 2011 and found only 23 contracts went to Haitian companies. Overall the US had awarded $194 million to contractors, $4.8 million to the 23 Haitian companies, about 2.5 percent of the total. On the other hand, contractors from the Washington DC area received $76 million or 39.4 percent of the total. As noted above, the UN documented that only four tenths of one percent of international aid went to Haitian NGOs.
And the net upshot?
Haiti looks like the earthquake happened two months ago, not two years
A million people in refugee camps, cholera still raging (though with low lethality), no reconstruction of water purification…. This is a catalog of failure not just of government, but of charitable organizations, and of the private sector. They all have forgotten that real people are suffering and dying because of their disorganization, greed, and incompetence.
Update: And now we have the explanation for the farmers “helped” by USAID. Jacob Kushner, IwatchNews (via t/o):
One important USAID program in Haiti does include some rice and corn growers. The $127 million Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources hopes to boost Haitian agriculture through training, better seeds and the use of new fertilizers. USAID claims to have helped 9,700 farmers increase their output since the program began in 2009.
Many Haitian farmers rejected the program, however, after they discovered that 475 tons of seeds were hybrids donated by Monsanto, the world’s largest developer of genetically modified seeds. Unlike traditional crops, hybrids do not produce new seeds that can be collected and planted the following growing season, meaning farmers in Haiti would need to begin purchasing the seeds from Monsanto or another company once donations stopped.
Everything is corporate welfare for American corporations.