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By Andrew Gully (AFP)

SANTO DOMINGO — Former US president Bill Clinton has criticized the slow pace of reconstruction in quake-hit Haiti and pressed Haitian officials to agree to his plans to speed things up.

Co-chairing the fourth meeting of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) on Tuesday, Clinton repeatedly pushed the board’s Haitian majority to make up its mind on key issues before the next gathering.

The commission is charged with implementing a bold plan to remake the Caribbean nation after a January earthquake that killed an estimated 250,000 people, left 1.3 million people homeless, and leveled the capital of what was already one of the world’s poorest countries.

Adding to its woes is a cholera epidemic that since October has claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 people, overburdening an already fragile health system. Holding the purse strings to 10 billion dollars of international aid money pledged to Haiti over the long term, Clinton appeared to be losing his patience at times during a seven-hour meeting in the Dominican Republic.

The fact that only 40 percent of the rubble will be cleared by next August — 19 months after the quake — is “totally unacceptable” and either more money or a different methodology is needed, he said. Clinton asked Haitian delegates in particular if they would be happy to give board approval for new projects over 10 million dollars via email to speed the process up.

“If it’s consistent with the plan we ought to be able to circulate it to all of you over the Internet and let you approve it immediately if it is fully funded, or to the extent that it is funded,” Clinton said.

“We could have been working on these housing projects, fully funded, and there could be Haitians working today for two months ahead of what would otherwise be the case.” Clinton demanded an answer from Haitian representatives at next month’s meeting and threatened to call each member individually if it meant things would accelerate.

Against the backdrop of disputed presidential elections, it’s clear that patience, in certain quarters, is wearing thin with Haitian President Rene Preval and his administration.

Clinton’s wife Hillary, the US secretary of state, warned back in April that the international community could ill afford to fall back on failed strategies and must never work around the Haitian government rather than with it. But this week she admitted frustration that, as the one-year anniversary of the earthquake nears, “there hasn’t been the kind of coordinated, coherent response from the government of Haiti that is called for.”

Since the quake, tens of thousands of Haitians mainly in Port-au-Prince have moved into cramped, unsanitary camps, and are living in shacks with sheet metal roofs, plastic tents and makeshift tarp dwellings.

One Haitian delegate was angry about the NGO glut in Port-au-Prince, expressing his astonishment at seeing 10 vehicles marked with the Red Cross insignia speeding past his house the other day. But that was a rare moment of discord in the meeting, which included an update on approved aid projects and an in depth look at certain recovery sectors such as debris removal, housing for quake victims, and health.

Clinton spoke of a fifth meeting of the IHRC at the end of January, by which time the first year anniversary of the disaster will have been marked, and the new president and parliament may have been decided. The 64-year-old former US president finally mentioned the elephant in the conference room — Haiti’s deadlocked post-election crisis — telling journalists he wanted to see an “objective” recount and that a transparently fair result was vital to his work. “It makes it a lot easier for me to do what I do,” he said. “It makes it easier for me to go get the donors to honor their commitments, and far more importantly for Haiti over the long run, it makes it easier for me to get new investors to come in and people to work and create a new economy.”

Bill Clinton asserts confidence in fed-up Haiti

(AP) – 15 December, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton declared his confidence in Haiti’s post-quake reconstruction effort Wednesday, making a one-day visit amid civil unrest, rampant disease and a seemingly intractable political crisis.

The U.N. special envoy to Haiti traveled to the troubled country a day after the interim reconstruction commission of which he is co-chairman was forced to hold its meeting in the neighboring Dominican Republic after violence broke out following Haiti’s disputed Nov. 28
presidential election.

Clinton visited a cholera clinic run by Doctors Without Borders that has treated some of the more than 100,000 people sickened in the epidemic that broke out in October. He then went to the main U.N. peacekeeping base for meetings with Haitian and international officials.

The meeting a day before approved some $430 million in projects. But it was more notable for anger over the slow pace of reconstruction and a letter from frustrated Haitian members who said they were left out of decisionmaking and complained approved projects “do not advance the reconstruction of Haiti and long-term development.”

“I share their frustration, but I think they will see a big increase in the pace of movement next year,” Clinton said at a news conference in Port-au-Prince.

He said hundreds of thousands of Haitians would find new permanent housing next year and many more would move out of the tent and tarp camps that have been home to more than 1 million people since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

But such promises have been made before. The house-less believed they would start getting new homes — or at least sturdier temporary shelters — months ago. Only $897 million of the more than $5.7 billion pledged for 2010-11 has been delivered.

Clinton also expressed confidence in Haiti’s much-criticized provisional electoral council to find a solution to the electoral crisis.

Three presidential candidates believe they should advance to the two-person runoff set for January, with competition fiercest between the ostensibly eliminated popular singer Michel Martelly, in third place, and second-place candidate Jude Celestin, who is backed by the unpopular President Rene Preval. Three days of rioting followed announcement of the preliminary results and it is feared more violence will erupt if a solution is not found.

Clinton endorsed the eight-member electoral council’s plan to re-count tally sheets under international observation and hold a more-transparent January runoff, but then said he did not want to involve himself further in Haitian politics.

“I don’t have a candidate — my candidate is the reconstruction process,” he said. “I want the people to feel good about this and to trust the outcome so that we have peace and order and that encourages the donors to keep investing in Haiti’s future.”

Earlier in the day Clinton went to a cholera clinic off a dirt road in the capital’s Tabarre district, where he and Haiti’s health minister spoke with families under treatment. Speaking through his own cold, he stressed the importance of such clinics, some of which have been
opposed by communities afraid they will spread the disease.

More than 2,400 people have died of the disease in Haiti according to official statistics.

Leaving the compound he washed his hands in bleach-treated water and had his orange-trimmed running shoes sprayed.

After leaving Haiti, Clinton headed to his home state of Arkansas.

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