What to Do About Rebuilding Haiti
I hope that the rush of international aid to Haiti will minimize the loss of life and suffering by the folks stranded on that island. Phase two of the recovery will involve important questions of what should be done to rebuild the country. As harsh as it may seem, this is a financial question as well as a human one.
The U.S. will be expected by everyone to take a lead role in rebuilding efforts. It will be expensive. So how should it be done?
Let’s look at the hard truth. For decades, Haiti has been an economic and political mess. In more recent years, Haiti ranks right up there with Somalia in having a dysfunctional government. According to reports from there now, the government has effectively disappeared.
Mrs. ToughMoneyLove has been to Haiti twice on medical missions. By all accounts, the people of Haiti (excluding the drug gangs, thugs, and corrupt politicians) are wonderful and deserving of far more than their government has provided them. They have lived lives of desperation for years.
The landscape of the country has been stripped of vegetation. Haiti produces far less food than it needs. The buildings are unsafe because there are no building codes. Clean water and electricity were hard to procure even before the earthquake.
It will probably cost more to “rebuild” Haiti than to start a new country from scratch because: (a) we basically have to bulldoze everything that is already there; and (b) we have to take care of the people who are there while we bulldoze and rebuild. That’s assuming that you could even do that.
It will be months before a massive rebuilding project can be planned, funded, and started. What will happen to the Haitians during that time? Where will they live? What will they eat? Most of all, who will govern and protect them?
Assuming that we rebuild Haiti, the country remains on a major fault line. Another earthquake could hit in our lifetimes, causing more devastation and loss of life. Do we want this to happen?
So you must know by now what Mr. ToughMoneyLove is thinking: Should we evacuate the residents of Haiti who want to leave? Get those people out of there and to a place – perhaps the U.S. – where they can be cared for and protected? Yes, that is an enormous task for a population of 8 million people. But is it any more difficult than the alternatives? And will it cost less – in human and financial terms – than trying to rebuild a country that barely existed before the earthquake?
Many people won’t leave. That’s their choice. But I think we would be surprised by how many would say “I’ve had enough – I want something better.”
What do you think?