Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Haitian business looks beyond foreign aid four years after deadly earthquake

Four years after the devastating earthquake that levelled Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, it's not quite business as usual. Economists say foreign do-gooders flush with funds have drastically altered the business ecosystem, with mixed results.

Two clinics, 10 minutes apart in the city's busy government district, epitomise the state of play. The Premier Clinic is nothing like its name. It's housed in a building that badly needs a lick of paint. Its waiting room, a dispiriting colour that must once have been yellow, is empty. An air of lassitude hangs like a pall over everything; the pulse of business is slow, almost to the point of death.

"Sometimes we go a whole day without seeing a single patient because many people go to the NGOs for servis gratis [free services]," says Gladys François, the clinic's laboratory manager.

In contrast, the Centre du Medicale is heaving with patients, busy receptionists, nurses and technicians. Its paediatric wing is bright with cartoon cut-outs. Snack food vendors do a thriving trade in the many lounges packed with people waiting to see one of the five highly skilled doctors on the roster.

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