There was an interesting post in the economist blog “Free Exchange” with the title “The end of Haiti?” it was expanding a bit on Tyler Cowen’s post “Geopolitical speculations on Haiti” which suggested that the Haitian government is no more, and that Haiti as we know it is likely gone.
Take a few minutes and read both articles, then come back. They raise a few interesting points that are worth discussing in the wake of the incredible tragedy Haiti experienced last week.
This piece is less about the tragedy, as I couldn’t begin to create words that would do it justice, but more about how Haiti can emerge from this positively. There is no doubt that Haiti needed help before hand, as their country was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and on par with many 4th world countries worldwide before this disaster. Haiti was so poor that famine, disease, and crime were considered everyday normal occurrences, BEFORE the earthquake. So what are Haiti’s options for the future?
Haiti is going to need an immediate overhaul, top to bottom. This is my over simplified list of things they need, and not in any particular order (they need them all).
The government needs to be put back in place ASAP, even if it is put under a UN receivership of sorts with a strict timeframe for return set in place immediately. Say 5 years. The UN will come in and implement the best practices of the world’s democracies it has experience with. The US system is unlikely to be the best solution as there needs to be something based on the existing Haitian system. Returning the semblance of stability will help every other facet to move smoothly. Note, I do not advocate trying to turn Haiti into the next Puerto Rico. I do think the US has a moral and geopolitical responsibility to help them be better than they were before, but not at the expense of their sovereignty.
After the rubble and damaged buildings are removed, and recycled (maybe used to build the nation’s future highway systems), everything needs to be redone from the ground up. Port-au-prince needs to be the first planned city in the Caribbean. It needs modern roads, modern transportation systems (let’s start with green-buses), modern sewage, modern electricity, modern communications, etc. I could probably write an article entirely on the infrastructure needs of Haiti, but for now we’ll just point out that with enough aid money (I think the US needs to pony up 5-10Billion handed over to the UN conservatorship) Haiti could be the first truly green country in the west. Hydroelectric power (not just damns, but tidal, etc), solar, wind, and other forms of green energy could be spearheaded here.
Haiti has a literacy rate of under 60%. Compare that to CUBA with the world’s highest literacy rate of 99.8% which is less than a hundred miles or so away. The first thing we need to do is start training teachers and building schools. Haiti doesn’t have the manufacturing, agricultural, or any semblance of economic infrastructure it needs for the future. The only way to pave Haiti’s success for the next 10-20-50 years is to educate the masses. Build as many schools as we can afford, from pre-k all the way up to universities and colleges. If we can’t get teachers in there to teach, start massive remote learning/distance learning programs.
300,000 people out of 9.5Million or so people are living with HIV and AIDS in Haiti, the highest rate of infection in the Caribbean. Huge swaths of the population are not vaccinated against common diseases like measles and malaria. We can solve that. Reportedly MSF/Doctors without borders has raised enough through text messaging to keep them operating in Haiti for the next decade. This doesn’t solve the systemic needs for hospitals, nurses, and more that Haiti needs. This is where we are going to need big pharma companies to step up start donating hospital equipment en masse. Once these hospitals are built, they are going to need MRIs, X-Rays, EKGs and more. They are also going to need doctors and nurses, something which Cuba will need to step up and help with, both in the training and the sharing of. Cuba produces more doctors and healthcare professionals per capita than any other country.
This facet goes without saying, but there will need to be some provisions in place for it. Haiti needs to implement the building codes we have in Florida (hurricanes), as well as those of California (earthquakes) and make a concerted effort to strive for their implementation. Never before has there been an opportunity like this for urban planning and nation building, let’s just hope the world steps up and does whats best for Haiti’s longterm needs.
In the end this is going to need to be a global effort, much like the effects we saw of the tsunami in 2004, but in this case we have the issue of having to rebuild the government in its entirety. So how do would you start the rebuilding process?