Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Haiti Launches Ambitious Reconstruction Plan

PORT-AU-PRINCE: Haiti unveiled the first draft Tuesday of a grand reconstruction plan, saying US$11.5 billion would be needed to help the country rebuild after January's devastating earthquake.

Prepared by the government with the help of the international community, the Preliminary Damage and Needs Assessment (PDNA) will be the framework for discussions at a major donors conference in New York on March 31.

"This is a process. This is not a final document. This represents a vision which is going to be constantly developed to arrive at a final version," Tourism Minister Patrick Delatour told AFP.

The plan, published on a government website, goes far beyond simple post-quake reconstruction and calls for a complete overhaul of some institutions and the building of others from scratch.

It comes more than two months after the January 12 quake, which flattened large parts of Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns and villages, claiming more than 220,000 lives from more than two dozen nations.

"The earthquake has created an unprecedented situation, amplified by the fact that it struck the country's most populous region and its economic and administrative center," the assessment said.

Put together with the help of 250 Haitian and international experts, the study put the total damage from the 7.0-magnitude quake at US$7.9 billion, more than 120 per cent of Haiti's GDP.

"In fact, in 35 years of applying this method of damage and loss estimation, this is the first time that the cost of a disaster has been so high relative to the country's economic size," the PDNA said.

More than 70 per cent of losses were sustained by the private sector and US$4.4 billion worth of damage was to schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, buildings, ports and airports.

"The total amount of money needed stands at US$11.5 billion and breaks down like this: 50 per cent for the social sector, 17 per cent for infrastructure including housing, and 15 per cent for the environment and disaster risk management," the document said.

Delatour stressed that US$11.5 billion - a sum reached by World Bank and UN experts - was only a ball-park figure and that estimates for the total reconstruction cost ranged anywhere between US$8 billion and US$14 billion.

The government plan also listed a stream of ambitious and rather unlikely goals such as "reconstructing the state and the economy in the service of all Haitians," and reforming the judiciary.

One focus, already mentioned by President Rene Preval and heavily promoted in the draft, is regenerating the rest of Haiti outside Port-au-Prince to end years of congestion and abject poverty in the capital.

"Following the quake, more than 500,000 people were displaced to secondary towns. This new distribution of the population is an opportunity to develop other poles of growth," the reconstruction plan said.

The government vowed in the draft to develop infrastructure and drive new economic opportunities outside the capital while accelerating the process of decentralization.

The plan also laid out the main priorities for the short term such as preparing for the upcoming rainy season, which begins in earnest next month, as well as the hurricane season beginning June 1.

Some 1.3 million Haitians were left homeless by the quake and 218,000 survivors are living in makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince at grave risk from flooding and landslides, according to the latest UN figures.

The draft reconstruction plan also stressed the need to enforce stricter building codes - poor housing is thought to have been the biggest factor in the staggering death toll from the Haiti quake.

Other priorities were reinforcing the alert and evacuation system and improving Haiti's appalling environmental record which has seen the island lose more than 98 per cent of its woodland.


Source: ChannelNewsAsia

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