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Wednesday, May 6

Bill and Hillary Clinton and other disasters in Haiti

From The Actuary, April 27, 2015, Four costliest natural disasters [in 2014] cause nearly $33bn of business losses and supply chain disruptions:
The report also revealed Haiti had 29% of all children between five and 14 working in “slave-like conditions”.
This compares to 5.8% in the Dominican Republic and 8.4% in Jamaica.
Reporter Jonathan M. Katz had been posted to Haiti for 2-1/2 years as Associated Press correspondent when the January 2010 earthquake struck, shattering the walls of his house in Port au Prince. He was lucky to get out alive. Suddenly homeless along with millions of Haitians, he stayed on to chronicle the quake aftermath and massive aid effort that flooded one of the world's poorest countries.  

His 2013 book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster (with new afterword for the 2014 paperback edition) should have closed a chapter in international aid.  It didn't.  

The current U.S. media interest in the Clinton Foundation gave Katz an opportunity to again bring attention to international aid and development approaches in Haiti -- a topic that ranks right up there with breeding habitats of the spotted nematode for newsworthiness in the United States. 

Katz's 7-page article for Politico, The King and Queen of Haiti, published May 4, is a highly informed account of the Clintons' long, complex, and deep involvement with Haiti.  As the lede notes,  "There’s no country that more clearly illustrates the confusing nexus of Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Bill Clinton’s foundation than Haiti -- America’s poorest neighbor."  

It does not make for pleasant reading:
Five years after the hemisphere’s deadliest single natural disaster, when both Clintons assumed leading roles in the rebuilding efforts, little progress has been made on many core problems in Haiti, and the government that Hillary Clinton helped put in power during that January 2011 trip -- and that both Clintons have backed strongly since -- has proven itself unworthy of that trust. Economic growth is stalling, and the nation’s politics look headed for a showdown in the next year that could once again plunge the country into internal strife.
 Many of the most notable investments the Clintons helped launch, such as the new Marriott in the capital, have primarily benefited wealthy foreigners and island’s ruling elite, who needed little help to begin with.
When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, America’s poorest neighbor was slated to be one of the first beneficiaries of what she called “the power of proximity.” One of her first directives at State was to review U.S. policy toward Haiti—“an opportunity,” she would write in her memoir Hard Choices, “to road-test new approaches to development that could be applied more broadly around the world.”
That approach had business at its center: Aid would be replaced by investment, the growth of which would in turn benefit the United States. 
The whole world as the U.S. government's petri dish for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aid model, which was adopted from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation model of development (established 1956).  Yes there's nothing like forward thinking when it comes to development and aid in the more disadvantaged countries.

Yet Haiti was a disaster long before the 2010 earthquake struck, long before the Clintons started fooling around there.  A passage Katz's article goes to the crux of Haiti's economic problems. 
Clinton won headlines by apologizing for having maintained as president the import-substitution policies that destroyed Haiti’s food sector -- policies built on the dangerously misguided theory that factory jobs obviated the need to produce rice and other food locally. He made a special point to note that the policy had benefited farmers in his home state of Arkansas.
As to how a country's food sector could be destroyed by the economic policies of a foreign government -- go ask Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose face must be permanently blue by now from warnings he repeated decade after decade. 

All the warnings boil down to one singular point:  DO NOT TRY TO BE SOMETHING YOU CAN'T BE.

The comeback is that if we don't play their idea of the global trade game, they'll get nasty with us.  

True, true.  Last month Tony Cartalucci caught the British press trying to discourage tourist visitors to Thailand.  By the way I always wonder how he catches so many rascals just at the moment their hand is going into the cookie jar. Does the man never sleep? Does he do nothing but stand at the ramparts with a pair of binoculars?

But if the choice is pick your poison, that's a way for a government to grow a spine.

Moving along, beyond the abuses of power and misapplication of USD billions in Haiti is a larger story, one that Katz's article doesn't address.  It's a story of the search for methods of humanitarian disaster aid allocation that better fit this era's communications technologies.  

Right now the technologies allow organizations to raise millions of dollars within a few hours from millions of people around the world in response to a disaster.  But all that fast-raised cash is then funneled to a system of humanitarian or disaster aid that was established in an era when a few organizations and relative handful of people controlled disbursement of the funds.  

The system short circuits the traditional donor-recipient loop.  It's a system that has always been inefficient and open to evils that range from graft to neocolonial-style meddling. Now, the sheer amounts of money raised via the Internet from vast numbers of sources has made effective oversight impossible. 

So Haiti is only an extreme example of what happens when huge amounts of money change hands outside the donor-recipient loop.  

Solution?  A Nepali named Ravi Kumar has been trying to hash out a new approach.  He wrote about his project for TIME yesterday:  Use Data, Not Nepotism, to Deliver Aid in Nepal:

[...]On the day the earthquake hit, after finding out that relatives and friends in Kathmandu Valley were alive, I worked to connect volunteers and people affected by the quake, using low-tech solutions including a Google Doc and social media.
As I helped crowdsource resources and needs and read reports from the ground, it became apparent that there was little relief available for villages outside of Kathmandu Valley. When we look at the data coming out of the disaster so far, it’s clear that these villages need relief, too.
For Nepal to recover, the delivery of aid should be driven by the evidence on the ground and socio-economic data.
If Nepal’s history is any guide, we know that people with connections and power have access to most of the resources, especially during times of crisis. Given Nepal’s history of nepotism and tribalism, it’s imperative that aid is delivered to those who are most affected by the disaster, rather than any other criteria.
At Code for Nepal, an initiative that aims to increase digital literacy and encourage the use of open data, we have been regularly updating an interactive map of the effects of Nepal’s earthquake. It uses district-level data to show injury tolls, death counts, and houses damaged to determine where aid is needed the most.  [...]
Kumar's article doesn't mention that he works for the World Bank.  But I think the general idea behind new approaches is peer-to-peer networking to restore the donor-recipient loop over big distances, and restoring localism for the near distances.  An example of localism applied to disaster aid is found in another TIME article I saw yesterday.  It's about mountain bikers in the region who were able to transport aid supplies to isolated Nepali villages hit by the earthquake. 

Little by little, organizations involved in disaster response will rediscover very old ways of connecting with survivors and apply the new communications to a response model that targets aid to those in need.  That will save an awful lot of lives and donation money.  


Haiti is not along! i know you not beleave it, but you will see that. Because JESUS is in control in HAITI. FAUSTIN DESTIN
I never said Haiti is alone. And because you know nothing about me you cannot say what I believe or don't believe.

I will tell you what I believe. I believe the wheels of justice may turn slowly but they always grind exceedingly fine.

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