Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Brazil First Major Contributor to Haiti Reconstruction Fund ‎

By Lesley Wroughton

World Bank President Robert Zoellick urges other donor nations to make good on their aid pledges.

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - Brazil became the first contributor to a reconstruction fund for Haiti on Tuesday and World Bank President Robert Zoellick urged other donor nations to make good on their aid pledges to help the Caribbean country rebuild from a devastating earthquake in January.

Brazil, which commands a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said it had paid $55 million into the World Bank-supervised fund. In March, international donors pledged $10 billion over a decade to help impoverished Haiti rebuild.

"Many promises have been made in support of Haiti's reconstruction," Zoellick said at a signing ceremony with Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazil's secretary general of the ministry of external relations.

"Turning these into reality for the Haitian people is urgent," Zoellick said, noting that the approaching hurricane season would pose an added challenge for Haitians still living in makeshift shelters.

The Jan. 12 earthquake killed up to 300,000 people and caused damage estimated at up to 120 percent of Haiti's gross domestic product.

Protests erupted on Monday in the quake-damaged capital of Port-au-Prince aimed at President Rene Preval, as anger and frustration have emerged over who will decide how the aid money is spent. [nN10239800]

Zoellick stressed that the aid should be channeled through the Haitian government, with proper oversight to make sure the money is not wasted on corruption.

He said World Bank funds were already flowing into emergency rebuilding projects and work was not held up by donors' contributions to the trust fund. The bank has promised to provide $500 million to Haiti.

Zoellick said many donors required the approval of their legislatures before they could put up the money, but he noted that having the cash available would help support the next phase of rebuilding Haiti.

He said he was confident that donor contributions to the fund would be "in the hundreds of millions of dollars."

"The challenge now is to translate international support into effective and timely reconstruction projects that are aligned to the priorities set up by the Haitians themselves," Patriota said.

Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the United States, likened Brazil's move to "scoring the first goal" in a soccer game and urged other donors to turn their pledges of aid into hard cash.

Editing by Chris Wilson

Source: Reuters

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