January 19, 2010
For Haiti, just about every conceivable aid scheme beyond immediate humanitarian relief will lead to more poverty, more corruption and less institutional capacity, says Bret Stephens, writing in the Wall Street Journal. After the immediate impact of the earthquake has passed, and the immediate relief efforts subside, “the arrival of the soldiers of do-goodness, each with his brilliant plan to save Haitians from themselves” will take root.
Haitians will be the worse off for it.
As calls for “a new version of the Marshall Plan” grab headlines, Stephens warns that foreign aid in Haiti has routinely failed to help Haitians. Citing a report by National Academy of Public Administration, which says that Haiti, after consuming billions in foreign aid over three decades—with hundreds of millions dedicated specifically for governance and democratization programs—the country remains politically and economically dysfunctional.
And if economist Jeffrey Sachs’ proposed $10 to $15 billion five-year development program goes forward, “it will benefit the well-connected at the expense of the truly needy, divert resources from where they are needed most, and crowd out local enterprise,” warns Stephens.
“The real problem of aid to Haiti, which has less to do with Haiti than it does with the effects of aid itself,” he candidly writes.
If the aid agencies have their way, the future will once again be a bleak one for the people, as “it will foster the very culture of dependence the country so desperately needs to break.”
The aid industry, says Stephens and other critics such as Dambisa Moyo and Patricia Adams, has wrecked Third World economies. “That the (aid) industry typically does so in connivance with the same local governments that have led their people to ruin only serves to help keep those elites in power, perpetuating the toxic circle of dependence and misrule that’s been the bane of countries like Haiti for generations,” he writes.
“A better approach recognizes the real humanity of Haitians by treating them—once the immediate and essential tasks of rescue are over—as people capable of making responsible choices,” he writes. “Haiti has some of the weakest property protections in the world, as well as some of the most burdensome business regulations. In 2007, it received 10 times as much in aid ($701 million) as it did in foreign investment.”
Reversing those figures is a task for Haitians alone, Stephens writes, “which the outside world can help by desisting from trying to kill them with kindness.”